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28 October 2015

Focus on mobility in Mistra’s new call

Sustainable mobility and accessibility are the key words in Mistra’s latest application call. Proposals from interested research groups must be submitted in December and, if all goes well, work in a programme consortium can start as early as next summer.

The considerable impact of transport on the environment and, not least, the climate is well known. In the car industry and academia, major investments are under way to develop engines, fuels and other aspects of vehicles’ technical performance. In providing funds for the new four-year ‘Smart Mobility and Accessibility’ research programme, Mistra’s aim is to tackle other challenges in the transport sector.

‘Mistra won’t be able to influence the technical side of the transport system. Instead, we want the new programme to create a systemic view of mobility and accessibility,’ says Mistra’s Chris Folkeson Welch.

The need for mobility and accessibility will in all probability persist, and perhaps even increase from now on, according to Folkeson Welch.

‘I don’t think people want to travel less in the future. Some issues can be resolved with video conferences, but in most cases physical meetings are necessary. So we have to think about and develop ways of making progress more effectively.’

More resource-efficient transport

The new programme will therefore focus on mobility services, intermodality and attitudes. The call also stresses that the programme is intended to promote more concerted action by stakeholders in the transport and service sector. Folkeson Welch mentions resource efficiency as an important research question, and takes cars as an example.

‘Our cars are immobile between 90 and 95 per cent of the time. It’s a great waste of resources that a more mobility-friendly society could change.’

If all cars were used more often their service life, which currently averages just over 15 years, would decrease. This would make it easier for new technology to be implemented in the vehicle stock, thereby reducing environmental impact. Nevertheless, the scenario is based on a smaller total number of vehicles and more shared ownership.

‘It would require a change in attitudes towards joint ownership. Right now, we’ve got quite a long way to go. But we must develop new services and start changing attitudes.’

Smarter, easier travel

Intermodality, i.e. journeys from A to B using more than one means of transport, is another area emphasised in the call. Chris Folkeson Welch points out that both planning and buying travel from different operators must become easier. Here too, new services need to be developed, and he mentions ongoing efforts in Scotland and Stockholm, for example.

As usual, Mistra expects applications based on interdisciplinary collaboration with international elements, both among academic disciplines and higher education institutions and between academia and industry. Of the expected programme budget totalling SEK 50 million, Mistra will provide SEK 40m and industry for the remaining SEK 10m. This corresponds to co-funding of 20%, a slightly lower proportion than usual.

The closing date for applications is 18 December. An expert group will then examine all the applications and prepare the matter for Mistra’s Board, which will make its award decisions in March 2016. The plan is for the programme to start in the second quarter of 2016.

Text: Henrik Lundström, Vetenskapsjournalisterna

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