‘INTRANSNET’ – building co-operation between transport researchers
An efficient transport network, including air, road, marine and rail systems, is a crucial prerequisite for Europe’s economic growth. This means maintaining good communications between the various actors involved in transport research, from basic physical research and engineering on land transport and intelligent traffic systems through to seat comfort modelling for trains and planes.
The 12 universities and institutions involved in INTRANSNET – the Network of European medium- and large-scale transport research facilities operators – have set up a communication system, with a sophisticated website and searchable database at its core, to deliver up-to-date and relevant information to all research stakeholders in the field.
This thematic network, funded by the European Union’s Fifth Framework Programme (FP5) and launched in 2002, set out to establish and build up co-operation among European national transport research facilities and operators. According to the network’s literature, it aims “to empower potential users to use synergies to increase the competitive power of European research”.
Since its launch, the web-based network has built up a strong user community, taking advantage of the database’s many features, including information on research facilities, test beds, model testing laboratories, prototype engineering and simulators.
Gerfried Cebrat, project manager at the Austrian Mobility Research FGM-AMOR and a prime partner in the project, says the users of INTRANSNET’s services run into the several thousands, with an average of 450 consultations per month.
The biggest user group to date has been research facilities in the road transport sector (27.0%), followed by rail (18.0%), maritime (14.3%) and air (10.7%), with local public transport stakeholders completing the top five (10.3%). Their involvement in the network has delivered concrete benefits, including networking opportunities with colleagues in other institutions and countries, a means of disseminating publications, access to technical research, greater recognition of participating institutions’ expertise, and better opportunities for them to take part in funded projects.
The network, backed by almost €1.6 million of EU funding, the maximum community contribution under the FP5 Growth Programme, is being coordinated by the University of Žilina’s Centre for Transportation Research, in Slovakia. Partners in the network come from eight European countries: Austria; The Netherlands; Germany; Spain; Sweden; Finland; Poland; and the lead country Slovakia.
Keeping a good thing going
Although scheduled for completion at the end of 2004, the network is keen to continue building its user community and to remain a valuable forum for knowledge exchange among transport research facilities, public authorities and industrial partners. “Our plan is to keep it alive and we’re looking into several alternatives for doing this. One is to introduce new web services to encourage contributions from the user community,” Cebrat explains.
For example, he says, using the database, a car manufacturer can locate a partner to test noise emission levels of its new diesel engine for passenger cars. Likewise, an aircraft parts maker can use simulation services to assess energy consumption of a new turbine prototype.