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Main players on board at EARPA conference

EARPA members, EU officials and European road transport stakeholders came together in Brussels on 13-14 November 2008 to review activities and research initiatives, and discuss the future of automotive research.

Josef Affenzeller © Peter Gutierrez
Josef Affenzeller
© Peter Gutierrez

EARPA is the European Automotive Research Partners Association. Its 33 current members represent the most prominent independent R&D providers in the automotive sector throughout Europe, ranging from large and small commercial organisations to national institutes and universities.

Speaking at the opening reception, EARPA Chairman Josef Affenzeller welcomed representatives of the European Commission and members of key transport organisations, including the European Association of Automotive Suppliers (CLEPA), the Forum of European National Highway Research Laboratories (FEHRL) and the European Council for Automotive R&D (EUCAR), all key players in European road transport research.

“It is a great pleasure to see more than 120 participants here today,” said Affenzeller. “This meeting comes at a critical moment. The current economic crisis only serves to emphasise the importance of targeted research and technological development. We have many representatives from industry here with us and it is crucial that we all continue to work together, to support the European Research Area and to create a new and better road transport system.”

Road transport, environment and competitiveness

EARPA event © Peter Gutierrez
EARPA comes to Brussels
© Peter Gutierrez

Also speaking was Director of the European Commission’s DG RTD Transport Directorate András Siegler. "Efficient transport is a fundamental condition for sustainable development, wealth and prosperity," he said. "Road transport is one of the major sectors of the European economy and an important driver of its growth. The automotive industry in particular accounts for 11% to the EU’s GDP and generates, directly or indirectly, over 16 million jobs."

Siegler stressed the challenges created by unsustainable transport growth. "Demand for transport is expanding at an exponential rate, and the transport modes we use are too polluting, the oil it depends on is too expensive, and our infrastructures and environment can no longer cope."

Environmental issues remain a key priority for the Union, he said. "The 'greening of transport' is the other side of the competitiveness coin. Worldwide demands to make vehicles safer and more environmentally friendly will continue to increase. In this context, it will be of crucial importance for the competitiveness of the European automotive industry to be the first to develop green innovative technical solutions."

Need to work together

András Siegler © Peter Gutierrez
András Siegler
© Peter Gutierrez

On the agenda at the EARPA conference were Task Force updates. EARPA Task Forces cover the main automotive R&D areas and comprise expert members who come together to identify and discuss pertinent areas for new research.

In addition, Task Force representatives participate in the drafting and updating of the European Strategic Research Agenda (SRA) for road transport, published by ERTRAC, the European Road Transport Research Advisory Council.

Both Affenzeller and Siegler expressed support for the ongoing work of ERTRAC. Launched in 2003, this European Technology Platform has had, as its main goal, the elaboration of the SRA, defining priorities for future road transport research.

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