Recently the UK government agreed to a rail sector deal which includes growth opportunities for SMEs in the Midlands. The sector deal see’s Midlands as a key hub for innovation (HS2, National College of High Speed Rail and University of Birmingham) and as such have pushed investment to support innovative SMEs to get into the rail sector. Once such scheme is the Rail Mentor programme.  

This is in line with other activities and funding opportunities within the rail sector, such as;


  • Network rail has £245bn to spend in R&D, to help tackle their 50 challenge statements
  • University of Birmingham is building a brand-new rail innovation and research centre to be completed by 2020
  • Innovate UK has a FOAK competition for a share of £5.5m in funding. Ends 24th April
  • Digi-Rail – Run by University of Birmingham, it’s a free programme to support local Midlands based SMEs to get into rail
  • HS2 estimates that 36,000 new jobs will be needed
  • Digital Railway Strategy – Digital Railway
  • Rail Technical Strategy – RSSB


There is a huge demand for innovation and R&D within the sector. Most are aware its behind other industries and there is a huge challenge ahead to improve capacity, reduce carbon, better passenger experience and cost efficiencies.


If you don’t like train services, well now is your time to make a difference! What can you do to help make it better? The sector needs your help.


Let us introduce you to the Rail Supply chain

Rail mentoring programme on offer across GBSLEP


  • Rail Mentor introduces you to rail supply chain opportunities
  • This free to use scheme provides direct access to global top tier rail companies
  • Expert support is available to guide mentor and introduce participants.


Opportunities in Rail are large and diverse. Current and future spending is at unprecedented levels. The Rail supply chain is in many sectors and encompasses Civil. Construction, Electrical. Electronic, Digital, Mechanical, Control, Pneumatic disciplines. If you want to grow your business in the Rail sector, and are in the Greater Birmingham and Solihull area this is for you.

Sign up at  for a mentoring programme that provides exclusive access to senior decision makers within the industry.


Rail Mentor is a free initiative developed with industry experts within the Rail Alliance, a business to business networking organisation, and supported by the Greater Birmingham & Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP). It aims to introduce any company with high-growth potential to the supply chain of  global firms within the rail sector, with expert support available.


Via the scheme top tier organisations such as Alstom, Siemens, Bombardier, Hitachi, Network Rail, and HS2 Ltd will be advising companies on how to shape their product or service to meet their expectations of the supply chain. They will also offer a select number of companies direct access to their management team, meetings at their facilities and coaching.


Mentees do not need to be operating within the rail sector to take part in the programme. Companies that are unfamiliar with the industry, but are interested in accessing it, will be put through a ‘gap closing’ process to assess their ‘rail readiness’. This offers coaching designed to introduce companies to the sector.


The Rail Alliance and GBSLEP will be on hand to help companies through the application process and can advise on the availability of financial support for companies who qualify.


Mike Lyons, GBSLEP Board Director for Improving Connectivity, said:


“The Rail Mentor initiative will help local companies within the rail supply chain to unlock their potential, by giving them unique access to senior decision makers from the sector. The scheme will enable our SMEs to anticipate and address the needs of potential customers – helping them to better access the rail industry’s supply chain, and win more business as a result.”


Jim Panter, Rail Mentor Manager said,


“We are absolutely delighted to be working with the GBSLEP team to support companies in this region wanting to either get into rail as a sector or to leverage more business opportunities. The market is huge and growing.




The Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP) is a partnership of business, public sector and further and higher education. Its mission is to drive sustainable economic growth across the city-region, creating jobs and improving the quality of life for everyone. The GBSLEP area spans nine local authority areas: Birmingham, Solihull, East Staffordshire, Cannock Chase, Lichfield, Tamworth, Redditch, Bromsgrove and Wyre Forest. For more information about GBSLEP, please visit the website, subscribe to its newsletter or follow on Twitter and LinkedIn.


Rail Alliance


The Rail Alliance sits in the middle of the rail supply chain and is the UK rail sector’s largest dedicated business to business networking organisation – bringing customers, suppliers and supply chain opportunities together. Its broad spectrum of membership extends beyond pure rail and positions the Rail Alliance as the go-to membership organisation in the UK to nurture diversity, ingenuity and innovation across the rail and transportation sectors’ supply chains.


We remain much focused on the need to support companies large and small from every sector in their endeavours to trade in and enrich the rail sector. Uniquely our membership spans all aspects of the rail supply chain and we have no barriers to entry. Over the last 10 years we have grown from an off shoot of the Manufacturing Advisory Service within the West Midlands to become the premier B2B networking organisation in the rail sector, with members drawn from all corners of the country – and indeed the globe.


  • Written by Mitesh Parmar / Jim Panter
Simon Jenner

Simon Jenner

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