Nine Infravation Innovation projects kicked off
Preview of article to be published in seventh issue of FEHRL Infrastructure Research Magazine (FIRM) in January 2016
On 12-13th November 2015, nine new ERA-NET Plus Infravation innovation projects were successfully kicked off at a two-day meeting at the Diamant Center in Brussels, Belgium. Some 50 people attended from the Infravation Steering and Management Groups, selected key stakeholders from CEDR and the European Commission, as well as from the nine projects themselves. Feedback received was very positive: “The best networking event I have ever been to. There was a real sense of desire to help each other and a gradual realisation that we can all benefit from each other’s work” said Dr Adrienn Tomor from the University of the West of England and SHAPE project member. Her colleague, John Nichols from Texas A&M University, added: “I must say it was one of the best organised meetings I had attended in many years. I enjoyed myself immensely”. SEEBRIDGE Project Coordinator, Rafael Sacks of Technion - Israel Institute of Technology, concurred with “A very informative and extremely well-conceived and organised kick-off meeting. I came away from it with a good sense of the vision of the project as a whole, and with good contacts with the other bridge research teams”.
FIRST DAY FOCUSES ON BIG PICTURE AND IMPLEMENTATION
Peter Wilbers, ERA-NET Plus Infravation Coordinator, opened the meeting with a general introduction to Infravation. He highlighted that the programme represents a real common pot with central negotiation, funding and monitoring, which is unique compared to other ERA-NETs who usually have a virtual common pot. Also unique is the ambition of the 11 National Road Authority partners, including for the first time the US and Israel, since 100% of the budget, top up of the Commission included, goes into the projects with all the other costs in kind. Peter stressed the importance of Infravation to his organisation, Rijkswaterstaat, and recalled the great enthusiasm for the Call with 103 proposals received. He concluded that Infravation should be considered as a pilot and hopes for future such initiatives with even bigger volumes.
Liam Breslin, Head of the European Commission’s (EC) Surface Transport Unit at the R&I DG, stressed his great expectations for the results and urged the project members to make the most of the limited time they have and to go for maximum collaboration and cross-fertilisation. He also outlined that the transnational pooling of resources for infrastructure research is ahead of other research areas thanks in part to CEDR and FEHRL and Infravation will hopefully act as a catalyst for this.
He was followed by Pieter de Winne of CEDR, who gave an overview of all the yearly CEDR transnational calls and outlined the synergies and differences between the CEDR and Infravation calls. He suggested that the CEDR Infravation and Research task groups should closely work together with Infravation and align technical content for future programmes and implementation.
David Kuehn from FHWA then gave the US perspective and highlighted this exciting milestone for both the US and FHWA. And Miguel Segarra of Dragados called for Infravation and its projects to be aligned with industry and put most of the efforts into demonstrations which are closest to market. Thibault Prevost from the French ministry of ecology, sustainable development and energy (MEDDE), outlined the expectations from the French funder, which in his case include learning from the projects for a new French “route du futur” programme.
FEHRL Secretary General, Thierry Goger, outlined the plans for communication and outreach, including the need for a clear link between programmes and projects, and Katherine Petros of FHWA gave some inspirational ideas from the US on implementing results, taken from the Every Day Counts (EDC) programme. She confirmed in the ensuing panel discussion on the exploitation and implementation of results that Infravation fully fits into EDC.
During this panel discussion, moderated by Oliver Althoff of TUV, panellist, Ruud Smit, representing ERTRAC, reminded everyone that the Infravation instrument and the results from the projects could also be applied to other modes such as rail. He was supported in this by William Bird of the EC, who confirmed that a sustainable bridges project available for road could also include rail technology. And Kjersti Kvalheim Dunham of NPRA expects there will be some good breakthroughs from the projects that can be used very quickly in Norway.
Much networking and sharing of information then took place at the cocktail to mark the end of the first day.
NINE PROJECTS PRESENTED IN SECOND DAY
The second day gave the chance for participants to learn about the nine Infravation-funded innovation projects from presentations grouped together in three sessions. The first session covered four projects – FASSTBRIDGE, SUREBRIDGE, SEEBRIDGE and SHAPE, that deal with the “Extension of life-span of bridges and justifiable postponement of maintenance”.
The second session, entitled “Promising developments in road surface pavements”, showcased the remaining five projects – ALTERPAVE, BIOREPAVATION, ECLIPS, HEALROAD and SEACON. As for the first day, vivid interaction continued between the projects, resulting in much networking and future appointments.
Project Coordinators also took part in two key internal meetings with the Management Group directly after the end of the meeting. The first one was to get acquainted with their respective Scientific Panel member who will work with them to guide their project. And the second meeting saw a lively exchange on dissemination.