Swedish maritime research is strong but could have a better impact

25 October 2022

Both maritime research and railway research have developed strongly in the last ten years, while vehicle research is weakening. Nevertheless, it is within the automotive industry that the greatest capacity for innovation is found, writes Traffic Analyses in a new report.

In June 2018, the government presented a national freight transport strategy which aims, among other things, to increase the transfer of transport from road to rail and shipping. But hardly any transfer has taken place since then. Why? Traffic Analyses has made an analysis that provides some answers.

Simply put, market-driven research and innovation have a stronger driving force for change than public policy instruments and government innovation procurements have. This is why road transport is gaining ground - in Sweden it dominates patent applications, venture capital and investments. This is not the scenario in the rest of the world. The global trend is a declining share of patents in road vehicles, writes Traffic Analyses. But in Sweden, road transport with the automotive industry at the forefront constitutes a "dominant ecosystem of innovation in Sweden".

Innovation investments in road transport and fossil-free fuels go hand in hand, which is in line with the national freight transport strategy. On the other hand, the dominance of road transport rhymes less well with the strategy's goal of a better balance between the types of traffic. It also rhymes poorly with how the research achievements in the various traffic areas look like. While vehicle research is failing, both Swedish railway and maritime research have grown strong in the last ten years. Whem it comes to R&D in the shipping area, it is mentioned that the government, through the Swedish Transport Agency, has expanded and broadened the existing support, from SEK 50 to 100 million per year: The effects can be seen in the Swedish Transport Agency's research database: "The number of performance reports rose successively from 5 years in 2017 to 22 in 2021. The Swedish Maritime Administration, Chalmers, RISE and VTI top the list in terms of the number of project reports. The projects are generally about developing knowledge bases, studies and analyses, including evaluations of basic ideas and concepts. It is, for example, about analyzes of the digitization of ports, new navigation support, fairway and pilotage fees, alternative fuels, return transport, competence supply, leadership and training.”

According to Traffic Analyses, the Swedish Transport Agency's R&I efforts in the shipping area are in line with the national freight transport strategy, but "nevertheless, it often involves investigative efforts, conceptual problems and solutions that are to be considered as initial phases in R&I processes".

In the concluding reflections of the 45-page long analysis, Traffic Analyses writes that it remains to be seen whether the knowledge build-up around railways and shipping will result in intensified market-oriented innovation activities in the business world.

“So far there are no clear signs of that. On the contrary, the development has so far been relatively weak, with, for example, a declining share of patents in other modes of transport than road transport. This traffic type-specific development is not in line with the government's objective in NGTS, to promote horizontal cooperation and transfer. Nevertheless, other indicators also point to market-driven R&I concentrating resources around road transport and that it weighs more heavily than transport policy."

Read the analyses (in Swedish)


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