Ahmad, Zibrij (2019) An Empirical Investigation into Innovation in the UK Rail Industry. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

This research investigates the innovation landscape within the UK rail sector, in order to try and identify barriers to innovation, and to propose evidenced based recommendations. British railways are experiencing a huge increase in the number of journeys made and the number of passengers travelling (ATOC, 2013). In fact, demand in the UK sector is greater than other European countries, with passenger numbers growing by 62% between 1997-98 and 2011 (Rail Delivery Group, 2014). As such, the railway industry is supporting the continuous development and improvement of rail technology to satisfy this growing demand. For this purpose, the UK government and rail industry regard innovation as the key enabler of a beneficial and prosperous rail industry (TSLG, 2012). Innovations are essential in railways in order to satisfy the interests of its customers, both passengers and freight and to make railways financially and environmentally viable in the longer term. However, the industry is facing challenges to improve railway’s competitive position and to contribute to the health and wealth of the society. As such, the central purpose of this research is to investigate the barriers to innovation in the UK rail industry, in order to support its vision to exploit a rich stream of innovations to meet future demands.

An exploratory research design, embracing a mixed-methods approach was used to analyse the issues associated with innovation development and implementation within the UK. The research engages both primary and secondary stakeholders to identify the current barrier to innovation. The qualitative data was gathered through 43 in-depth interviews with the UK rail professionals, comprising of the key stakeholders involved in innovation such as train operators, innovators, government bodies, regulatory bodies and manufacturing organisations, and diverse views and roles within the organisations. These included senior management, middle management, and the front of line employees such as engineers and innovators. Further an online survey was designed to collect the quantitative data of this research with 57 responses, which gave the qualitative results verisimilitude. In addition, qualitative secondary data analysis was conducted to compare the findings to the perceived issues identified by the industry. The analysis of the combined approaches enabled the researcher to develop a comprehensive understand of the barriers to innovation, identify gaps in industry knowledge and recommend solutions to accelerate innovation within the UK rail sector. The research finds barriers to innovation arise due to 6 main areas: fragmented structure of the industry; the innovation process; franchising in train operating companies, culture and people; funding; and external political/government and media related factors. The thesis further draws the interrelations and interdependencies of these core areas that cause barriers to innovation.

The research makes incremental contributions to the general body of knowledge of innovation (Nicholson et al., 2018), about the neglected rail industry that maybe valuable to those working in the UK rail industry and wider transportation industry. The results led to the development of an Innovation Framework that provides a road map for successful integration and exploitation of the key elements of innovation, such that the barriers to innovation can be addressed, and value created for all stakeholders while gaining sustainable competitive advantage. In addition, an Innovation Model was developed to guide the industry to transform from its current innovation scenario to a desired ideal innovation led state, by means of short and long term measures to continuously create value for all stakeholders and lay foundations for long terms transformations to gain sustainable competitive advantage. Specific recommendations for future research have also been made.

FINAL THESIS - Ahmad.pdf - Accepted Version
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