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Greenrail: sustainability, safety and saving in the the railroad sleeper of tomorrow

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - Greenrail (Greenrail: sustainability, safety and saving in the the railroad sleeper of tomorrow)

Reporting period: 2015-02-01 to 2015-07-31

The action context:
Greenrail is an innovative startup company that has designed and patented an innovative railway sleeper, composed by an inner core in concrete and an outer elastic shell obtained from recycled plastic and End of Life Tyres (ELT). The sleeper has a high potential to revolutionize a key sector for Europe, rail transport, and has seen an evolution during the evaluation and implementation phase of the project, where two other types of sleepers have been designed: Greenrail Linkbox and Greenrail Solar. The aim of Greenrail project in SME Instrument Phase 1 has been to analyse the specific needs still not covered, in order to complete the initial business plan of the company.
The objectives:
Greenrail project has been useful to determine the technological, practical and economic viability of Greenrail sleeper, an innovative railway sleeper with the potential to have a significant impact on rail transport and to be introduced in European and extra-European markets.
In particular, the objectives of the project have been to:
- analyse the European railroad sleepers market, more specifically in the geographical areas of Italy, Germany and France, taking into considerations 3 key markets - concrete sleepers market, ELT market and recycled plastic market;
- identify the advantages towards concrete sleepers, the main competitor, in Italy, Germany and France;
- evaluate the environmental, electric and economic sustainability of the project;
- search for partners and investors to be used both for SME Instrument Phase 2 and for other opportunities.
The work has been performed by the internal staff of the company (1 CEO and Founder; 1 Chief Information Officer; 1 Trainee). They have collaborated mainly with two third parties:
- Fondazione Politecnico di Milano (FPM) and the relevant Departments (Department of Industrial Chemistry and Chemical Engineering “Giulio Natta”; Department of Mechanics; Department of Energy; Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering);
- ESMO S.r.l. a company specialized in EU fundings, which has been supporting Greenrail since the initial steps of application for SME Instrument Phase 1.

The result of this 6 months-work is a feasibility study, written by the team composed by Greenrail internal staff, FPM (with contributions from professors of the relevant Departments) and ESMO S.r.l.
In particular, the feasibility study includes these sections:
• Market-analysis: the European railroad sleepers market is analysed, with a specific focus on three geographical areas: Italy, Germany and France. The aim is to find out the best entry strategies, after having taken into account the main market features, the barriers to be overcome, the main competitors and the regulatory framework.
• Comparative analysis with concrete sleepers: a comparative analysis with the main competitor, namely concrete sleeper, is conducted to evaluate the impact of our solution in the European market, with a particular focus on the previously mentioned geographical areas.
• Environmental sustainability: an assessment will be conducted, to evaluate the environmental sustainability of our solution, compared to the already existing ones, not only on a European scale, but also on a global scale, in order to assess the possibility to enter in other markets, by relying on the comparative advantages given by environmental sustainability.
• Electric feasibility: an electric impact analysis is carried out, in order to calculate the economic added value of the product sold with the integrated piezoelectric system. This includes, in particular, an analysis of advantages and a specific study on how the Italian main trafficked railways may use the stock of energy to improve their service, by calculating the related saving and return on investment.
• Economic impact assessment: an impact assessment evaluates the economic advantages brought by our solution to the users/clients, if compared to the standard concrete sleepers, with a focus on the Italian, French and German markets.
• Partner search: a search for partners, investors, end-users, clients, universities/research centres is conducted in order to: build an eligible partnership for Phase 2 Project with a more structured SME; find potential investors to reach the market; conclude agreements with end-users/clients for a demonstrative/pilot activity; find further collaborations to use equipments and knowledge of top technical universities/research centres. The result is a complete database, with a series of contacts, meetings and agreements.
• conclusion: the updated status of Greenrail business idea. How the project shall continue; how the strategic vision has evolved as a result of the work undertaken: changes to the objectives, the concept and approach, and the impact; what kind of support would be useful to develop Greenrail business further (partners, expertise, access to funding, other).
Through this project, Greenrail has reached the following expected results:
- a better understanding of the comparative advantages over concrete sleepers;
- a better knowledge about all the three key markets: railway sleepers market; recycled plastic market; ELT market;
- an improved internal work organization, with a series of collaborations with relevant third parties;
- a better understanding of some technical issues, related to environmental sustainability and electric feasibility;
- a more clear picture about the economic benefits offered to potential consumers;
- an increase in terms of visibility;
- improved relations with key partners to be involved in SME Instrument phase 2, and, more generally, for the commercialization and demonstration phases of the project.
The structure of Greenrail sleeper: inner core and outer shell
Amount of ELT and plastic recycled with 1670 Greenrail sleepers
The 4 types of Greenrail sleeper