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Innovation & research:
The tools we need for the challenges of the future

Amid rising energy prices, skyrocketing demand for public transport, an increasingly digital society, and sweeping rail market reform, we’re transforming our Innovation & Research (I&R) process to create tomorrow’s mobility.

Discover the 2017 report

& Minilabs

Making the transition from R&D to RID—Research, Innovation & Development—means adopting new innovation management processes. Managing innovation is the core mission of SNCF EPIC’s Innovation & Research division, and our Labs and Minilabs play an especially important role. Created in 2010, they focus on key issues for SNCF—infrastructure maintenance in heavily developed areas, energy, public transport/mass transit, mobility for seniors, eco-design, and many more.

Under SNCF’s partnership with the chair for Theory and Method for Innovative Design at the Mines ParisTech engineering school, our Labs and Minilabs have adopted the Define-Knowledge-Concept-Proposal (DKCP) method to manage innovative design and generate effective programmes and proposals. With DKCP, innovators can take existing ideas to new levels—and generate revolutionary new concepts.

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The DKCP method is based on four components: Formulating a clear definition of the project and choosing a strategic sponsor; pooling existing knowledge; using “trigger concepts” and design workshops to launch open-ended exploration; and synthesizing and reformulating the resulting concepts and knowledge into strategic proposals for innovative design.


At SNCF, we want to get clients from door to door, whether they’re taking a long journey or just commuting day to day. And we’re developing important new applications and technologies to help achieve this new mobility.

  • Mytripset: multimodal trip planning
    Launched in July 2012 in our VSC ( Lab, Mytripset is a travel-planning tool that passengers can use to plan their travel on a computer or tablet, choosing from a wide range of itineraries and multimodal solutions­—trains, planes, automobiles, ferries, buses and more. With Mytripset, they can map out an entire journey, from their front door to the exact address of their vacation hotel; research local transport options on both ends of the trip; filter results by price, length of journey and transport mode; and even calculate the carbon footprint of each itinerary. By March 2013, 50,000-60,000 people were consulting the app every month, and thanks to feedback from the first group of users, we're improving it all the time. Mytripset will be available for smartphones by the end of 2013.

    Start Using Mytripset

  • Fluvio: managing passenger flow in our stations
    We’re measuring passenger flow in our stations with Fluvio, a tool that combines existing security cameras with a new counting technology. Using image- and data-processing algorithms, it can estimate passenger flow continuously and over a wide area, delivering reliability that is significantly superior to manual counting methods. The purpose? Offering our clients the right service in the right place at the right time. After an experimental run in the Paris-Montparnasse station, a prototype will be installed in one or more major stations.

Public Transport
and Infrastructure

Today every major city in the world is struggling to provide better public transport by expanding and diversifying its transport infrastructure. Which, in turn, has created a market with new international growth opportunities for SNCF. And in that market our maintenance teams have a competitive edge, not just because of their transport infrastructure know-how and familiarity with system wear and tear, but also because of their ongoing effort, starting in 2010, to develop a next-generation approach to infrastructure maintenance that meets the special requirements of mass transit systems.

Among other initiatives, we’ve created a Public Transport Lab aimed at increasing transport capacity and making urban travel more comfortable and pleasant. This open innovation initiative has brought together some 60 SNCF Group employees from a wide range of areas—marketing, infrastructure, strategy and more—to trigger new ideas.

Today our Public Transport Lab is working to:

  • make the transport system more powerful by simplifying and adapting operations;
  • anticipate and manage peak demand to meet passenger expectations and keep the transport system running at peak performance;
  • move clients through our stations more smoothly by managing passenger flow and by developing innovative new services that meet their expectations and create value;
  • bring our clients into the innovation process—for example, by naming selected opinion leaders as ambassadors for the Transilien network serving the Paris region.

The Fast Track to Safety

To keep rail corridors open for commercial traffic, we’re fitting our passenger and freight trains with sensors that can monitor system conditions continuously or simply as needed, identifying changes in the rail line and in the sleepers, ballast and other components that make it up. The project is currently in the experimental stage: since late 2013, the on-board monitoring system has operated on one of the regional trains serving the Paris suburbs.

Recovering Braking Energy

We’re planning a demonstration project at the Masséna unit in Paris to confirm the technical and economic viability of recovering braking energy as 1500V power. Once it is fully deployed, we could use this solution to cut €6 million from our power bill for the Paris region, either by selling the recovered energy back to the producer, or by using it to power train stations, recharge electrical vehicles, or meet other energy needs.

Learn More About Our CO2 Footprint

The Energy

SNCF is the single largest electricity consumer in France, accounting for 1.5% of the nation’s energy output, and with train operation accounting for 89% of our power bill, we’re highly energy-dependent. Bottom line: getting energy use under control is critical to growing our business. Two executive committees have worked exclusively on our energy transition since late 2012, and they’ve identified our first step—improving energy efficiency, optimizing our energy purchasing policy, developing and deploying a corporate energy policy, and educating our managers. By the year 2020, we plan to reduce the energy consumption of our rail facilities by 20%.

We’ll start by optimizing our existing facilities—equipment, stations, and other sites­—and adopting new energy management practices that will allocate available energy as efficiently as possible. To achieve this goal, we’ll take two essential and complementary steps:

  • minimize the electricity requirements of our various operations, which will also reduce our power bill; and
  • minimize our total consumption of both electric and diesel power to cut costs and reduce environmental impact.

This will also help us meet our targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Under France's national plan for adapting to climate change, our goals are to reduce passenger emissions by another 40% and freight emissions by another 33% by 2020.


Our Innovation & Research and Sustainable Development divisions invite you to experience the cutting edge of eco-design—a revolutionary break with conventional industrial attitudes. This approach to design inspires practitioners to innovate by abandoning their usual working and methods and adopting new ways of thinking.

What is eco-design?

Designing a product or service in a way that preserves its features and performance, but reduces negative impact on the environment throughout its life cycle.

Learn More About Eco-Design