Whilst this relates to transport, newer entrants to the sector are poised to benefit, including telecommunications, ICT, and non-traditional engine and fuel suppliers. It will be interesting to see new partnering and alliances forming in the years to come.

Following the launch of its 2011 White Paper on Transport (the “Roadmap”), the EU Commission has published results of its first stocktake (“Communication”) on research and development in the EU transport sector. The EU takes the view that the deployment of ‘smart, green, safe and efficient’ transport will provide a unique opportunity to address many of Europe’s current economic issues, including competiveness, employment, and environment targets. The Communication also highlights the shortcomings and perceived barriers to deployment of innovative transport and specific actions to overcome them.

The Roadmap

The Roadmap sets out the European Commission’s vision of creating a competitive and sustainable European transport system to support economic growth and employment and to improve mobility (see our Law-Now). Ambitious objectives include reducing Europe’s dependence on imported oil, significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions, phasing out ‘conventionally fuelled vehicles’, creating new transport patterns and increasing transport related energy efficiency. The Roadmap also envisages the setting up of a ‘Single European Transport Area’.

It is intended that the Communication will be the starting point of a ‘technology-transport plan’ which will effectively serve as the Roadmap’s research and innovation pillar.

The Communication: Europe’s untapped innovation potential

Improving and investing in Europe’s research and innovation capabilities is seen as an essential part of achieving the Commission’s goals of a user-oriented integrated transport system and ensuring a sustainable (long distance and urban) transport network. The Communication provides a set of roadmaps focusing on the deployment of technologies and innovation in 10 critical areas of transport. These include (broadly):

  • A shift towards alternative fuels and sustainable energy sources with more energy-efficient and green transport systems.
  • Smart communication technologies to be at the heart of a new generation of clean, safe, quiet and connected vehicles.
  • A much more integrated and intermodal transport system.

It is estimated that in 2008 EU-based companies invested over €39 billion in transport R&D, and a further €4.2 billion was invested by Member States and the EU, making it the largest industrial R&D investment sector in the EU. Despite this the Communication acknowledges that the European transport sector cannot remain competitive without innovative technologies and employment of different business models.

Whilst the introduction of new materials and production processes will bring new technology players into the transport sector, the Communication stresses that Europe’s innovative potential is often hampered by a mismatch between those developing innovative technological solutions and those deploying them.

Initiatives and a new approach are therefore proposed to tap into the innovation potential in the transport sector:

Initiatives:

  • Focus transport R&D on key areas: (i) means of transport, (ii) infrastructure, and (iii) transport services and operations.
  • Better alignment of research and innovation efforts in the transport sector – by Member States and the various different transport industries through, for example, the creation of a European Research and Innovation Area for transport and improved public-private coordination mechanisms.
  • Mobilising and integrating mature segments of the technology market - particularly with new and emerging players from distinct sectors such as information technology and telecoms, financial services, energy supply and environment.
  • Efficient deployment of innovative solutions - for example through funding programmes such as Horizon 2020 (the proposed Framework Programme for research and innovation), Connecting Europe Facility (CEF), the Cohesion Fund for transport projects in cohesion countries, the programme for the Competitiveness of Entreprises and Small and Medium-sized Entreprises (COSME), along with support from the European Investment Bank.
  • Additional regulation, standards and incentives may also be implemented (for example intellectual property rights, procurement and financial incentives).

Comment

The scale of investment envisaged is very considerable. What is key to this new development is the degree to which the interests of traditional auto, infrastructure and financial players will be fused, necessarily, with the interests of telecommunications, information, energy and environment players.

To view the Commission’s communication click here

To view the Roadmap click here