DIGI-RAIL West Midlands Region team

Business Engagement Managers

Dr Al-Amin Dabo

Al-Amin is responsible for business engagement activities in the DIGI-RAIL project, which showcases and offers long-term technical and innovation support to businesses looking to develop digital products and services for the rail industry. Prior to his time here, Al-Amin worked in business engagement with the European Bioenergy Research Institute, Aston University.

Alec Gillham

Alec is the Business Engagement Manager for DIGI-RAIL and is a key member of the Project Management and Delivery team that work with SME’s to develop Digital Products & Services into the UK Rail sector.

Prior to joining DIGI-RAIL, Alec worked extensively within Higher Education, Private & Public sector with organisations seeking to introduce World Class Manufacturing to their operations. Working with such brand names as UTC Aerospace, Caterpillar and JCB Alec has a wealth of theoretical knowledge and Senior Management experience of managing extensive culture change and technology adoption across a variety of industrial sectors including Automotive, Aerospace and Rail.

Having recently undertaken an MSc in HRD and Organisational Change he is a dedicated practitioner of Continuous Improvement with a wealth of experience in the area of Culture Change, Learning & Development, Operational Efficiency and Business Process Re-engineering Alec is passionate about raising the bar with UK manufacturing and innovation and supporting SME’s to adopt Best Practice.

Senior Technical Officers

Martin Little, Rail Alliance

With supply chain and industrial engagement at all levels as Commercial Director for the BCRRE Rail Alliance, Martin’s multi-faceted commercial ability is gained from a diversity of B2B and B2C technical industries, most notably in the Construction sector as well as earlier success in the Electronics and Pro Audio fields, which delivered a Queen’s Award for Export Achievement. 

Having hands-on experience of advancing a vast multitude of products through concept, design and development into commercial readiness and profitable sales growth, Martin’s approach combines a sturdy combination of ‘can-do’ versatility with the realities of market entry in a challenging sector.

Reza Zolfaghari

Reza is a railway system engineer. His main research interest and expertise include optimising railway complex projects utilising system thinking tools, railway education management and leading knowledge transfer projects. He joined BCRRE in 2010 and has been involved in many research/education projects, which provided him with a holistic overview of railway systems, its subsystems and complex interactions. He joined the Digi-Rail team in April 2020 as a Senior Technical Officer. Reza is responsible for leading knowledge transfer and innovation support projects to enable local SMEs to introduce their innovative products and solutions which can contribute to the railway digitalisation, aiming at enhanced reliability, safety and punctuality.

Dr Krishnan Venkateswaran

Krishnan specialises in the area of System Integration. His PhD was concerned with the development of a framework to test the system performance gains when new technologies are applied to the railway network. Krishnan previously worked at the Transport Research Laboratory ltd., where he contributed towards the development of a safety framework for validating autonomous vehicles on UK roads. His areas of interests include Systems engineering, systems architecture planning, prototyping software projects and the development of data dashboards.

Technical Officers

Kevin Sperin

Kevin specialises in Systems Engineering. His PhD was concerned with the application of systems engineering techniques towards the management of level crossings on the British railway network. Kevin has previously worked at CERN in Switzerland, contributing to the Large Hadron Collider upgrade programme and also on a new method of protection for the super conducting magnets called CLIQ. His areas of interests are in digital electronic design, control systems, computer modelling and simulation and also automation.

Dr Ibukunolu Oladunjoye

Ibukunolu is a control engineer with expertise in mechanical, electrical and computing engineering, with experience in a number of industrial sectors, most notably Oil and Gas in engineering systems dynamics, systems control, FE modelling and data modelling. 

Dr Vishnu Seelan

Vishnu specialises in Non-destructive Testing (NDT) and structural integrity assessment with a focus in thermal imaging and ultrasonic testing technology. He completed a PhD in Experimental Mechanics at the University of Southampton. In his previous role, Vishnu was responsible for the technical delivery of multiple consultancy projects for clients in industry and research and development projects (InnovateUK, EU funded H2020) in the area of NDT and condition monitoring.

Project Manager

Louise Woodall

Louise is experienced in EU-funded projects and has worked on ESF, ERDF, FP7 and H2020. She has worked with local authorities, voluntary organisations and cultural institutions as well as in Higher Education with academics, clinicians and researchers.  During her project management roles, she has monitored contract compliance, coordinated project deliverables and milestones, maintained strict governance structures, managed and reported on complex budgets, driven marketing and communication activities and organised large international meetings.

As the Project Manager for DIGI-RAIL, Louise provides strategic direction and management to ensure that the DIGI-RAIL project delivers in line with ERDF guidelines as well as the objectives of the Greater Birmingham and Solihull, Coventry and Warwickshire and Black Country LEP areas. On a day-to-day basis, as well as managing finances and contractual compliance, Louise strives to maintain DIGI-RAIL team cohesion and communication which are paramount in the successful delivery of the project.

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.