DIGI-RAIL Sheffield City Region team

Unipart Rail is the delivery partner for Digi-Rail Sheffield City Region.


Sidrah Khan, Project Manager
University of Birmingham 
Bio coming soon.

Dr Leon Wechie, Business Engagement Manager
University of Birmingham 

Prior to joining DIGI-RAIL, Leon worked extensively with Universities, Research Institutes and Industry; from small businesses to multinational corporations, to deliver innovation through collaborative Research & Development (R&D) projects.

Dr Vahid Hassani, Innovation Specialist
University of Birmingham 
Vahid obtained his PhD in Mechanical Engineering from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) of Singapore in 2014. He joined Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) in 2015 and has a wealth of experience in the fields of Robotics, Computational Solid Mechanics and Design for Additive Manufacturing (DfAM).

Vahid joined the DIGI-RAIL Project in 2021, and has since been responsible for the SME technical research projects, contributing to enhancement of SME manufacturing processes in alignment with digitalization and automation of Railway Systems.

Chris Elliott, Research and Innovation Manager
Unipart Rail 
Chris has worked in the Traction and Rolling stock side of the railways for over 39 years. During this time he has managed several railway depots and Project Managed the £30m fleet refurbishment and heavy overhaul of East Midlands Trains. He has led significant teams and strategy for  Midland Metro and has also held the position of Engineering Director at Stagecoach Supertram in Sheffield and been the UK and European General Manager for a Railway Technology Company.

When looking at SME's he is looking for a good thinking process and those open to new ideas or advice. An SME and its support network should be able to understand all of the barriers to progression within the railway environment and account for these in both time and monetary terms. Having a solid business basis to any project and understanding the cost and market potential are key things in a product's successful delivery as well as those involved having a collaborative approach.

Nicola Kissaglis, Product Manager
Unipart Rail 
Nicola specialises in bringing new products and services to market, and identifying opportunities to expand the market reach for existing products in new markets. Having spent the majority of her career in the electronics industry, Nicola joined Unipart Rail in 2020 to understand and develop the Power Products portfolio, focussing on infrastructure.

The innovators Nicola is keen to engage with are those who bring ideas around signalling power and HV traction power products. She is also keen to hear from SMEs who currently work outside of the rail industry, and to explore whether their products would be suitable for rail infrastructure, and of course to provide support and expertise in helping to bring these ideas and innovations to the market.

Dr Colin Smith McGloin, Product Manager
Unipart Rail 
Colin joined Unipart Rail in 2020 as a Product Manager covering condition-based maintenance, rail and train safety systems. Colin is an expert in condition-based maintenance in rail with a strong understanding of the sensors, analytical software, and maintenance processes which enables him to find the right solution to meet the customer requirements. He has been involved in a wide range of monitoring products including those for track, points, overhead line, power, signalling, automated inspection systems and survey equipment.

Rob Bell, International Technical Sales Manager Plant and Equipment
Unipart Rail 
Rob has been with Unipart for over 6 years but has been in the rail industry for almost 15 years. Rob's area of expertise is with all types of Yellow Plant both within the Rail Industry and also Civil Engineering. A very successful Sales Professional, Rob has secured contracts all over the world for all types of plant equipment and also advises on the types of equipment and the methodology to be used to successfully complete whatever contract is in question.
Rob is also a member of over a dozen different professional associations including Institute of Mechanical Engineering and a member of the All India Rail Safety Council. 

Andy Davies (Product Manager)
Unipart Rail 
Andy started his career as a mechanical design engineer in the automotive industry before moving into strategic procurement roles in automotive, equipment manufacturing and rail. He joined Unipart Rail in 2012 and had various procurement, research and development and product management roles. Andy has previous experience managing and participating in complex Innovate UK projects as well as developing and managing the Rail Plant product management strategy.

Andy is looking for companies with great ideas, products and services from SMEs that provide a significant incremental or stepped change in the railway's performance with a view to helping them commercialise and bring these products to market.

Jozsef Taylor (Product Manager)
Unipart Rail 
Jozsef began with Unipart Rail in 2018 on their general business management graduate scheme. In this period he rotated around the business through various functions which gained him a great insight into and understanding of the Rail industry and its supply chain. Jozsef is now one of Unipart Rail's Product Managers, managing Level Crossings and Permanent Way as product categories.

If you would like to arrange a meeting or get in touch for a quick chat, please email: digirailsheffield@contacts.bham.ac.uk

BCRRE Professional Staff

Alex Burrows, Director, BCRRE

Alex leads the BCRRE Commercial and Professional Services team that sits alongside the BCRRE academic group and is also Managing Director of the BCRRE Rail Alliance, the UK’s largest rail supply chain community. Alex chairs the Digi-Rail Project Management Board and retains oversight of the project, making sure the team is well-equipped to deliver maximum benefit to the SMEs taking part in the project.

Dr Jenny Illingsworth, Deputy Director, BCRRE

Jenny looks after the Industrial Outreach, Marketing & Communications, and Operations teams in BCRRE and is a co-director of the BCRRE Rail Alliance. She will be supporting the Digi-Rail project by providing the team with management and oversight, support for strategy development and operational activities. For Digi-Rail clients she provides business support in the non-technical areas and support for product development strategy.

Karminder Johal, Communications Officer

Karminder is a communications expert and supports the Digi-Rail programme by preparing the project’s marketing communications materials and looking after all of our social media presence. She will lend support to promotional communication needs for Digi-Rail client projects too.

Robert Hopkin, Head of Development

As well as overseeing all education and research-related development of BCRRE, Rob is Operations Director of the BCRRE Rail Alliance and ensures the Rail Alliance community is well served by the organisation.

Kevin Blacktop, Head of Delivery

Kevin looks after project management and delivery of BCRRE’s wide portfolio of research and innovation projects, of which Digi-Rail is a core activity. As well as supporting Louise, Kristin and the Technical Officers, Kevin offers his own extensive experience as an engineer in the automotive and rail industries.

Steve Mills, Senior Industrial Fellow
Richard Thomas, Rachel Fisher, and Marcelo Blumenfeld, Industrial Fellows

The team of Industrial Fellows, led by Steve, is made up of technical specialists in the Digi-Rail themes. All are also innovation experts who bridge the gap between academic research and industrial application. The Industrial Fellows can work with Digi-Rail clients to scope out projects, investigate sources of project funding and potentially make introductions to collaborators.

Adnan Zentani, Technician

Adnan is the BCRRE Technician who runs the laboratories and oversees all the experimental work that takes place. He liaises with the Technical Officers, prepares samples and helps with product development projects.

Digi Rail Logo, with partner logos including: University of Birmingham, European Union Regional Development Fund , Northern Powerhouse, Unipart Rail, Sheffield City Region