The first phase of “PERES – Promoting European Railway Excellence outside EU” project concluded at an event in Brussels, gathering railway industry professionals from all over Europe.

Running under the umbrella of European Union’s COSME programme, the PERES European Strategic Cluster Partnership (ESCP-4i) composed of five railway clusters from Italy, France, Germany, United Kingdom (Rail Alliance) and Southeast Europe explored the needs and potentials of the European SME industry in the railway sector, and set up a framework for internationalization to the non-European markets.

The project started in January 2018, and has analysed over 250 small- and medium-sized companies in the railway industry from 10 European countries, seeking to create pan-European supply value chains, locate potential solutions that can be successfully implemented in non-European markets, and identify the issues, the desired target countries and the type of support that European SMEs need in order to successfully offer their products and services on non-European markets.

Based on the analysis of the SME cluster members’ potentials, the project selected the United States and India as suitable targets for placement of products and services. A pilot study trip to USA was organized in March 2019, meeting in three States representatives of select US railway operators, as well as manufacturers, educational institutions and research centers related to the railway industry. The study trip identified the needs and the specifics of the US railway market, in order to find the potential areas that could be addressed by the European SMEs.

‘What we have seen is that the railway sector in the US faces many challenges – and that it is ready to innovate and improve in order to address them’ says Veronica Elena Bocci, PERES project coordinator. ‘The important thing is that European SMEs understand these challenges and have the know-how to address them in a reliable, innovative, competitive and punctual manner. In the US ‘time is money’ is a fundamental criteria for collaborations, and flexibility SMEs have can give answer to this.’

Her optimism is shared by other members of the project team. ‘European railway industry has gone a long way toward having reliable, safe and environmentally-friendly transport’ says Marko Radovic, partner of the PERES project, and continues: ‘Our SMEs’ solutions are highly interesting to US operators that seek to make railways a more attractive mode of transport for passengers.’

Based on the project’s findings, a strategic framework was drafted in order to support the internationalization of the European SME railway industry. Such initiatives, however, depend heavily on further integration and cooperation within the industry itself and the support of the European institutions. ‘Today, cooperation in the industry is necessary in order to stay competitive’ explains Dirk-Ulrich Krüger from cluster BTS Rail Saxony and ERCI Spokesperson: ‘Through our European Railway Clusters Initiative (ERCI) we seek to connect companies and support them in joint research and development programmes, strengthen their cooperation and support them in their activities throughout and outside Europe, such as the PERES project.’