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Focus on innovation: Railways to grant Rs 50 crore for startups

Indian Railways has set up a new team to use analytics for optimising investment decisions and earmarked a sum of Rs 50 crore to offer grants to employees and startups for supporting innovation as part of this year’s Rail Budget.

india Updated: Feb 26, 2016 09:27 IST
Union minister for railways, Suresh Prabhu, addresses the media at Parliament after presenting the Railway Budget 2016-17, in New Delhi.
Union minister for railways, Suresh Prabhu, addresses the media at Parliament after presenting the Railway Budget 2016-17, in New Delhi.(PTI Photo)

Indian Railways has set up a new team to use analytics for optimising investment decisions and earmarked a sum of Rs 50 crore to offer grants to employees and startups for supporting innovation as part of this year’s Rail Budget.

Announcing the Railway Budget for 2016-17 in Parliament on Thursday, Union minister Suresh Prabhu said a dedicated, cross functional team called Special Unit for Transportation Research and Analytics (SUTRA) would be set up for carrying out detailed analytics leading to optimised investment decisions and operations.

“This team would comprise professional analysts and best-in-class decision support systems and optimisation engines,” he said.

As an organisation, Indian Railways collects over 100 terabytes of data every year, yet it is hardly analysed to gain business insights.

A sum of Rs 50 crore has been set aside for providing innovation grants to employees, startups and growth-oriented small businesses to support internal and external innovation.

“On an annual basis we will seek out solutions to Indian Railway’s most critical problems through an Innovation Challenge. The initiative would be administered by an Innovation Committee comprising reputed investors, representatives from National Academy of Indian Railways, Railway Board and ‘Kayakalp’ headed by Ratan Tata,” he said.

Headed by Tata, Kaya Kalp is a new innovative council of Railways, set up by Prabhu, to recommend innovative methods and processes for the improvement, betterment and transformation of the state-run rail network.

The minister said the areas for the annual challenge this year would be accessibility to trains from low level platforms, increasing capacity of coaches and digital capabilities at stations.

“In addition, innovation labs will be set up in all our workshops and production units to support creative innovation by locals and staff,” he said.

The government has also begun the process of introducing WiFi services at stations, especially for youth and business travellers.

Prabhu proposed to commission WiFi services at 100 stations this year and at 400 more stations in the next 2 years, in partnership with global technology major Google.

Also, facilities like ticketing and grievance redressal will be integrated into two mobile apps -- one dealing with all ticketing issues and the other for receipt and redressal of complaints and suggestions related to all services, Prabhu said.

Besides, Indian Railways will develop a Test Track, which will enhance the R&D capability of Indian Railways, he added.