Joint Research Centre - European Commission

The European Commission's in-house science service
European Commission

Cover of the report

Commission pushes to accelerate development and market uptake of new transport technologies© EU, 2012

JRC support to the transport and innovation initiative


The European Commission has launched today an initiative to coordinate and focus European research and innovation in transport in which the JRC has been deeply involved. In support of this strategy, two reports presenting a scientific assessment of transport technologies and mapping the innovation capacities of the European transport sector were prepared by the JRC.

The aim is to speed up the deployment of new transport means and solutions to achieve a competitive and affordable European transport system. The definition of a set of roadmaps focusing on the deployment of technologies and innovation in 10 critical areas of transport will start in September 2012.

In the coming months the JRC will be involved in the development of these and will study the creation of a new Information and Monitoring Systems for the implementation of the initiative.

Scientific Assessment of Strategic Transport Technologies

This JRC assessment covered all transport sectors (road, rail, aviation, waterborne - maritime/inland) and issues: fuels, energy, urban mobility, logistics and intelligent transport systems across modes, providing a short overview of the current status of the sector. It also took into account the input from the stakeholder hearings held during the preparation of the Communication and included the visions and roadmaps already created by the technology platforms and partnerships in the transport field. The outcome was extensively reviewed by the scientific panel created for this reason and by several Commission experts.

On the basis of the description of the status and vision for all transport modes and cross-modal aspects, a prioritisation exercise was performed with the participation of the members of the scientific panel. The analysis of the results of the prioritisation was a valuable (but not the sole) input in the final selection of the Research and Innovation Areas for the Communication. While no clear winner technology was identified in the report, the analysis indicated those technologies which contributed towards achieving EU policy goals, had added-value at EU level and needed demonstration and deployment support.

Mapping innovation in the European transport sector

The analysis shows that the EU-based transport industry strongly invests in research and development to the extent that it is the largest industrial R&D investing sector in Europe. Nevertheless, transport comprises highly heterogeneous subsectors (modes, service providers and manufacturers, cross modal), all of which are exposed to a different market environment and innovation system. Hence, they differ strongly in terms of drivers and needs for innovation. This is reflected in diverse R&D intensities across modes, but also in the importance of R&D in innovation expenses. In line with this, R&D investments are mainly concentrated in the automotive sector and the manufacturers of aviation equipment, whereas transport service providers and companies involved in the construction of transport infrastructure have limited incentives to invest in research.

Despite the significant on-going research efforts in transport, the potential for systemic innovations that go beyond modal boundaries and leave the currently pre-dominant design are under-exploited due to prominent lock-in effects. These are caused by the high capital-intensiveness of innovation in this sector, the complexity of transport innovation that requires coordinated efforts and speeds from the different actors (e.g. vehicle/fuel/infrastructure and consumer) and the institutional set-up of the innovation systems.

The key policy messages from the analysis of transport innovation capacities in Europe can be summarised as follows:

  • The emergence of innovative solutions ultimately depends on an appropriate anticipation of consumer preferences. Transport technology roadmaps may be an effective tool to a priori address this need, since they can foster the discussion amongst stakeholders.
  • Supportive market conditions due to regulatory and fiscal instruments as well as other measures capable to stimulate market demand for new transport technologies can reinforce industrial innovation activities with policy objectives.
  • Stable long-term signals are vital in reducing innovators' uncertainties and can therefore help in steering the R&D efforts of the transport industry.
  • Radical high-risk, high potential innovations that face the problem of capital intensiveness may further require direct public support, which can take place throughout the entire innovation chain in different forms
  • There is a risk that the important potential of radical, often cross- or intermodal innovations will not be fully exploited, since they are particularly affected by the institutional lock-in of the dominant transportation systems.