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Cross-border collaboration positions Latvian university as regional expert in smart transportation

Through cross-border collaboration and knowledge sharing, the EU-funded ALLIANCE project is positioning one Latvian university as a regional leader in smart transportation.

Transport and Mobility icon Transport and Mobility

Latvia is working to establish itself as a leader in innovative transportation. At the centre of this strategy is the country’s Transport and Telecommunication Institute (TTI) – a hub of scientific and technological know-how. To help raise the institute’s profile in the field of smart and sustainable transport, the EU-funded ALLIANCE (Enhancing excellence and innovation capacity in sustainable transport interchanges) project is linking TTI and its staff with two internationally recognised European research entities: Greece’s University of Thessaly (UTH) and Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Factory Operation and Automation (IFF). To learn more about ALLIANCE’s ongoing work, we sat down with two researchers heavily involved in the project – TTI professor and ALLIANCE project coordinator Irina Yatskiv and IFF’s Klaus Richter. What does the project aim to achieve? Yatskiv: The ALLIANCE project is working to enhance the innovation capacity of TTI. Our end goal is to establish it as a leading research and innovation hub in the field of interconnected transportation systems – both at the national and regional levels. To accomplish this, we are working closely with our partners at UTH and IFF to organise training, staff exchanges, collaboration in research and publications, and general knowledge exchange. Did you succeed? Yatskiv: To buy into the design and development of sustainable transportation systems, Latvian authorities and businesses must first trust their national experts, including TTI. For this reason, representatives of the Department of Finance and Development Planning at the Ministry of Transport and the Riga International Bus and Coach Terminal are all part of ALLIANCE’s Scientific Excellence and Innovation Assurance Panel (SAP). They also actively participate in the project’s train-the-trainer seminars and public discussions. Furthermore, representatives of the City of Riga and Riga Airport are actively involved in ALLIANCE’s collaborative research teams. And special round tables with representatives from various Latvian logistic centres were also organised. By bringing government authorities and transport-related businesses into the project and having them work alongside TTI researchers, the ALLIANCE project successfully established TTI scientists as experts in the field of smart transportation. Having helped actual transport entities address actual problems, these researchers now have the credibility to offer their services in Latvia and throughout the surrounding region. What do you think have been the most important results that have emanated from this collaboration? Yatskiv: One of the most important outcomes of the project thus far is the creation of the Sustainable Transport Interchanges Program (STIP). Based on a gap analysis, STIP looks at planned development of the Latvian transport networks and defines the required knowledge and skills. This process has led to the development of 12 new training courses in passenger and freight transport that help cover the identified knowledge and skill gaps that must be filled before these planned projects can be implemented. Richter: Moreover, the digital format of the STIP could be understood as one significant contribution to the project’s overall legacy. The first step was the development of the new training material in sustainable transport interchanges, curated and coordinated by UTH. The second step was the transformation of STIP to e-learning content, which is now accessible by all interested parties in manageable self-learning units. The vision for the future is that the e-platform will enable a sustainable, barrier-free dissemination of up-to-date knowledge in the area of sustainable transport interchanges on a multidisciplinary level. It could also function as a collaborative working base between education, research and business. Can you provide an example of how the project’s partners contributed to the STIP? Richter: IFF’s focus was on sharing information on the use of state-of-the-art technology in the field of smart transportation. For example, we see the next level of ICT being its integration with the Internet of Things (IoT), which will have a substantial impact on logistics and transport services. During the project, we saw how the logistics processes at Riga Airport could benefit from an IoT-enabled Smart Logistics Zone – a design framework for the optimal interaction of logistics, processes and systems. From this analysis, we created a blueprint for using IoT devices for the efficient management of equipment at airports. This plan was then shared through the ALLIANCE STIP. Have you had to overcome any unexpected challenges throughout the project? Richter: Whenever you engage in cross-border projects, some cultural challenges are bound to arise. As all the ALLIANCE partners come from different countries, we each have a different understanding of and approach to transport and logistics. For instance, in Germany, we view transport logistics as part of the entire supply chain. For this reason, we tend to take a systemic approach. Regardless of these differences, I feel that the discussions between the project partners were fruitful and successfully integrated our different levels of expertise. In fact, the ALLIANCE approach to collaboration could serve as the gold standard for enabling cooperation and discussion on a common problem between different stakeholders, without jeopardising their identical expertise. What are you most proud of from the project? Yatskiv: ALLIANCE established a new way for research organisations and the business community to collaborate. As a result, we see that demands for TTI consulting services have increased. For example, we already have some requests for collaboration from Riga Airport. Furthermore, the project continues to raise interest in finding integrated solutions for Riga’s transport system. Was it only TTI that benefited, or did the partners also benefit from the collaboration? Richter: The project’s multidisciplinary and integrative approach, which represents the common thread of the project, also led to the transfer of best practices in applied PhD workshops from Germany to Latvia. Researchers and professors from different departments of Fraunhofer IFF were also involved in the project’s activities, taking over the doctoral supervision of TTI PhD students, for example. Fraunhofer was also able to extend its work in applied research by adding tasks in the area of education and qualification, considering the specifics of Latvian and Baltic transport and logistics systems. I must mention that an ALLIANCE research team consisting of doctoral students and researchers from Fraunhofer IFF, TTI and Grenoble Alpes University (France) was honoured with the “Best Paper Award 2017” at the 14th International Multidisciplinary Modelling & Simulation Multiconference. What’s next for the project? Yatskiv: My hope is that ALLIANCE improved, to a measurable and significant degree, the overall scientific and innovation capacity of TTI in the area of interconnected transportation systems. As a result, TTI will be more visible in the global transportation research community. But the legacy of the project is our researchers, common articles, mutual understanding and the desire to work together. Maybe this collaboration will result in a new project?



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