ERTRAC delivers Strategic Research Agenda for road transport
On 2 February 2005, in front of members of the press, the European Road Transport Research Advisory Council (ERTRAC) delivered its comprehensive Strategic Research Agenda (SRA) to the European Commission in Sterrebeek, Belgium. The SRA identifies key scientific and technological priorities for road transport until 2020.
ERTRAC was launched in 2003 by then European Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin. It brings together representatives from the road transport industry, including auto manufacturers, suppliers and infrastructure operators, local and national governments, the research and academic communities, NGOs and the European Commission. Like similar initiatives in the aeronautics, rail transport and waterborne transport sectors – ACARE, ERRAC and WATERBORNE TP, respectively – ERTRAC has had, as its main goal, the elaboration of a Strategic Research Agenda (SRA), defining priorities for future road transport research.
“This is an important milestone for road transport,” said ERTRAC Chair Rudi Kunze. “We have brought together 60 groups, all stakeholders in the road transport sector, but representing a wide variety of perspectives, paradigms and interests, and today we speak with one voice. Road transport is an important economic driver in Europe, and we face important challenges, including projected growth in demand for mobility, increasing environmental and security concerns, safety and industrial competitiveness. No single stakeholder could ever hope to answer all of these challenges by itself.”
Making future vision a reality
The SRA addresses a variety of challenges for road transport research, including those mentioned by Kunze, as well as the development of hydrogen-based vehicles, vehicle-infrastructure communication and interaction and Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS). “What we have put down on paper,” said Kunze, “can and will be a guide to research, but we are not done. We will continue to review and redefine this Agenda long into the future.”
Receiving the SRA on behalf of Science and Research Commissioner Janez Potočnik was his Head of Cabinet, Peter Dröll. He said, “The Commissioner has expressed great satisfaction with the speed with which ERTRAC has produced its SRA. Of course, the implementation is still ahead of us. For the Commission, European competitiveness is now a real priority. We are facing stiff economic competition from abroad on many levels. We remain well behind the United States in terms of research funding and, in this important sector, we must call on our road transport industry to join us and participate in a concerted research effort, to help make up that difference.”
Little Belgium and a ‘CUTE’ bus shine
Some of the guests at the SRA unveiling were brought in on a fuel cell-powered bus, part of the European Union’s CUTE (Clean Urban Transport for Europe) project. The bus in question was on loan from the city of Amsterdam, one of ten cities participating in CUTE, which has seen over 30 Mercedes-Benz Citaro fuel cell buses placed into service.
The buses are equipped with emission-free Ballard 205 kW fuel cell engines and produce only water, which escapes as steam from a tail pipe. They are driven by regular transit bus drivers, providing daily passenger service in each participating city. The CUTE project brings the world a step closer to ‘hydrogen economy’, a notion that has attracted scientists, engineers, clean-energy advocates, and environmentalists for more than a century. ERTRAC delivered its SRA on the grounds of the Belgian Road Research Centre (BRRC), in Sterrebeek, near Brussels. The privately administered research institute participates in a number of national and international research programmes, as well as EU-funded projects and other initiatives. BRRC is the Belgian representative of FEHRL, Europe’s National Road Research Centres, a member of ERTRAC. About 120 guests were treated to a guided tour of BRRC testing facilities and saw a number of experimental vehicles being developed with EU support.
BRRC General Director Claude van Rooten said, “In a small country like Belgium, research depends on collaboration with international partners. In Belgium, as in Europe, we are working together, exchanging knowledge and experience, seeking solutions based on a long-term vision for road transport.”
The next major milestone for ERTRAC, explains Rudi Kunze, will be a review of progress, to be presented at the Gothenburg Road Transport Conference in 2006. Until then, the SRA implementation phase starts in earnest.