THE ISSUE project, funded through the FP7 Regions of Knowledge programme, brings together a consortium of regional research clusters with expertise in space technologies, traffic, health and the environment. The objective is to apply space-based innovations to achieve intelligent traffic solutions. This includes, for example, applying real-time satellite navigation data to urban traffic-management systems, and using remote-sensing to mitigate potential health risks from traffic-induced air pollution.
The core partners in THE ISSUE are the East Midlands Region in the UK, the Mazovi Region in Poland, the Molise Region in Italy and the Midi Pyrenees and Aquitaine regions in France. Each of these clusters contains a ‘triple helix' partnership of business, academia and local/regional authorities, with expertise in traffic-management innovation and environmental impact planning.
The three-year programme aims to review all relevant research activity relating to traffic, health and the environment currently being carried out in each cluster. Across the consortium, an impressive 37 research projects have been identified.
“The five areas we are focusing on are intelligent traffic systems (putting more IT into traffic control situations), traffic control, intermodal transport, the greening of transport, and improving the health of citizens through achieving better air quality,” says the University of Leicester’s Professor Allan Wells, the project’s coordinator. “We are developing a priority research plan, identifying those projects that are likely to have the greatest impact.”
Programme participants next intend to carry out consultations with participating regional and local authorities across the partner regions. “We are dealing with regulatory issues, with social and economic consequences,” Prof. Wells points out. “We have a strong engagement to build up relationships with policy-makers, and make them aware of our research capabilities, because decisions are sometimes taken by people who are not as informed as they could be.”
Project participants are also focused on expanding the network into regions with less-well-developed R&D capabilities. “Each region is seeking additional partners,” says Prof. Wells. “We have already had seven applications to join, which will be discussed at our next conference in Toulouse.” Through this mentoring process, the professor expects the network to develop additional partners capable of participating in coordinated funding bids in the future. “This is our target, and I believe we are moving quicker than expected,” he adds.
Communication and engagement are crucial elements in the programme. A total of six conferences are planned, with the intention of opening the floor to experts in other fields. Prof. Wells believes this is a good way of disseminating the objectives and results of the programme.
He also notes that the project has achieved growing recognition in the UK. “Our consortium is growing rapidly, with several new businesses and organisations eager to join us. I believe we now have national recognition, and that the work of our project is seen in a positive light.”
THE ISSUE is well on track to establishing long-lasting partnerships between regional research clusters, capable of bringing together programmes relevant to traffic, health and the environment. “We’ve made real progress in a short space of time,” acknowledges Prof. Wells.
“Several of us get invited to conferences to discuss the project, which I think is very much part of the job. It has been quite hectic, but I believe the project is being well managed, and we have developed good relations between the regions. There is lots of enthusiasm, we feel fresh, and we are moving in the right direction.”