The Transport Research Arena (TRA) is the foremost European transport event that covers all transport modes and aspects of mobility. It has been organised every two years since 2006, with the exception of the 2020 Helsinki edition that was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Now, it is once again possible for the best and brightest stakeholders of the transport and mobility sectors to come together, in Lisbon, from 14 to 17 November 2022, and discuss the latest, state of the art, technological advancements and solutions. Themed “Moving together – reimagining mobility worldwide”, TRA 2022 brings together experts from around the world to discuss the newest innovations and future of mobility and transport, while also building on the Portuguese historical legacy and links to overseas transport professionals.
One of the organisers, and host of this year’s edition, is the Portuguese National Innovation Agency (ANI), which promotes collaboration between entities of the Scientific and Technological System and the business world by taking action to connect the science environment and companies.
Luís Maia is a Senior Consultant at ANI, where he acts as the Portuguese Delegate and National Contact Point (NCP) for the Horizon Europe Programme for Cluster 5, Climate, Energy and Mobility, and all related partnerships, as well as for the Climate-Neutral and Smart Cities Mission. He has a transport consulting background, holding a PhD in Transportation Systems. Marta Teixeira Pinto is the Horizon Europe National Delegate and Contact Point for Clusters 4 – Digital and Industry – and Cluster 5 – Transports and Mobility at ANI. She previously worked as a Senior Consultant and Expert in European Funding.
What happens exactly during a Transport Research Arena?
Marta: The Transport Research Arena is the largest European research and technology conference on transport and mobility. The idea is to offer a venue, where experts from all over the world in what concerns transport, mobility and all the related subjects, come together to discuss the newest innovations in these fields and, together, to look towards the future.
For this edition in particular we also want to bring forward a little bit of the Portuguese legacy, in terms of what we have been doing in this field, starting from our history until this moment. We are aiming at a more efficient, safer, carbon free, inclusive and sustainable transport in in all its modes and this is what we will bring to TRA in 2022.
What is the importance of the TRA for the development of transport and mobility?
Luís: I would say the biggest goal of this conference is to discuss what are the most important issues of the day in terms of the transport industry. The biggest added value of this conference is the discussion, bringing together the most important players in the industry and have roundtables on how we should address the main issues that affect the transport industry today.
But it also works as a fair and exhibition. What all the stakeholders tell us is that they really want to come to the TRA because of the networking, to meet the people, to see the companies, the stakeholders, to visit the stands. Because it is at the same time a scientific conference and a fair and exhibition.
Marta: This is something big and built on a set of pillars: the scientific excellence, in terms of research and innovation challenges, latest technological and industrial development, even transport policies and, of course, cooperation with other continents and other countries, which ensures the exchange of experience.
This will be achieved in the four days through a very comprehensive program which will include four plenary sessions with high level speakers, 12 strategic sessions dedicated to specific themes and over 35 technical sessions, where specific technical issues will be presented.
Why was Lisbon chosen to host this year?
Marta: Any European city can apply to be a host. Following the application, the European Commission, together with the European platforms and key stakeholders in the industry select the host city.
Luís: This is a somewhat special conference because it usually happens every two years, but the last edition was actually 2018, in Vienna, since the 2020 Helsinki edition was cancelled because of Covid. So we’re the first post pandemic edition. Which is also why it takes place in November this year and not as usually in April or May.
What is the added value of hosting this event?
Luís: This is a way to bring the stakeholders to Lisbon and to show off what work is being done in Portugal by Portuguese stakeholders, which will be present in the exhibition, in the talks, etc. So this contributes to the dissemination of what are the best practise in Portugal.
On the other hand, it’s great for the Portuguese stakeholders to find out about the opportunities in Europe, like European programs of research and development in the area of transport such as the Horizon Europe program. It’s a win-win for everyone involved, for the city of Lisbon, for the Portuguese stakeholders and for all the participants.
You mentioned earlier that this year will build on the Portuguese legacy and Portuguese stakeholders will show what they have done in the area of transport and mobility. Can you tell us more about that?
Luís: One component of the TRA conferences is a set of technical visits, on the side of the main program. You can register for these and see what’s happening in the host city in different areas. The idea of a technical visit is to allow participants to get to know better different areas in which transport innovation is happening in Portugal. And this can be from urban mobility to the rail sector, the aviation, the underground, etc.
One of the interesting things about the TRA being in Lisbon, is that right next to the venue, which is the Lisbon Congress Centre, you have almost all transport modes: there is a rail line going by it, the river, so water transport, roads, the airport is also really close and of course the tram also goes right by it. So you have different modes of transport and we think it’s a good venue for that and we hope to reflect that in the technical visits that will allow everyone to find out what we do best in Portugal.
What impact do you expect this year’s edition to have on the Portuguese transport scene, research community and policy makers?
Luís: This is actually one of our biggest goals for this conference. The reason why we wanted to have it in Lisbon is that we believe it will have a significant impact on our stakeholders, be that our companies, our public institutions, policy makers etc. All of this is important different ways. In a way I think the discussions that will be held in Portugal, that will be followed by many Portuguese stakeholders, are going to enlighten them on what are the best practise in Europe and all over the world in different areas of transport.
And, of course, the networking in the events. Stakeholders will participate, will be at stands, will be at the sessions. We’ll also have a strong presence of European Commission which will be there promoting the Horizon Europe program and their associated partnerships, so we expect this will lead to a higher participation of Portuguese entities in these programs in the medium term.
The title of this year’s conference is “Moving together – reimagining mobility worldwide”. One of the biggest issues about transport and mobility nowadays is sustainability. Could you tell us how this will be tackled at the conference this year and what can be done to improve the transport industry’s sustainability?
Luís: The conference is not meant to be prescriptive by saying “this is the solution”, but of course it’s important that we discuss what we consider to be the main issues of the day. The conference lasts four days and for each day there is a main topic. I can tell you the main themes are: Smart solutions and society; Green mobility and decarbonization; Innovative infrastructure for Europe 2030; and Policies and economics for a competitive Europe. The structure of the conference is organized from a higher level to the lower level: each one of these main themes is going to be discussed in the Plenary session of each day and then we’re going to have three specific Strategic sessions and then several Scientific, Technical and Invited sessions.
Then, if you asked me what has to be done to make transport more sustainable, I would say the biggest challenge right now is decarbonisation, be it for long range travel, aviation for example is one of big ones, but also rail transport etc., or at a more micro level, the urban level. All of this is going to be discussed in this conference. We cannot say at this point the solution is X or Z, but we have identified the main issues that need to be discussed and we’re looking forward to hearing what the outcome will be.
What can guests look forward to for this year’s TRA?
Marta: It’s the best venue for everyone that’s involved in this matter, researchers, policy makers, industry representatives. They get together in an amazing city and co-create during these four days. They discuss the latest research, developments and innovations and it can really help reshape transport and mobility, which are so important and relevant, now more than ever.
The even greater opportunity is that the event is going to happen after a world crisis, so we are all very much looking forward to finally get together to exchange opinions and views. And, of course, everything that this TRA conference offers, like the exhibitions and the area for demonstrations, where participants will be able to experiment hands on some very innovative technologies that are being developed in the field.
What expectations do you have for the outcome of this year’s edition?
Luís: Building on what Marta said, I think people are really looking forward to networking, meeting other people after the pandemic, so we believe that there will be lots of participants because people are really eager to come.
And, of course, to learn about what others are doing, what are the perspectives for the future, also to discuss this post pandemic world and its impact on transport. At the same time, we are dealing with climate change and this is also on the agenda. This is an important time to discuss all of this.
This kind of event brings everyone together to discuss what has to be done, how it can be done, how to implement it, what technical solutions are already available now and what are the plans for the future. I think the final outcome is going to be a huge value added to everyone participating.