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UNIMED’s Contribution to the Handbook on Sustainable Mobility in the Mediterranean Area

Sustainable Mobility Handbook of MED Area

UNIMED contributed to the recently published Handbook on Sustainable Mobility in the Mediterranean Area, combining the best practices of the MED Urban Transports Community in which UNIMED is taking an active part.

Chapter 5.2 – Open Innovation & Research for Sustainable Mobility

Unsustainable situation

The focus on urban areas is of particular strategic relevance considering that 70% of EU citizens live in cities and 85% of the EU’s GDP is generated in urban areas. The demand for urban mobility is therefore steadily increasing as most journeys begin and end in cities. However, this trend has created, in most urban areas, an unsustainable situation: severe congestion, poor air quality, noise emissions and high levels of CO2 emissions. In other words, urban congestion might jeopardise sustainable and inclusive growth. Therefore, making mobility more sustainable might have multiple positive impacts on the whole European continent as well as beyond. However, the challenges ahead are very tough, as we experience considerable technological transition and we need collective effort to innovate, sustained by a strong supporting framework provided by the European institutions.


In this context, several synergetic dynamics are being put in place between the EU Commission Directorate General Research and Innovation (DG RTD) and Mobility and Transport (DG MOVE). They are both working together towards the common objectives of “Innovation, digitisation and de-carbonisation” set by the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, at the State of the Union speech on 13 September 2017. More specifically, DG MOVE is supporting the transport policy, with the so-called CIVITAS program, a network of cities for cities dedicated to cleaner, better transport in Europe and beyond, launched in 2002. DG RTD, on the other hand, is promoting technological as well as socio-economic research and is coordinating, jointly with DG MOVE, a cross-disciplinary team preparing the European Innovation Partnership (EIP) Smart Cities and Communities.

Working together

The two DGs are working together to help cities and communities, business and civil society, to implement smart city solutions across the sectors of energy, transport and ICT, at much greater scale and speed, to improve services while reducing energy and resource consumption, greenhouse gases (GHG) and other polluting emissions.

Better Ways to Move, Better Places to Live

Mr. Patrick Mercier-Handisyde, from the European Commission DG Research & Innovation Directorate Transport, shed some light on the European Commission’s strategic axes of development for urban mobility during the workshop “Better Ways to Move, Better Places to Live” promoted by the MED Urban Transports Community, and Interreg MED Programme’s initiative, in the framework of the “UNIMED Week in Brussels” on 19 March 2019 in Brussels, organised by UNIMED – Mediterranean Universities Union. The main points from Mr. Mercier-Handisyde’s contribution are summarised below by the author of this article, who bears full responsibility for the text.

Open innovation from the EU Commission

A key document setting out the strategic axes of the development of sustainable urban transport is the “White Paper 2011: Roadmap to a Single European Transport Area – Towards a competitive and resource efficient transport system” published by the European Commission. The latter adopted a roadmap of 40 concrete initiatives for the next decade, with the aim of building a competitive transport system that will increase mobility, remove major barriers in key areas and fuel growth and employment. At the same time, the proposals are aimed at drastically reducing Europe’s dependence on imported oil and cutting carbon emissions in transport by 60% by 2050. One of the most ambitious objectives set at that time was to halve the use of ‘conventionally-fuelled’ cars in urban transport by 2030, phase them out in cities by 2050 and achieve essentially CO2-free city logistics in major urban centres by 2030.

Policy context

In terms of EU transport policies, especially in the field of urban mobility, there are different sets of actions. First of all, for the period 2009-2012, the European Commission adopted the “Action Plan on Urban Mobility”. The Action Plan proposed twenty measures to encourage and help local, regional and national authorities achieve their goals for sustainable urban mobility. During this same period of time, the “Action Plan on ITS – Intelligent Transport System”, an important instrument for the coordinated implementation of ITS in Europe, was also developed. It aimed to establish interoperable and seamless ITS services while leaving Member States the freedom to decide which systems to invest in. In 2016, the “European Strategy on Cooperative Intelligent Transport Systems (C-ITS)” was adopted, representing a milestone initiative towards cooperative, connected and automated mobility.

Action Plan on Urban Mobility

However, the most interesting initiative for the MED Urban Transports Community, according to Mr. Mercier-Handyside, is the “Urban Mobility Package” adopted in 2013, which reinforces the EU Commission’s supporting measures in the area of urban transport by sharing experiences, providing targeted financial support, focusing research and innovation on delivering solutions for urban mobility challenges, and finally by involving Member States and enhancing international cooperation.

Urban Mobility Package

Calls to action were dedicated to specific fields of activity such as urban logistics, urban access regulation, ITS and road safety; and specific regulations linked to fuel and vehicle regulations. More recently, in 2017, the Commission published the third mobility package “Europe on the Move III”, which set the path for an integrated policy for the future of road safety with measures for vehicle and infrastructure safety; the first ever CO2 standards for heavy-duty vehicles; a strategic Action Plan for the development and manufacturing of batteries in Europe and a forward-looking strategy on connected and automated mobility. An integral and strategic component of this strategy is the promotion of SUMPs – Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans at urban levels.

The 3rd Mobility Package

More recently, the focus has been shifting towards the development and largescale deployment of CAM – Connected and Automated Mobility, which can provide a unique opportunity to make our mobility systems safer, cleaner, more efficient and more user-friendly.

Research and innovation contribution to the European Policy Agenda

The research and innovation sector’s main contribution to the European Policy Agenda relies on the 3O’s vision of “open innovation, open science and open to the world” set by Carlos Moedas, Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovations, back in 2015. The main goal expressed in this strategic vision is to promote the involvement of a greater variety of actors in the innovation process and to ensure accessibility to science as well to open up our knowledge to fruitful international exchanges. More specifically, research and innovation actions in the mobility sector should contribute to:

  • increase investment, growth, jobs and market share;
  • enhance mobility, de-carbonise transport, boost competitiveness;
  • improve framework conditions, adapt regulatory framework;
  • promote open access, user engagement, societal uptake;
  • consolidate world leadership, promote knowledge sharing.
DG RTD’s activities

DG RTD’s main strategic axes of research are, first of all, de-carbonization and clean vehicles; secondly, digitalization connected to the topic of mobility; and, finally, several other socio-economic research activities. DG RTD supports several sets of activities: high quality public transport and accessibility for all, both supported by the Horizon 2020 program; the EBSF – European Bus System of the Future project to support the deployment of electric buses in different cities in Europe; inter-modal transport stations; clean and safe vehicles for passengers on freight transport; new mobility services called MaaS – Mobility as a Service (mobility services that take advantage of new ICTs technologies); and road transport systems, with AVENUE (a project supporting the deployment of completely automatic shuttles, complementary to conventional public transport).

Different calls for projects

Urban mobility issues are also addressed by Horizon 2020, the main European research and innovation program, which had different calls for projects mainly focused on the smart green and integrated transport priority challenge. More specifically, there were calls for projects on:

  • mobility for growth, with a focus on urban mobility and socio-economic research;
  • green vehicles, linked to a public private partnership, set up to foster cooperation with industries and open to international cooperation activities;
  • automatic road transport, launched to explore the potential of automatic vehicles;
  • smart city activities, stimulating the interaction between ICTs, transport and energy.

Meanwhile, DG RTD has established partnerships with relevant stakeholders and projects to define a roadmap on research, such as the European Road Transport Research Advisory Council (ERTRAC) green vehicle initiative, an urban transport research advisory council on road transport; and an association on logistics called ALICE, a European technology platform set up to develop a comprehensive strategy for research, innovation and market deployment of logistics and supply chain management innovation in Europe.

International cooperation to support & develop activities

A last call for projects in Horizon 2020 has just been launched and represents, according to Mr. Mercier-Handisyde, “a big push to support international cooperation, together with the launch of flagship initiatives in different domains, inter alia in transport and urban mobility.” In this call, there is an international cooperation flagship initiative on urban mobility and sustainable electrification in large urban areas of developing and emerging economies, which has two main objectives. Firstly, it aims to develop support activities in the field of e-mobility and public transportation. Secondly, it aims to develop and organize demonstration projects in the field of electro-mobility in several cities in Europe, in Africa and other relevant countries.

Horizon Europe

Urban mobility is a strategic axis for our economies and societies. “It will therefore naturally constitute a core activity promoted by the upcoming Horizon Europe, the research and innovation framework program, successor to Horizon 2020, which will be implemented during the period 2021-2027” concluded Mr. Mercier-Handisyde.


You can download the full handbook here.

This chapter has been written by Ermete Mariani, UNIMED.

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