I was fortunate to be invited to participate in a symposium between the European Union and the United States on improving the adoption and use of transportation research globally. The meeting included both public transportation and highways and roads organizations, and included members of agencies, universities, and private companies from all perspectives in the transportation industry.
Highlights included a presentation by Natalia de Estevan from Transport for London on implementing the results of their Research and Development (R&D) efforts in an urban setting (“people don’t just experience our service, they feel it“), Chris Martin from Bosch talking about Vehicle to Infrastructure communications, and a cool discussion of electric vehicle charging using energy from regenerative braking of trains by Luiz Lopez Ruiz from Spain’s Administrator of Railway Infrastructure (adif.es).
There were also presentations by the Conference of European Directors of Roads (CEDR), the University of Maryland, MBTA, and others. Of special concern for the symposium participants was the question of why other government-funded and sponsored research more successfully reaches adoption while transportation entities are far slower to adopt the results of research. For example, research related to space, health sciences, and education all have proceeded to adoption and commercialization. Unfortunately, transportation research significantly lags behind these other industries.
Members of the symposium identified a number of contributors to this dynamic, including the smaller pool of funding, that transportation infrastructure in many ways is invisible and not engaging for the public, and the life cycle of the infrastructure and process does not lend to quick adoption of innovation.