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Catching up with ITECCO Demo: A successful rail freight solution that bucked the 2020 trend

The ITECCO Demo project ran from October 2016 to March 2019 which allowed Innofreight, an innovative Austrian SME, to develop their ‘InnoWaggons’ with the aim of increasing rail freight transport productivity, specifically regarding the transport of raw materials, such as steel. We featured the project in issue 88 of Research*eu magazine and to find out how things have gone since the end of the EU-funded project, we catch up with Hannes Pichler, logistician at Innofreight.

Transport and Mobility

The crux of the Innofreight solution developed during the project ITECCO Demo (Demonstration and market replication of Innofreight’s innovative rail logistics equipment for the raw material supply of the steel industry) was a modular platform system centred around the InnoWaggon, allowing for separation of the freight container from the wagon’s frame – essentially like a giant LEGO DUPLO set, which was how Pichler originally described the concept to us in our first interview. By the end of 2019, Innofreight had produced and put onto the market around 1 200 freight cars and 12 000 containers – but how have they done in 2020?

Not such a terrible year

“We prepared for problems,” begins Pichler. “But luckily they did not appear, despite the enormous general economic problems caused by the pandemic and the negative effect on industry overall.” Indeed, Innofreight have been in the fortunate position that their business did not suffer as expected during such a difficult year. “We believe the focus and the demand of our customers was even more focused on very modern and high-performance solutions, which we are able to offer,” he continues. “We’ve even begun to connect our specific offer based on the InnoWaggons with accompanying digital solutions. In fact, this has been such a promising prospect that we’ve founded an entirely new company, Innofreight IT-Solutions GmbH to really take this further.” This is just one avenue that Pichler and his colleagues are taking, with an ever-increasing emphasis on making their offers and solutions as flexible and as intelligent as possible. Up-to-date figures from Innofreight’s operating equipment throughout Europe confirm the upward trajectory of the company since 2019, with 15 000 containers of different types and 2 000 InnoWaggons now on the rails.

Reflecting on EU support

For Pichler, the EU support that Innofreight received under the ITECCO Demo project came exactly at the right time. “It was a moment when the company was transforming from a middling-size company to a larger one. Consequently, the EU funding helped cushion us from the financial risk and this really allowed us to concentrate on producing the best solution possible for our target customers and markets.” To emphasise this point, Pichler believes that the EU support allowed him and his colleagues to achieve the level of work that would normally take 4-6 years in the space of just two and a half. He concludes: “In hindsight, it was absolutely the right thing to do and helped us work ourselves up into a different and higher business sphere!”


ITECCO Demo, Innofreight, InnoWaggon, rail, freight, SME, EU support