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DETRA Final Integration conference at TRA2012

SPS18 includes presentations by key partner members

The DETRA final integration conference was held at Special Session 18 (SPS18) at the  TRA2012 conference on Wednesday 25th April 2012 (from 18.15-19.30) in Athens, Greece for around 25 people. Moderated by DETRA Project Coordinator, Steve Phillips of FEHRL, the conference began with an opening by FEHRL President Joris Al who gave the “background to the DETRA project” and FEHRL’s involvement in developing alliances, and how such an alliance would link into FEHRL’s flagship Forever Open Road programme. He explained that the European (surface) Transport Research Alliance (ETRA) would give a structure for the interchange of knowledge, promoting joint working groups and the development of projects, common position papers and the joint strengthening of research expertise. It would have mutual respect for the distinctive roles of the partners involved and would also be able to give
support for the development of the TRA conference itself.

This was picked up by Neil Paulley of ECTRI in his presentation about the “Benefits of the Transport ERA”. The ERA is about raising scientific quality, innovation impact, societal and citizen relevance of research in Europe via all forms of cross-border synergy to bring about a single market for knowledge; cross-border flows of researchers and scientific knowledge, funding, cooperation, critical mass, opening of national programmes, access to research capacities, infrastructures, results and strategies and alliances between research stakeholders; EU-level governance and transnational and cross-sectoral policy coordination, common priorities, monitoring and evaluation.

The DETRA project is only one small part of this which should lead to something bigger, he said. Some first steps have already been achieved with the project and a lasting and efficient cooperation needs to be built over the long-term, step by step. At this stage, it is important to further define an “Alliance”: What are the main objectives, what are the benefits? Who are the partners? How do we position it in the overall European landscape (notably towards ETPs)? How it is structured and how does it operate? What are the benefits for the research organisations and their members? He stressed that ECTRI at this stage is more in favour of a horizontal structure and loose cooperation and would not be supportive of a new “supra structure” at the top of what currently exists (risk of additional costs or bureaucracy). In this process, bilateral and trilateral agreements that already exist between DETRA partners can significantly help, but it is essential to have the EC’s input on objectives, expectations etc.

Patrick Mallejacq from IFSTTAR, in place of Jean-Pierre Médevielle (who was sick), gave more details on the proposal for the next steps towards the ETRA. Building on the first proposed role of ETRA to promote and structure JRIs, his suggested new orientations for JRIs should be User centred Design for ECO-multimodal MOBILity; Human Factors in transport; EURAIL Next generation skills and competencies; Step-change technologies for rail 2050 in a co-modal environment; New concepts for modal safety and co modal safety; Advanced Transport Network Sustainable and Intelligent Operation; Stimulation and modelling of transport capacity/efficiency, environmental and system aspects; Scientific knowledge for international harmonisation: Safety, Operation, CO2 , Virtual testing facilities and Simulation facilities, climate change adaptation testing structures network and Transformative research for transport infrastructure.

He suggested that membership of the ETRA could be the Lyon Declaration Signatory Partners as the basis, either composed of volunteers from within the partners or some organisations from among the members of the Lyon Declaration Signatory Partners who would volunteer to go a step further. In each case, he added, the possibility for further organisations who were not signatories of Lyon to join the Alliance should be opened. In any case, members of the ETRA need to share common values such as being volunteers and leaders, committed and not followers, willing to go forward to the edge and frontier of the transport ERA, trust each other, be fair minded and transparent.

In addition, the governance and management of the ETRA has to be transparent and in the spirit of partnering, as well as be based around the sharing of vision and strategy. Other European alliances exist without a legal entity but as a legal partnering without entity with Terms of Reference : the same is suggested for this ETRA. Management could be based on a very lean organisation with no (or minimal) fees, but rather based on the in-kind contributions and support of the member organisations. For the rest, the ETRA needs to have access to meeting capabilities and e-meeting capabilities, and it would not be necessary to have full-time secretariat resources as it should be supported by the services of its members, or the members of its members, and not be a new bureaucracy serving itself and egos.

The Chairperson of the ETRA needs to be freed up to be dedicated to the ETRA, and have a strong background in research and innovation administration and be a visionary person or at least a strategist. This person could be assisted by a core group to keep the pro-activity and manageability of the Alliance. The Governing Assembly (all members of the Alliance) has to be composed of the visionary and strategist people from within the Alliance members, while daily management could be delegated to the staff of the Alliance members involved in a “Dailly Management Team”.

The first customers of the ETRA are the members of the Alliance and their members and the scientific community at large. The second customers are the relevant stakeholders linked to transport and infrastructure-related research programmes. Regardless of the final organisation of Horizon 2020 or other research and innovation structural funds activities, this Alliance will be useful for the development of all these programmes in opening the new front line for the future of the leadership of the ERA.

All Thematic Working Groups (WGs) created need to be moderated both by volunteers and the Secretariat, with terms of reference with milestones and deliverables. Their creation is decided by the Governing Assembly, except when it comes to dealing with urgent matters. Various cross-sectorial WGs could be created, at the very least as a platform of exchange and possibly aimed at harmonising activities between the members of the Alliance, or creating new activities (if any) at the request of members of the Governing Assembly. Their aims shall be around: Mobility and Education & Training, Human resources, Soft research infrastructures, Hard research infrastructures, Electronic research infrastructures, Test & integration and research infrastructure for product qualification, International interfacing, Dissemination, and TRA.

Following this presentation, several relevant questions and comments were raised during the discussion which related to how the ETRA would involve academia as well as, for example, the European Institute of Technology and its Knowledge and Information Communities (KICs) and bring in other stakeholders outside the DETRA partners. It was also suggested that the ETRA should choose one activity and focus on it to start and build momentum from this activity. The discussions were reviewed by the partners at the 9th DETRA Project Management Group meeting on 16th May and will now form the basis of the recommendations to the European Commission moving forward (in the form of the Deliverable 7.3: Cooperation Agenda to be submitted at the end of July).

Selected Work Package updates
Also as part of the conference, Evangelos Bekiaris of CERTH presented an outline of the status of WP5 “Optimizing research programmes and identifying priorities to date which aims to result in a joint research programme for pan-European adoption and its key priorities using four major categories of transport: Safety & Security, Congestion & Capacity, Environment & Energy and Globalisation. This will be presented in Deliverable 5.2 – “Pan-European transport research work programme and priorities.

And Wolfgang Steinicke of EURNEX outlined the status of WP3 “Strengthening Research Institutions” through the Alliance with the recommendations/requirements so far to focus on research expertise, procurement, legislation, economics, networking, communication, recruitment and language. Click on to take a look at the presentations and other materials from the conference.

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