Europe has a longstanding tradition of excellence in research and innovation. However the centres of excellence are scattered across the continent. Up to now, there was little co-operation between research projects funded by the national research bodies. As a result, key resources were wasted through duplication, dispersion and overlapping; and bigger projects were often not undertaken due to the inability to gather the necessary critical mass. The European Research Area (ERA) is regrouping all European Community supports for the better coordination of research activities and the convergence of research and innovation policies, at national and EU levels.
The ERA-NET TRANSPORT (ENT) set out to establish a multi-level, multi-actor framework to improve trans-national cooperation in transport research policy in the European member states. The main focus of ENT is to advance the transnational coordination of transport research programs (research funding and support activities) and with that to encourage programme owners and programme managers from national ministries, subordinate state agencies (e.g. research promotion agencies, transport infrastructure agencies) and public funding bodies (e.g. national funds or national research councils) to cooperate and to collaborate in this policy field.
The general objectives of the project were:
- to improve the outcome of transport research programmes;
- to develop the relevant network and knowledge basis;
- to build up a sustainable service platform for trans-national cooperation of publicly funded transport research programmes;
- to facilitate tailored procedures and service support for the coordination and co-operation of transport research and transport policy.
The ERA-NET TRANSPORT pre-dominantly served the owners and managers of transport research programmes. By facilitating cooperation among publicly financed transport research programmes it was ENT's goal to improve the outcome and quality of transport research in Europe. The main mechanism was seen in the structuring of the European Research Area (ERA) for Transport.
Successful cooperation required a solid and suitable basis and framework, which would be the subject of coming ENT-driven activities. One of these horizontal future initiatives was the provision of a database on national transport research programmes and national R&D results.
Furthermore the ENT considered the need to encourage and enable less-experienced partners to participate in trans-national cooperation as well as in the European Framework Programme. ENT facilitated this target by supporting these partners in their development of appropriate structures, processes and transport research programmes.
The ERA-NET TRANSPORT pursued its objectives through the following activities:
- the development of model procedures and rules to enhance trans-national transport research policy cooperation and the coordination of research programs under the patronage of the ENT, carrying out a survey on current practices of national transport research policies.
- identification of opportunities for trans-national cooperation on the basis of similarities in the contents of research programmes and the priorities for cooperation put forward by the representatives of the participating countries. The Management Group of the ERA-NET TRANSPORT programme will use the opportunities for cooperation identified in this report to determine the specific themes for the exploration of trans-national cooperation in transport research. These themes will be worked out in more detail by the research programme managers in the involved countries during ERA-NET TRANSPORT workshops in the period 2005 - 2006;
- implementation of cooperation and coordination activities by organising targeted workshops, defining specified topics for cooperation, creating action groups (national program managers and supporting them in setting up effective cooperation and coordination activities. In this phase the model procedures and guide for cooperation identified (see 1.) will be tested;
- coordination of network activities.
Since the ERA-NET TRANSPORT cooperation started 16 concrete research cooperation opportunities have been explored. Common for them all is, that the starting point has been the participating partners' national research agendas and research needs. The concrete research initiatives developed should be financed through the participating partners' national research funding.
Some of the initiatives have resulted in common calls, some in the clustering of ongoing research activities. And yet others have ended in the conclusion that although the identified research themes surely would benefit from a joint trans-national approach the timing was not right. In a third case national funding was not available just yet. Some of the themes and initiatives that have been started under the umbrella of ERA-NET TRANSPORT are:
- E-Call'Plus' / Service Platform;
- Intelligent Logistics;
- Trans-national architecture for multimodal information;
- Business models for data collection and use;
- SURSHIP - Maritime safety 'Survivability of ships';
- Alternative fuel, propulsion systems and vehicle technologies - Part 1. Trans-national strategy;
- Alternative fuel, propulsion systems and vehicle technologies - Part 2. Demonstration Projects;
- Improved understanding of noise effects;
- Environmental performance indicators for heavy duty vehicles;
- Policy to influence vehicle purchasing behaviour;
- Driver Support Systems;
- Hazardous goods - tracking and tracing;
- Safety and Security across modes;
- KEEP MOVING 'Demographic changes and Transport';
- Sleepiness at the wheel;
- Intermodal Freight Transport.
The policy support concept developed in ENT I will be further developed in ENT II to intensify the cooperation process among national transport research programme owners and managers. For ENT II further objectives for cooperation, for example the design and implementation of joint research funding programmes as well as an ERA-NET plus action are foreseen.
Further conceptual developments for ENT II are envisaged. It is foreseen to intensify network cohesion and the knowledge base in ENT II. It is foreseen to advance the level of cooperation - to aim for an ERA-NET plus activity. It is foreseen to further develop and refine the above mentioned policy support process. It is foreseen to open ERA-NET TRANSPORT up towards new partner countries in particular involving and supporting new member states.