The transport sector is a basic pillar of the competitiveness of the European economy. Transport is crucial for economic performance and quality of life. Millions of people are working in the transport sector; it is responsible for a share in GDP of 5%. It can be said that innovations for transport are having a double function in relation to the competitiveness of the European economy:
- innovations are needed to provide better services, to meet the demand of private people and economic sectors, and to increase the sustainability of the system;
- further, innovations are needed to strengthen the products and services of the European transport sector and increase its competitiveness on global scale.
As other sectors in the European economy, the transport sector has to compete on international scale. It is widely acknowledged that ambitious targets from the 2011 White Paper, environmental and social objectives as well as global competitiveness can only be successfully achieved by a highly innovative transport sector which is able to cope with rather different future developments on global scale: “Transport is a high-technology industry, making research and innovation crucial to its further development and conducive to European competitiveness, environmental and social agendas”.
Fostering innovations is playing a key role for improving the global competitiveness of knowledge based societies. Therefore, it is not astonishing that targeted research activities for strengthening the global competitiveness of the European Union is a clear goal of European transport and research policies and a key pillar for economic growth and quality of life in European countries. The Commissions work Programme 2012 for Theme 7, Transport, clearly takes on the objectives of Europe 2020 Flagship Initiative on the ‘Innovation Union’ by starting with the sentence: “The Innovation Union initiative underlines that research and innovation are key drivers of competitiveness, jobs, sustainable growth and social progress”.
Well in line with these facts, FUTRE project proposed here aims at improving the knowledge base for identifying strategic options for European transport-related research policies.