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On the road

15/10/2012

A European Commission transport research strategy seeks to boost eco-innovation by focusing attention on new types of vehicles, smart and green infrastructure, and the integrated management of different transport modes to achieve maximum efficiency.

The Commission's Strategic Transport Technology Plan (STTP, COM (2012) 501), published 18 September, aims to coordinate and focus European transport research and innovation, and speed up the deployment of greener and more efficient cars, planes, trains and ships.

Transport Commissioner Siim Kallas said that the strategy would help make the EU transport system “even more efficient, sustainable and user-friendly,” and would “impact positively on growth and jobs in Europe”.

As part of the strategy, ten roadmaps will be drawn up, all of which offer scope for eco-innovation. The roadmaps will cover: clean, efficient, safe, quiet and smart road vehicles, aircraft, vessels and trains (4 roadmaps); smart, green, low-maintenance and climate-resilient infrastructure; Europe-wide alternative fuel distribution infrastructures; efficient modal traffic management systems; integrated cross-modal information and management services; seamless logistics; and integrated and innovative urban mobility and transport.

Eco-innovation potential should be at the centre of the revision of existing infrastructure standards, including transport, energy, buildings, and ICT, while simultaneously leading to enhanced climate resilience.

Eco-innovative transport: a societal challenge

The STTP is also designed to help tackle the “grand societal challenge” of establishing “smart, green and integrated transport”. This challenge will be one of the focus areas for Horizon 2020, the next multi-annual EU research programme, which will run from 2014-2020.

A Commission Staff Working Document, published alongside the STTP, describes some of the areas research could concentrate on and how eco-innovation would help transport systems to run more smoothly, thus cutting down on emissions and other environmental damage. For example, modes of transport and vehicles could be better interconnected using information and communication technologies to cut congestion. Fuel savings could be achieved by devices that promote eco-driving. Eco-innovative thinking could include better design of port terminals or other transport interchanges so that people and goods flow through them more easily.

Eco-innovation for transport could even encompass urban planning, with redesigned urban areas encouraging walking and cycling. “Logistics and goods delivery and distribution services in urban areas will be quiet and increasingly carbon-free,” according to the STTP.

Transport eco-innovation will also help the EU stay competitive. “New technologies are essential to winning the global race for sustainable mobility,” the Commission said. Employment could be boosted. Germany alone, for example, has a shortfall of nearly 30,000 automotive engineers, according to the Association of German Engineers.

The STTP team which has been established within the Commission's transport directorate, said that the ten roadmaps would be drawn up by the Commission and stakeholders, and published in due course. “In some fields, stakeholders are already organised and working together,” the STTP team said.

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