Urban Karlström

The Forum wants to make a difference

The Forum for Transport Innovation has adopted a new strategy and a new action plan. These focus on areas where cooperation between all the stakeholders in the sector is needed to solve complex problems.

During recent years work in the Forum for Transport Innovation has been characterised by the intensive activities around its roadmaps. In several cases these endeavours have yielded positive results. The conclusions and proposals agreed by the different working groups have later been put into practice or developed by others. 

“A clear example is our roadmap on the functionality of the railways and the scope for innovation. This is now the basis of a government enquiry. Other examples are the way in which public authorities and research funding agencies have adopted our ideas in a number of cases when deciding on which areas to invest their resources in. In the area of connected and cooperative traffic management we have also been able to influence developments in a positive way,” says Urban Karlström, the Chair of the Forum, with a contented smile. 

The Forum recently adopted a new strategy for its more long-term endeavours and an action plan for concrete measures in the next few years.

“Our work is going to be characterised by the approach that has been the core of our work on the roadmaps all the time, It’s a matter of describing what the situation looks like today and reflecting on what we want to achieve so that we can then decide on what steps we have to take to get there.”

What all the work we do to change the transport sector has in common is that it deals with major, complex systems that no single stakeholder is powerful enough to alter. 

“As the Forum consists of both public and private stakeholders and representatives from the different forms of transport, we have a unique possibility to influence developments in areas that might otherwise fall between two stools.”

Up to a point the Forum’s new strategy concerns its own working processes. Above all it is a matter of choosing the areas that can and should be dealt with carefully.

“We do not have the capacity to take on the entire transport area so we have to be careful when we decide what we are going to get involved in. If we take on too much there is a great risk that we will lose focus in what we do.”

Just as its name suggests, the work of the Forum is intended to encourage innovation in the transport sector. Not merely in terms of technology but just as much through developing new business models, reviewing regulations that have become out of date or enabling the development of systems and technology to take place hand in hand. 

“When the Forum was founded we were already talking about broadening our views of innovation. Technological changes are still important but they seldom provide the entire solution, which is why we have to look at transport from the community’s point of view.” 

One area in which the Forum is going to increase its commitment is how the vast amounts of data generated in various parts of the sector can be exploited to make transport more efficient.

“This is a clear example of when the public and the private sector have to cooperate if we are going to get any real changes.”

If we switch our attention from possibilities to threats, the robustness of the transport system comes into focus – an area that in recent years has acquired increasing importance. This is partly due to the way in which threats to infrastructure have become more obvious but also because several complex systems are now interlinked, which makes the entire system more vulnerable than it used to be. 

The strategy also lifts the need to plan traffic systems on the basis of the needs of society. The development of new business models, talent management, mobility and the impact of regulations will also be given high priority in the Forum’s continued activities. Equally important is raising cooperation with international partners and working closely with the EU’s different ventures in the field of innovation.

How all these ideas are to be put into practice is described in the Forum’s action plan. In contrast to the long-term vision of the strategy, this plan focuses on the next few years.

Some of the activities planned deal with talent management in the transport sector, various EU issues as well as efforts to find more efficient procurement methods for innovation.  

”The idea of innovation procurement in new fields of technology is sound. On the other hand we have received signals from the commercial sector that these processes take a long time and swallow a lot of resources. The system has to be developed and I believe that the Forum could offer an excellent venue for the discovery of solutions that work.”

In the future roadmaps will still play a central role in the activities of the organisation. Exactly which areas are to be studied has not yet been decided.

“If the work on new roadmaps is going to get off the ground, we need people from the public sector, the commercial sector and from the universities to feel that the questions are interesting enough for them to want to contribute.”

At the moment work is going on in the Government Offices to put together the basis of a new Research and Innovation Bill. This is a process that the Forum is following with great interest. 

“A lot of our members are sitting down at this very moment writing their own submissions to the Government. If those of us who are involved in the Forum can identify a number of shared standpoints, our proposals would have considerably more weight than if we each present them as our own ideas.”

Although Urban Karlström is pleased with the work of the Forum, there are a few areas in which results have not been so successful. One involves the railways, where even though the Forum has dealt with this sector’s problems in three different roadmaps he still considers a lot of work remains to be done.

We need to revive discussions about what the Forum can do in the railway sector. Finding solutions there is probably the toughest challenge of them all.”

A summary of the Forum’s new strategy 

The aim of the Forum is to strengthen the position of the transport sector in research, development and innovation. This work should contribute to a more sustainable transport system that matches Sweden’s transport and industrial policies, particularly in removing the link between transport and negative environmental impact, and also enhance Sweden’s competitiveness.

The Forum has identified a number of important areas with the potential to have a positive influence on the transport sector and also to enhance Sweden’s competitiveness. The areas to which the Forum gives priority have to create added value and be beneficial.

These are the areas in which the Forum is going to work more actively during the next few years:

Open/Big data/Traffic management
Making use of open data and connected and cooperative traffic management are some of the areas within IT that will be the Forum’s priorities. 

Status based maintenance 
Technology for continuous telematic surveillance and reporting of relevant operational and maintenance parameters. An important area for creating more efficient and rapid maintenance for all forms of transport.

Automatisation of road transport
This area is undergoing rapid development in various parts of the world. In 2017 the Drive Me project will demonstrate driverless vehicles on a large scale in a pilot area in Göteborg. Automatisation requires cooperation between all stakeholders, not least collaboration between the public authorities and the industry in producing effective regulations. Sweden has strong possibilities of being a leading country in this area.

Intermodality for freight transport
The efficient use of available transport resources requires the use of every form of transport. The Forum wants to contribute to the development of intermodality, partly by supporting the development of technologies for transferring freight from one form of transport to another as well as by encouraging interfaces between information systems. 

Reduced energy consumption and climate impact from freight transport 
Heavy trucks account for just under 15 per cent of the transport system’s emissions of carbon dioxide. For this reason it is necessary to reduce the environmental impact of this form of transport and its dependence on fossil fuels. 

More effective power trains, new fuels, improved logistics, larger vessels and highway electrification are initiatives that lead in the right direction and they are likely to be needed for a long time. 

Transport in a vulnerable society
An increasingly specialised labour market and larger labour market regions increase the need of efficient methods of transport. These also form integral components in integrated industrial production processes as a result of increased specialisation. This makes society increasingly vulnerable and these issues will be given greater scope in the work of the Forum.  

Road safety for unprotected road users
The long-term sustained work on road safety in Sweden has resulted in a radical reduction of the risk of serious injury or death on Sweden’s roads. At the same time we have seen a major rise in the use of bicycles, mopeds and motor bikes, as well as in the number of pedestrians in cities. One outcome is a marked rise in the number of accidents involving these categories of road users. Greater focus on road safety measures aimed at unprotected road users is therefore needed.

Mobility as a service
Future transport systems will be based on entirely new conditions. Attitudes to driving and car ownership will change, particularly in the major cities which are being developed with the watchword “car-free cities” and where cars will cease to be the norm. 

The Forum can play an important role in linking together different stakeholders and forms of transport in joint developments and the adoption of a shared approach. In this area as well there is a clear link with the information perspective.

New models for funding
Undertaking Research and Innovation activities requires substantial resources from both the commercial and the public sector. One method of funding some aspects of these activities is through innovation procurement and pre-commercial procurement.

Here the Forum would like to initiate discussion on the basis of international experiences and an innovative approach.

An overall approach to community development for travel and transport in the future
A key factor for the creation of transport systems that can contribute to the realisation of sustainable and attractive cities and regions lies in making public transport and freight transport underlying principles in community planning. The Forum needs to address the transport system from an overall perspective, for example how can different community needs such as public transport and urban logistics supplement each other rather than compete with each other. 

Societal changes that affect the transport system
Ongoing societal changes affect what is required of the transport system. Continuing urbanisation increases the demand for efficient transport for people and freight that has to interact with increasing populations in larger and larger cities and can at the same time enable the creation of attractive environments to live in. The Forum will involve itself in the area of social integration and the ways in which transport systems can best contribute to it. 

You will find the entire strategy document at: