On Wednesday 25th October 2017, Bombardier Transport, Prosyst, and the University of Valenciennes & Hainaut-Cambrésis (UVHC) inaugurated their joint laboratory ‘Surferlab’, a project endorsed and approved by the competitive cluster i-Trans.
This is the first time in France that a manufacturer, an SME, and a university have pooled their expertise in R&D for the benefit of the transport sector and this within the same structure. As well as focusing on innovation and the competitiveness of its industrial stakeholders, the joint laboratory has the scientific backing of the CNRS, demonstrating the desire of the founders to consolidate ties between research and industry.
With a budget of €2.1 million, partly funded by the Hauts-de-France Regional Council, the laboratory comprises a team of 16 permanent staff (3 Prosyst employees, 4 Bombardier employees, 9 lecturer-researchers from the UVHC), as well as 2 research engineers and 2 post-doctorates. Based in the LAMIH UMR CNRS 8201 Joint Research Unit, Surferlab is dedicated to exploring innovative industrial solutions in the field of embedded digital technology with the ambition of making transport safer and more intelligent.
The Surferlab research themes focus on 3 priority areas: connected and predictive maintenance, learning and models in artificial intelligence, and product life-cycle design and optimisation in the context of sustainable development. In the short term, the research undertaken by Surferlab will focus on “the augmented vehicle” to produce connected, cooperative, and autonomous transport systems, which thus become intelligent players capable of anticipating and reporting technical problems (doors, air-conditioning, pressure…), and even cooperating directly with the operators!
Bombardier Transport, Prosyst, and the UVHC have chosen to make the laboratory staff available to all those involved in the transport industry (rail, road, air, maritime) working in the fields of distributed intelligence, embedded systems, and artificial intelligence. This original concept enables those involved to select as required and completely independently the subjects they wish to address with new partners, which is totally impossible with traditional calls for projects. Moreover, it embraces collaborations with external partners.
This joint laboratory is the culmination of a previous government-funded project (French ‘FUI’ inter-ministerial funds) initiated by the 3 founding members: SURFER (‘active rail monitoring’) – a system for the diagnosis and detection of on-board breakdowns of which the purpose is to develop predictive maintenance of train doors and thus increase equipment availability. Surferlab is, therefore, a continuation of the FUI SURFER project with the ambition of extending the project to other modes of transport as well as to operate fleet-wide, not just on a single train, and on all types of equipment. This avenue addresses solutions industrialised by Bombardier within the framework of SURFER which are currently embedded in trains. The manufacturer has also integrated into its service offering some components of the SURFER solution to provide an original service corresponding to a considerable ongoing need expressed by major operators, thus setting it apart from its competitors.
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