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Transport 'Info Day' goes green

The Transport Research Info Days, on 28 and 29 September 2009, featured in-depth presentations and information on the full range of topics covered under the new FP7 transport research calls for proposals, including aeronautics. Over two days, a record 1200 participants attended the event in Brussels, surpassing similar events in 2007 and 2008.

Transport info days at the Charlemagne building in Brussels © Philippe Molitor
Transport info days are held
at the Charlemagne building
in Brussels
© Philippe Molitor

EU officials say the high level of attendance at the 2009 Info Days demonstrates the keener-than-ever interest among academia, research centres and industrial organisations in taking part in European research activities.

A first day dedicated to Sustainable surface transport

Almost 800 participants from across Europe were on hand on 28 September for the Information Day on opportunities available under the latest Sustainable Surface Transport Research call for proposals. The event, organised by the European Commission’s Research (RTD) Directorate-General, covered the 2010 call for proposals, in particular the section on the European Green Cars Initiative.

“With this, our third set of calls for proposals in FP7, the focus is more strongly on breakthrough technologies which could lead to step changes in transport,” said András Siegler, Director of Transport Research in DG RTD, opening the day. “The research we will support should be aimed at greening transport, moving Europe towards a low-carbon economy, or at improving the social aspects – safety and security – of transport.”

Participants heard presentations on the goals of the transport research work programme, and on the major topics which are open to proposals. Sessions included practical tips on responding to the calls, based on experience with the first two rounds. A major part of the information day was the brokerage event held on 29 September. Participants promoted their project ideas with a view to bringing new partners into their proposals.

“The surface transport sector accounts for some 11% of EU GDP, and 16 million jobs,” emphasised Frank Smit of DG RTD. “Moreover, 98% of transport depends on oil. EU transport policy, which is the main driver of our research activities, needs to address major challenges on the environment, energy and mobility. Transport is also directly affected by the EU’s international policies, for example the Kyoto Protocol on climate change.”

Forward on transport and environment

Frédéric Sgarbi, head of Unit for DG RTD's Sustainable Surface Transport, summed up the expected impact of transport research projects as: "the development of integrated, safer, greener, smarter transport systems; and, to secure and develop the competitiveness of Europe’s transport industry”. All projects funded should have “at least a neutral impact on climate change”, i.e. should not lead to any increase in greenhouse gas emissions.

The information day covered the package of calls published on 30 July 2009, with a closing date of 14 January 2010. On the surface transport side, the main topics addressed are environmentally friendly rail freight transportation, eco-innovation in shipbuilding and waterborne transport, and electrification of road and urban transport under the European Green Cars initiative.

A part of the budget has also been set aside for topics which could not be funded due to over-subscription in the previous calls.

The 2010 calls in the field of Sustainable Surface Transport, with a budget of €94 million, will fund less research than the first and second sets of calls (2007 and 2008), and so not all areas of the work programme are addressed this year. Areas not open for proposals in 2010 will be opened in subsequent years of FP7, which runs up until 2013.

Green Cars

The afternoon session was devoted to the European Green Cars Initiative. Part of the EU’s economic recovery package, the Green Cars Initiative is one of three research public–private partnerships to help industry overcome the worst effects of the economic crisis. “The Green Cars Initiative demonstrates that the Union recognises the importance of the automotive sector,” underlined Siegler. “It uses existing schemes to get things moving quickly and invests in improving competitiveness and the environment at the same time.”

Josef Affenzeller © Peter Gutierrez
Josef Affenzeller
© Peter Gutierrez

There are three priorities in Green Cars – heavy-duty vehicles, electrification, and logistics – however in the 2010 call the focus is on electric cars. The research work will address both fully electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids, with the assumption that both will be in full production by 2014. The topics covered by the calls launched on 30 July are improving batteries, information and communications technologies (ICT) for fully electric vehicles, development of electric or hybrid vehicles, and demonstration of electro-mobility.

The ICT for Green Cars call covers both the vehicles and infrastructure required for fully-electric vehicle running. In particular, it addresses vehicle concepts and systems integration. This call has an earlier closing date – 3 November 2009 – than the other calls presented during the open day.

The afternoon also saw a presentation from EARPA Chairman Josef Affenzeller on the role of the European Road Transport Research Advisory Council. 'ERTRAC' is the European Technology Platform, bringing together stakeholders from all sections of industry and research, public and private, as well as policy-makers, to foster the development of sustainable road transport.

ERTRAC a leading ETP

One of the seminal European Technology Platforms (ETPs), the European Road Transport Advisory Council (ERTRAC) was established in 2003 and delivered its groundbreaking Strategic Research Agenda (SRA) just one year later, laying the groundwork for future road research. The SRA and has been a major guide in the formulation of the Union's FP7 transport work programme.

Affenzeller emphasised that ERTRAC is working with other technology platforms, notably 'Smart Grids’ and ‘EPoSS', both of which are now making crucial contributions to Europe's road transport research programme. To speed up the development of electric vehicles, ERTRAC will adopt its electrification strategy paper in October 2009, along with its ‘road transport scenarios 2030’. It will also shortly adopt a new strategic research agenda, incorporating all the pillars of the Green Cars Initiative.

As well as offering its direct support to Green Cars, ERTRAC is working to foster greater involvement of national road transport authorities across the EU. Other important ERTRAC milestones have included their Vision 2030+ paper, laying out a long term strategy for road transport in Europe.

How to participate

Calls are announced in the Official Journal of the European Unionexternal link and on the CORDIS FP7 calls pageexternal link. The key documents relating to a call are the work programme and the guide for applicants. These and other useful sources of information are available on CORDIS as soon as a call is published. Users can also set up a  CORDIS Rapidusexternal linkprofile to receive e-mail alerts informing them of new calls.