Vanguard wins prestigious international rail industry award for innovation

UK start-up, Vanguard Sustainable Transport Solutions, has today been announced as the winner of ‘Best SME’ at the European Rail Clusters Initiative Innovation Awards in Berlin.

Vanguard received the award for their work on the development and commercialisation of their hybrid hydrogen/battery traction power system that can be retrofitted to diesel trains to convert them to clean power. The Vanguard team were responsible for the design of the UK’s first mainline-approved hydrogen train, HydroFLEX, and are now working with the Severn Valley Railway to convert a shunter locomotive from diesel to hydrogen.

Vanguard have also developed a refuelling system to enable rapid hydrogen fuelling onto trains – this is currently being utilised by Porterbrook to fuel the HydroFLEX train.

See more about Vanguard’s projects here.

Vanguard is a spin out company from the University of Birmingham’s world-renowned railway centre and was founded in 2020 to commercialise their expertise in developing solutions to deploy hydrogen technology onto the railway.  They are a member of the University’s BCRRE Rail Innovation Cluster, the UK member of the European Rail Clusters Initiative.

Alexander Burrows, CEO of Vanguard, said,

“On behalf of the whole Vanguard team I am absolutely delighted to accept the ERCI Innovation Award for Best SME.  In a huge category covering rail SMEs from across the whole of Europe it is an immense honour to be recognised for our work and I am so pleased for the team who have put all of their effort into our founding, development, and significant growth over the last two and a half years.

“Railways across the world need to decarbonise and modernise cost-effectively and our solutions enable them to convert existing rolling stock from dirty diesel to zero-emission hydrogen/battery technology.  By taking out emissions and re-using and modernising existing trains, we are providing a cost-effective and more sustainable solution to deliver modern, reliable trains for passengers and freight.”

The ERCI Innovation Awards took place at Innotrans in Berlin to award prizes to the best European innovations in the railway industry from those companies who submitted applications, at Technology Readiness Level 6 or above, to the annual ERCI Railway Innovation Competition.  The competition identifies the best innovation from both large enterprises (won by iXblue from France) and from small and medium enterprises.

Notes to Editors

  • For further information about Vanguard please visit / contact Alexander Burrows
  • European Railway Clusters Initiative – Founded in 2010, ERCI is the only railway meta-cluster network in Europe. The ERCI includes 15 major research and innovation driven railway clusters and represents over 2000 SMEs in 16 European countries. During 2022, the ERCI was registered as a legal entity with the prospect of delivering more premium content and offering more collaborative opportunities for railway sector innovation.
  • The primary objective of the ERCI is to reinforce the competitiveness of the European rail industry through cooperation between large companies, SMEs and research institutes on close-to-market innovation projects.
  • For further information about the ERCI visit: