anders ekberg, fredrik hörstedt and elena kabo
Anders Ekberg and Fredrik Hörstedt. On the screen Elena Kabo, who was not able to attend the ceremony.

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Railway researchers awarded for societal impact

​Their research has facilitated for freight transports through Europe, and also made it easier to plan maintenance. For this, the research group now receives Chalmers Impact Award.
“Exiting and surprising”, says Anders Ekberg, Professor at the Department of Mechanics and Maritime Science and director of Charmec.

The competence centre Charmec is a national centre that gathers important railway actors – the Swedish Transport Administration, SJ and Bombardier just to mention a few. The researchers at Charmec are now acknowledged for contributing to new European rules that simplify for trains travelling across borders, and also for new ways to predict cracking in rails and wheels.

“It’s not always easy to operate in the field between research and industry. When we address industry representatives, some of them believe research to be too theorizing. On the other hand, when we speak to the academy, some view us as consultants. Therefore, it is highly important that someone else now states that what we do is absolutely right”, says Anders Ekberg.

“If you find the right balance between industry and academia, that’s when the big impact can occur. This award is a confirmation of that fact.”

Facilitates freight transports on rail

The research impact, for which the group is now awarded, has clearly benefited both train operators and infrastructure. The previous European lack of coordinated alarm limits for wheel loads made it difficult to transport goods through Europe; even to the extent that trains have had to cancel the journey and return to the home country. The new harmonising rules, which are based on the research group’s calculations, facilitate the expansion of freight transports on rail and thereby benefit the climate.

The same can be said for the crack formation predictions. With new calculation models, it is easier to predict when a wheel or rail need maintenance, making it possible to schedule maintenance instead of waiting for unexpected stops when something is broken.

“One of the challenges for coming decades is to increase the punctuality of train traffic, while at the same time we will have an increasing amount of trains operating the railways. This requires better precision in both train and rail maintenance”, says Anders Ekberg.

Charmec a prerequisite for success

The breadth and weight of the collaborations within Charmec are a prerequisite for the impact of science in society, says Research Professor Elena Kabo.

“It creates a long-term perspective – our impact is based on decades of research – and a synergy between industry and academia, which enables us to solve relevant problems while having a strong scientific base. Charmec also provides better opportunities for collaborations between different research disciplines, which make it possible to come a long way”, she says, adding:

“I believe the fact that we now receive this award can broaden the view on the benefits of applied research, and the understanding that it is based on more basic research. Both basic and applied research are important. But it is often with the combination of both that a major societal breakthrough can occur.”

Diploma, flowers and speeches at ceremony

Chalmers Impact Award was presented by Fredrik Hörstedt, Vice President of Utilisation, at a ceremony at Veras Gräsmatta.

“We build knowledge that finds its way out in society. Most often we do this through our students who enter the society with new skills. But we also work with many other approaches to utilise our knowledge – for example as advisors, close to industrial partners or together with research institutes”, Fredrik Hörstedt said, and continued:

“This award puts the spotlight on those who have succeeded in creating great values for society. The researchers at Charmec have really shown the potential; how we at Chalmers can help solve societal challenges and at the same time build a strong industry.”


Text: Mia Malmstedt
Photo: Charlotte Emlind Vahul


FACTS Chalmers Impact Award

Chalmers Impact Award is 2019 given for the second time. This year’s award motivation reads:

This year’s receivers of Chalmers Impact Award consist of researchers who, with the help of a purposeful, active and broad working method, have accomplished great social values. Based on a solid, scientifically substantiated knowledge in railway mechanics, the researchers have contributed to new methods as well as harmonised European rules for permitted wheel forces in train traffic. By collaborating with several parties from many countries, they have made an impact in both practice and governance and thus also laid the foundation for an impact that is deemed to contribute to transport of goods by rail being seen as something better in comparison with road transport.

Two research teams, from the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering and Technology Management and Economics, were also nominated for this year’s award.

Last year, the awardees were Johan Mellqvist and his research group at Space, Earth and Environment. Read more here (in Swedish): Nyinstiftat pris till mätmetod för fartygsutsläpp​

FACTS The researchers and the research

Several Chalmers researchers have contributed to the work that is now acknowledged by Chalmers Impact Award. Beside Anders Ekberg and Elena Kabo, Hans Andersson, Jens Nielsen, Björn Paulsson, Bengt Åkesson, Roger Lundén, Johan Ahlström and Björn Pålsson are also mentioned.

Read more about the harmonising European limits for wheel loads: European railway harmony is better for the climate​​

Read more about the prediction of cracking: Prediction of cracking increases the railway's reliability​​

Published: Mon 28 Oct 2019.