Opening Plenary Outline

Innovation in Transport: Setting the Scene
Wednesday, 26 May - 9.00-11.00 - Hall 1
This session set the scene for the 2010 International Transport Forum, allowing for consideration of the main challenges associated with the theme of Transport and Innovation, and what should be expected from the event. Key questions included:
  • Why is innovation now so essential to the future of transport?
  • Where is the transport sector not reaching its potential?
  • Which innovations are key?
  • How can the benefits of innovation be realised and widely disseminated?
  • Nisha Pillai, International Broadcaster and Journalist
Welcome Addresses
  • Jack Short, Secretary General, International Transport Forum
  • Rob Merrifield, Minister of State for Transport, Canada
  • Rainer Bomba, State Secretary, Federal Ministry of Transport, Building and Urban Development, Germany
  • Sven Morlok, State Minister of Economic Affairs, Labour and Transport, Saxony, Germany
  • Henry Li, Senior Director, BYD Company
  • Yves Crozet, Université Lumière Lyon 2, Laboratoire d'économie des transports
  • Susan Zielinski, Managing Director, SMART, University of Michigan
  • Scott Stewart, Managing Director, IBI Group
  • Martin Lohss, Managing Director, Skysails
The solutions to today's transport challenges will increasingly depend on innovation – doing things differently, including through the application of new technologies, techniques and policies. Innovation will help the transport sector of tomorrow continue to support trade, prosperity and social inclusion, in a way that is sustainable.

The pace of change in transport over the last century has been rapid. People and goods now move faster and over greater distances than we might ever have imagined. More recently, advances in transport and information technology have made possible enormous increases in traffic volumes. Improvements in infrastructure have increased safety margins in every mode. Transport is also cleaner: emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and air pollutants per vehicle-kilometre are as low as they have ever been, as are other forms of pollution, such as noise.

But is the transport sector innovating enough, or in the right way to provide the systems that will be required for a sustainable future?

Overall GHGs from transport are increasing due to the sheer volumes of traffic that are now possible, while increasing congestion threatens to choke off future growth. Although the safety of individual vehicles is increasing, deaths and injuries are on the rise in many countries, as more people get access to motorcycles and cars. Transport has been a target for terrorism. Society is also demanding more from transport in terms of improving accessibility for persons with reduced mobility, including the growing elderly populations in many countries.

Increasingly, there is a sense that a new direction is required for innovation in transport – one that focuses on addressing the major challenges facing society, as well as the factors that can be assumed to have an impact on demand for transport well into the future: climate change, pollution, congestion, demographics and security. Inherent to this is a role for government, to foster innovation that addresses society's needs. But how is this best achieved, while making the best use of scarce public resources? By setting appropriate regulatory frameworks? By subsidies? By promoting partnerships? By funding basic research?