Table 2.1: UK Capabilities
In spite of not having a major home-based automotive industry, the UK remains strong in terms of engine design and development and technical consultancy. The UK has recently become the location for European production of certain car models and has nurtured low carbon vehicle innovation as an area of strength that is oriented around a series of key government backed organisations, research institutions and companies such as Cenex, TSB, Low CVP, University spin-offs (WMG, Nexeon). More than a handful of universities may have a leading edge in relevant technology such as advanced lithium ion batteries or lightweight materials and this rekindling of the automotive industry has been supported by collaborations between government agencies, academic institutions and the private sector. However, whilst seven large global manufacturers have significant productive capacity in the UK, most conduct R&D activities in their home markets. Ford and Jaguar Land Rover are exceptions to this and spend around 80 of UK’s total annual expenditure on automotive R&D (see NAIGT roadmap). See also other research landscape documents in the areas of energy storage, hydrogen and fuel cells.
Internationally, the UK is also perceived to be very strong in the design of fiscal incentives to encourage the uptake of clean fuels and technologies and influencing the pattern of travel demand. However, this has limited application globally and is very much supportedthough publicly funded research programmes.
The UK has a long and robust tradition in spatial planning research and is well represented in EU and international research arenas on these topics. In the past decade, transport planning research has become more multidisciplinary by branching out from its civil engineering routes to incorporate environmental sustainability appraisal and the political and behavioural sciences.
With respect to understanding travel behaviour, thefield has been slow to move away from economics to incorporate other behavioural sciences. This is changing rapidly and consequently it is difficult to gauge current activity in the UK as it is taking place in academic departments as diverse as built environment, sociology, economics, sustainable development and psychology. This research is almost exclusively publicly funded, with significant involvement in EU projects.
With respect to freight transport, a few core academic departments appear to represent research in the area of logistics and supply. Whilst taking place in fewer departments, the depth and breadth of the coverage is high and has some international recognition. Analysis of shipping, both in terms of freight and the technological and environmental implications of this form of travel, is, however, relatively scarce. Aeronautical engineering and Aviation is relatively well represented, though possibly not in proportion to its importance in the area of transport and energy.
Overall, the diversity of R&D strengths in UK transport research means there is not yet a critical mass in focused research on transport and energy other than in small niches related to low carbon vehicles. However, the trend towards collaborative projects is making the UK more globally competitive and starting to make some of the links between transport and energy systems and demand and supply-side solutions. There is strong political demand for research in this area due to the strong links between transport and economic growth and EU and UK funding bodies have responded to this demand. However, the applied and policy driven nature of this area can be a challenge to creativity and basic research with longer timescales.
Return to top
Table 2.1: UK Capabilities