The £24m centre will be located next to the test track facility, which is already in development, at the old Dudley Train Station in Castlehill.
The recently formed Black Country Innovative Manufacturing Organisation (BCIMO) will oversee the build, launch and operation of the centre. Construction work is being undertaken by Clegg Construction and is expected to complete in February 2022.
The projects aim to create a new Very Light Rail (VLR) industry, supporting the manufacture and uptake of lower cost VLR solutions across the UK. They will help to drive the next generation of VLR vehicles, putting Dudley at the forefront of developing new ways to reduce the weight and cost of railcars and track, for a cheaper alternative to heavy rail and traditional Metro transport.
The centre will boast a triple-height engineering hall, research laboratories, conference and seminar rooms and offices for 45 people. There will also be public areas, including exhibition spaces and an auditorium.
The VLR test track, which will be around 2km, will sit on a disused Network Rail track and will run between Castle Hill Bridge and Cinder Bank, with a test passenger platform located at the Cinder Bank end of the tracks.
Councillor Patrick Harley, leader of Dudley Council, said:
"This is a pivotal and exciting moment in Dudley’s economic future, and it gives me great pride to see the work getting underway for the National Innovation Centre.
This facility and the VLR test track will place Dudley at the forefront of ground-breaking engineering works, that will benefit the national and local economy as well as the environment.
Working together, we are forging an exciting and bright future for Dudley town centre and this is just one component of the £1bn of regeneration works that are coming to the town now."
Councillor Ian Kettle, cabinet member for economic development and regeneration, said:
"We can feel the seas of change in Dudley and it gives me great pride to see the works here today on the site that will ultimately form the National Innovation Centre and VLR test track.
These projects will help to create jobs and develop new economic growth for the region while putting Dudley on the map once again for innovation, technology and manufacturing."
Nicholas Malonson, CEO of BCIMO, said:
"This initiative is about developing a new form of low-cost rail based transport which will be manufactured and installed by UK companies and in particular supported by manufacturing companies in Dudley and the wider Black Country."
People can find out more at www.verylightrail.com