Decision-Makers' Session Outline

Meeting the Challenges: Pathways to Innovation
Thursday, 27 May 2010 - 12.00-13.30 - Hall 1
An important challenge exists in the development and deployment of innovation in transport:
  • What are the barriers to implementing essential innovations in transport?
  • What mechanisms can be used to get the transport sector and users to think beyond existing systems?
  • Where is collaboration needed to share and reduce costs and risks?
  • Siim Kallas, Vice President, European Commission
  • Amar Bhidé, Harvard University
  • Peter Appel, Administrator, US Research & Innovative Technology Administration
  • Enrique Barón Crespo, former President of the European Parliament
  • BK Chaturvedi, Member, Planning Commission, India
  • David Martin, CEO, Arriva
  • Yves-Thibault de Silguy, President, Vinci
  • Christopher Ward, Executive Director, New York & New Jersey Port Authority
  • Ron Widdows, CEO, Neptune Orient Lines
Many governments recognise the need for fundamental changes in how transport is organised and delivered, in order to support a more sustainable future. Innovation is thus key.

But, as in any field, there are factors that prevent innovation from reaching its potential in transport. Some ideas never make it beyond the conceptual stage, while others are more fully developed but not deployed.
The barriers to innovation in transport include institutional, process, political, financial, legislative and regulatory factors; data limitations; poor institutional coordination; absence of users‟ understanding and acceptance; and, more generally, a natural resistance to change and risk-taking.

By way of example, information and communications technologies exist that could greatly increase safety margins in road transport by reducing the importance of the human factor, while also supporting more efficient use of infrastructure. However, these technologies raise questions about risk and liability when drivers‟ control over the vehicle is reduced. They also raise concerns about the collection and use of data about individual transport users. Resolving such questions is essential to optimising the use of these new systems.

Innovation is perhaps most particularly difficult to realise in areas where there is no clear demand for change, or willingness among individuals to pay for it. For example, there is no market for safety regulations, and there has traditionally been resistance to such improvements as seat-belts, despite evidence that they save many lives. Also, the benefits of environmental improvements are experienced by society as a whole, which perhaps reduces individuals‟ incentives to pay for them. How can demand be created for innovation that provides wider social benefits?

Financing is a major challenge. An important question revolves around how economic resources can be brought to bear in fostering innovation, and what the source of this should be. Where risk factors are higher than those that markets are typically willing to take on, what other options exist?

All of this implies a role for government, to help overcome barriers to important innovation that can bring about improvements to the system and benefits to users and societies as a whole. But it poses important challenges for governments, particularly in addressing the concerns of those who are adverse to change. It also raises essential questions about the extent to which governments should engage, and how, in order to optimise the use of scarce public resources. As well, the roles of other partners – including innovators, researchers, service providers, and users – must be carefully considered.

How can governments best foster innovation? Which innovations should they focus on? How can they facilitate the deployment of important innovations? What are the limits to government action? How can they induce other partners to focus on innovations that will bring about wider social benefits?
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