UKRI (UK Research & Innovation) and Innovate UK have come together with their strategic partners to build their vision for the future of transport and mobility for the UK. Their pathway focuses on achieving the vision of a 2050 transport system that enables the movement of people and goods from one location to another through seamless, safe, net-zero, connected, cost-effective, accessible, and reliable means.
Transport is fundamental to the daily movement, trade, and communication of people, organisations, and goods across the globe. In order to encourage UK businesses to advance the UK transport industry, Innovate UK and their partners have invested £4.5 billion in innovative transport projects since 2007. Their investment will continue to shape the future of transport in the UK for many years, in line with their Transport Vision 2050.
The UK transport system will be recognised as a world leader in design, innovation, manufacturing, and deployment. Industry will provide high-quality and skilled employment and continue to be a major contributor to UK GDP.
The strategy has identified six key areas where steps need to be taken to achieve the 2050 vision:
Travel and Transport Demand – The way people travel and behave will change and this will be accelerated by advances in technology that will improve transport services, reduce costs and revolutionise business models. These changes could result in an unsustainable transport system if smart policies and interventions are not implemented in a holistic way. Understanding innovation and the impacts of innovative products and services as they are deployed is key to an optimised transport system.
Connectivity – Improved communications and connectivity will create opportunities for greater efficiency, new services for travellers, and new business products and services. Connecting transport systems and vehicles through cellular and satellite communications technology will lead to significant efficiency gains and new services for both travellers and freight. Increasing data and digital connectivity will enable new business models and services and unlock significant new economic and social value. Secure connectivity will also be critical to the operation of transport as a national infrastructure.
Energy Vectors – The move to net-zero by 2050 will require a complete shift from fossil fuels to sustainably produced electricity, hydrogen, and other alternatives, and a switch to supply chains producing the new powertrains. Liquid fuel, including hydrogen, biofuels, and fossil fuels, will still be the dominant energy vector in 2030. This has consequences for policies to decarbonise transport. Most vehicles on the road will be either traditional or hybrid internal combustion engines, including two in three cars and vans, and 85% of HGVs and buses. Nearly 90% of maritime crafts will be powered by liquid fuel. Around 15% of the rail fleet will be diesel-powered. Most air transport will still be using kerosene and only around 10% will be powered by sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).
Autonomy – Autonomy will make road vehicles smarter, create opportunities for new services such as last-mile delivery by drone, and deliver fully autonomous urban transport. Automation is being introduced in transport to reduce costs, improve safety, or to perform dull, dirty, or dangerous human tasks. The balance between these objectives varies across different modes and applications. However, the increased value is universal and the trend clear. Autonomy will be increasingly present and a significant part of the value offering, enabling new services and business models.
Business Models – Advances in technology and new government policies will transform business models and lead to bundling of services, better use of resources, and mass customisation. Digitalisation will bring significant commercial opportunities and threats. Advances in robotics and increasing connectivity will alter transport services and bring new business models by 2050. The size of the market for data resulting from greater vehicle connectivity is estimated to be up to US$750 billion by 2030.
Infrastructure – UK transport’s consumption of petroleum products will fall by over 90% by 2050 and be replaced by electricity, hydrogen, ammonia, and sustainable fuels. This will create significant new business opportunities for energy generation, production and distribution. UK transport will consume 60.5 million tonnes of petroleum products in 2021. We expect this to fall to 5.9 million tonnes by 2050. We expect the balance to be made up of other fuels and energy vectors dependent on different modes. This includes 145TWh electricity to support all-electric vehicles, which represents 50% of the 2021 UK annual demand. Whilst generation is not expected to be a challenge, distribution will require some innovation. Hydrogen, ammonia, and sustainable fuel use is forecast to grow exponentially, creating new production and distribution opportunities.
Almost all transport will be zero-emission at point of use in 2050, and the remainder offset. Emissions from the manufacture of transport solutions will be zero or offset. Raw materials will be sustainably sourced and products will be designed for resource efficiency, remanufacture, and recycling to create a circular economy.
The strategy and focus areas are designed to look at the transport system as a whole – including vehicles, fuel/energy sources, and supporting infrastructures to ensure a future-proof system that meets the 2050 vision and recognises the UK as a world-leader in innovation.
Matt Symonds, Managing Director of TBAT Innovation Ltd says “Great to see the recent release of UK Transport Vision 2050, and the vision and drive for what is a core sector for the UK. From a TBAT perspective, we’re fortunate enough to work with numerous companies innovating in this sector and look forward to supporting them to realise this vision.”
The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy have launched the latest Government UK Innovation Strategy to highlight their priority areas and the beginning of the roadmap to make the UK a global hub for innovation by 2035. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the importance of rapid innovation to the forefront of everyone’s mind, including the UK Government.
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