ITS (UK) joins online trade mission with Estonia and Finland
On 6 May 2021, ITS Finland, Estonia and United Kingdom joined in to produce an online trade mission for their Members. Some 40 companies from the different countries took part. They were addressed by Ministers from the three countries, and heard an in part provocative debate between senior Estonian, British and Finnish ITS personalities. The mission programme then moved on to several hours of individual B2B meetings, with companies managing to make many concrete new contacts and even some immediate plans for cooperation.
The Ministerial addresses opened the event. Mr. Ville Skinnari, Finnish Minister for Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade, emphasised the importance of innovation and courage to take on new business opportunities – not least during a global health crisis. Moreover, combatting climate change is, according to him, a challenge that cannot be resolved without sustainable innovations and international collaboration. As traffic is causing over 20 % of the world’s CO2 emissions, ensuring sustainable movement of people and goods becomes one of the key aspects of our common mission for the planet. Finally, Minister Skinnari highlighted factors contributing positively to the finding of new solutions, such as trust, promotion of efficiency and a favorable regulatory framework. By building on these fundaments, the Finnish business environment promotes courageous and forward-looking companies. For instance, the Finnish smart mobility value network has the experience, expertise and vision to reshape the way we think about smart mobility and logistics.
Ms Rachel Mclean MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the DfT, highlighted the significance of technological advances, allowing people to travel further and faster than ever before. The UK will continue to promote the future potential of ITS – creating more innovative and efficient technology, improving transport safety and tackling climate change. This and other future trade missions will celebrate the free exchange of ideas thereby unlocking future opportunities and collaboration.
As the current pandemic has restricted trade missions with business delegations, Eva-Maria Liimets, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Estonia commended Finland and United Kingdom in joining Estonia to explore online formats such as the mutual business forum on smart mobility and logistics. Minister Liimets noted that refraining from flying the whole delegation together has a positive impact on environment. “With the increasing need for transportation networks and mobility of people, however, not flying cannot of course be a solution for greener future. How to move around sustainably in our regions and cross borders is the key question in the future of mobility,” said Minister Liimets. The economic recovery from the Covid pandemic has offered us a possibility to speed up the process of green transition. “Although Governments have a role in setting up the preconditions for green transition, the private sector is vital in implementing the change” Minister Liimets added.
This was followed by a panel discussion on Sustainable Mobility: Business Opportunities. It was moderated by Sandra Särav of Bolt, Estonia and the panellists were Phil Blythe, Department for Transport, UK; Argo Verk, ITS Estonia and Sami Sahala, Forum Virium Helsinki, Finland.
The panel agreed that the key to business opportunities in sustainable mobility is innovative solutions. Private companies are profit driven so the public sector must lead with well designed legislation, regulations and tender procedures. Collaboration across all stakeholders regardless of status is also essential. The public sector is incapable of delivering the necessary innovation itself. It has to rely on the private sector to supply this. The public sector should provide a clear and detailed policy, with innovators and industry providing the means and the processes. Individuals and organisations capable of thinking strategically for fifteen or twenty years ahead are crucial to success in this area.
Businesses need to thrive and grow, and sustainable mobility is still comparably expensive, so this cannot be left to market forces. The public sector must lead if we are to see the necessary impactful changes in the necessary time frame. We need for individual citizens to change their mindsets as to what mobility looks like and this will require strong leadership. Explanations and messaging must be clear, evidence based and forceful. Opinion surveys, for instance by Bolt, show that the public has a willingness to change their travel habits but not if this requires spending more money.
An example of leaving it late to form essential policy is provided by the general failure to address the climate change impacts of rail, maritime and aviation. We have done very well and continue to do well with electric road vehicles, but have left it strangely late to address other modes of transport. It now appears that hydrogen will be an important part of the solution in the near term, and governments are engaging with this by setting up groups of experts, commissioning research and so on. However this is still not accompanied by any meaningful communications with the public, which may lead to problems when creating a pathway to greener non-road transport. The investment needed to realise the benefits of hydrogen will be very large, and without public understanding and support, may be politically difficult to deliver.
Using public sector buying power is important. Where a public body runs fleets or procures transport services, whether it is national, regional or city level, it should use these procurements to support sustainably powered vehicles and modes. Low emission public transport as the norm should be a very early goal.
There is already a lot of well functioning technology either available or near to market. This now needs to be integrated, applied, made affordable and supported by clever, well supported business models. The business models will need to be new and different and this is one of the barriers to more sustainable transport provision. The traditional business model will usually show the traditional transport provision as the best. The challenge of changing the way we evaluate the cost of transport and think about travel is actually enormous, far greater than is usually admitted. The “hearts and minds” question should be “Do you need to travel, and if you do, which is the appropriate method for you to use?” and this, for many political and social reasons, is proving a very difficult challenge for government to put to its citizens.
All areas of the transport sector, including ITS, should be working much more closely with the energy sector. If we do not work effectively with them, then the future supply networks we will require to run a sustainable transport network will not be there when we need them.
Reducing and replacing will not be enough; we will also need to apply other, currently difficult, options such as carbon sequestrations, and engage properly with issues such as population growth and urbanisation. If we do not effect some thorough going behavioural changes in large parts of our populations, technical measures alone will have insufficient impact. We need to revisit many “truths” we take for granted. For instance, we have devoted resources for a couple of decades to solving the “first/last mile problem”. Estonian research shows that people are perfectly happy to do the first or last 12 minutes of any journey on foot – making it doubtful whether the “problem” actually exists outside of transport planning and modelling professional circles.
The end of the panel discussion and the end of the formal programme was marked by closing remarks delivered by Steve Norris. He noted that virtual conferencing has so many benefits: the technology has to work, but the environmental benefits are enormous. Reducing business travel in this way helps us combat global warming, which we should have dealt with much earlier than we did. We must get to zero emissions, this is no longer a topic for debate. ITS like MaaS, innovative mobility, greater modal share for public transport, walking, cycling, and safe transport are all topics which we should address in a fresh way now that the pandemic has given us an opportunity to effect a step change. Painless payment is essential for all modes we want to promote. Cutting congestion is also an undisputed priority. All this combined makes an excellent opening for smart mobility.
We also need to deal effectively with the new retail activity: online shopping and home delivery are here to stay and we need to find clean and efficient ways of dealing with these new patterns of freight movement. Legal and safety issues are also arising which we must address.
Following on from Brexit, ITS (UK) is keen for everybody to understand that the UK has left the European Union, it has not left Europe. We are extremely keen to have strong bilateral relations with all EU Member states just as we are with non-EU countries. We are committed to removing barriers to trade, pre-Brexit barriers as well as any thrown up post-Brexit.
Addressing the environmental impacts of transport may look like an additional cost. But we should be asking ourselves at the same time what the cost will be of not addressing these impacts. This will include cities where jobs exist but can’t be accessed, the economic destruction of new, severe weather patterns, the cost of worsening public health. We need to remember that smart mobility is just one of the solutions to the very broad problem, and that energy supplies and many other factors will also be important. Collaboration with other sectors is essential.
The discussion has been very interesting – it could have gone on for much longer, but what we heard from the panellists in the time available, has certainly provided food for thought.
Mr Norris’ wrap up of the formal part of the event was by an extensive programme of individual B2B meetings between Estonian, Finnish and British companies. Here are some quotes by participants:
“Kempower had the privilege to participate in the Virtual Business Visit between Estonia, Finland and the United Kingdom: Smart Mobility and Logistics -digital meeting today. In these unusual times and when live- meetings cannot be arranged this was an excellent example of how innovative and flexible organisations arrange new ways of setting up the frames and prerequisites for different actors in the Smart Mobility -scene to explore co-operation and collaboration opportunities in Europe. A warm thank you on the behalf of Kempower- the company defining charging to all the teams and people making todays virtual visit possible. Looking forward to explore business -opportunities in the UK -market with Finnish first -class DC -fast chargers and charging systems for electromobility.
Erik Kanerva, Director Marketing, Kempower Oy Finland
“Participation in the event provided an opportunity to have a short but meaningful meeting with the people of ITS UK and a Finnish company with whom it is possible to develop further partnerships. Certainly, such events are a breath of fresh air while ongoing home office and difficult times for traveling periods.”
Hans Leis, Sales Lead, AS Bercman Technologies, Estonia
I thought today’s event was good, really worthwhile. I had some informative conversations and think there’s definitely scope to further relationships. I was pleasantly surprised how much innovation there is in the Estonian and Finnish smart ports sector already, and hopefully some future opportunities for Arup to grow in this space will come out of today’s discussions.
Tim Morris, Arup UK
Watch a video of the event here