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New and Innovative Concepts for Helping European transport Sustainability

Final Report Summary - NICHES (New and Innovative Concepts for Helping European transport Sustainability)

The high-level goal of the NICHES project was to support the development and adoption of innovative technology and policy-based urban transport concepts that will contribute to establishing sustainable urban transport systems. This in turn is expected to contribute significantly to a more efficient and competitive transport system, a healthier environment and improved quality of life in urban areas.

This high-level project goal was translated into five overall project objectives:
- Enhance discussion and knowledge exchange between practitioners, experts and researchers in the field of urban transport in Europe, ensuring that different sectors will be involved (transport authorities, operators, industry, academics, and other researchers as well as users);
- Provide a forum for those involved in European research activities and projects as well as national, local and industrial initiatives in the area of innovative urban transport concepts to share their knowledge and experience;
- Develop an accessible document store and a knowledge base on innovative transport concepts as well as integrated urban transport strategies, in which several innovative concepts are implemented in a combined way;
- Identify future research needs and pave the way for innovative transport concepts, meeting mobility needs in 2020;
- Develop a platform for capacity building (tools and content) for practitioners with guidance on developing and implementing innovative concepts in the framework of integrated urban transport strategies.

On this basis, the operational objectives to achieve the above-mentioned objectives were specified as follows:
- Involve a wide range of stakeholders, through interviews and four expert working groups, to identify, discuss and validate innovative concepts in four key thematic areas;
- Develop twelve integrated innovative urban transport concepts based on existing good practices in the following four areas: 1. New seamless mobility services, 2. Innovative approaches in city logistics, 3. New non-polluting and energy-efficient vehicles and 4. Innovative demand management strategies;
- Explore with leading practitioners the feasibility and transferability of these concepts for other European cities and regions;
- Produce practical guidance for key actors on how to best implement these concepts, and how to integrate them into a comprehensive urban transport policy;
- Develop twelve policy notes for councillors at local level (elected representatives), emphasising in a short and concise manner the impacts and 'problem solving capacity' of concepts for key mobility challenges;
- Provide policy recommendations for European, national and regional / local decision makers to facilitate an implementation process of innovative urban transport concepts meeting mobility needs in 2020;
- Create an open source web-tool (OSMOSE) as a portal and knowledge centre for urban transport innovation (providing information on good practices, initiatives and projects);
- Organise two major capacity building and dissemination events in order to present and validate intermediate and final project results.

The project was structured into the following work packages (WP):
- WP 1: Inception and state of the art
- WP2: Feasibility and Transferability
- WP3: Design of Integrated Strategies
- WP4: Research and Policy Recommendations
- WP5: Dissemination and Exploitation
- WP6: Project Management.

The NICHES work process was oriented at gradually broadening the impacts of relevant innovative urban transport concepts. It was structured by four successive steps (related to four work packages -WPs), accompanied by four working group (WG) meetings, plus the parallel dissemination and exploitation of results. Each step involves the experts invited for the WG meetings, as well as the selected interview partners, participants from other ongoing R&D activities and the NICHES advisory committee (NAC):

Step 1 - Establish the state of the art
Step 1 of the project was successfully completed in June 2005 with the submission of D1.3 state of the art in developing innovative urban transport concepts in Europe, which represented a crucial basis for all following work steps. The tasks performed did not only help to gather a well founded information basis about the Innovative Concepts to be further examined in NICHES, but did also contribute to identify relevant stakeholders in the thematic fields analysed by NICHES and to kick off discussion and exchange between relevant stakeholders in different fields of urban transport. The lively discussion at the first WG meeting showed the interest that innovative urban transport concepts generate, but also the knowledge gaps that still exist.

Step 2 - Assess success factors, barriers and transferability of innovative concepts
The analysis of success factors, barriers and the transferability (work package 2 - WP2) of the 12 innovative concepts selected in WP1 (step 1) had reached an advanced status during the previous reporting period. The concepts had been studied in depth with a focus on the conditions for a successful implementation and on their expected transferability to other urban contexts. This task was drawing on further desktop research and most important on consultation with a wide range of key actors involved with the implementation of the concepts. This did not only help to create a detailed insight into the implementation processes of the concepts, but did also support the networking with and between relevant stakeholders.

Step 3 - Integrate innovative concepts into coherent transport strategies
The integration of innovative concepts into coherent transport strategies (WP3) aimed to turn the insight obtained through the previous analytical steps into descriptive and normative guidance for the coordination and integration of actions towards the level of practical implementation.

Step 4 - Derive roadmaps and policy recommendations
The last content-related stage of the project went one step further in defining future coordination requirements, starting from a reflection on the prospects of urban transport. By confronting the innovative concepts and integrated strategies with current trends and visions for the future, the needs and potential for innovation were acknowledged. On this basis the Consortium developed:
- Research recommendations addressing gaps regarding research topics, research formats and research perspectives,
- Policy recommendations to enhance the development and uptake of urban transport innovation in Europe, targeted at decision makers at all levels - EU, national, regional, local. This also included the development of practical recommendations on how to drive forward the implementation process of the 12 NICHES concepts on the local level.

Step 5 - Disseminate and exploit the results (horizontal activity)
WP5 was a horizontal activity within the project, which accompanied all the other working steps to raise awareness and disseminate the results of NICHES within the stakeholders on the urban transport field across Europe. This activity was crucial to achieve the success of the project and the importance of this activity became most relevant from the middle to the end of the project when more results became available.

The results of NICHES are presented in the different brochures that were published at the end of the project. At the beginning of the project the 12 NICHES Innovative Concepts were defined, taking into account the debate at the 1st experts' WG meeting. These are urban transport innovative concepts that have been successfully implemented in some (European) cities, helping to solve urban transport related problems and to achieve urban transport related policy goals, but that need a push to be deployed broadly. The 12 Concepts (defined within 4 thematic WGs) were illustrated with examples of their implementation.

Within NICHES the barriers for the implementation of these concepts were explored, as well as the framework conditions (legal, regulatory, economic…) to implement them. It was evidenced that these are issues that need to be explored and studied prior to the possible implementation of an Innovative Concept, in order to avoid failures. To ensure the successful implementation of the Concepts these barriers, if existing, should be properly addressed and suitable framework conditions be created.

Within NICHES, integrated strategies were defined, combining NICHES Innovative Concepts and mainstream measures, which allows for a holistic approach to tackle specific urban transport problems, combining push and pull measures or measures that contribute to the same policy objective. In fact the implementation of an Innovative Concept often needs to be accompanied by supporting measures (e.g. an awareness raising campaign) to make it a success. These accompanying measures can be more or less innovative, but will always support the Innovative Concept or counteract a possible negative effect of the innovative concept (e.g. allowing clean vehicles to enter a congestion charge zone).

The final stage of NICHES included the development of policy and research recommendations for stakeholders at the EU, national, and local levels. These are summarised in several publications. In addition the need for strong political support and leadership in order to make Innovative Concepts work was highlighted, as it has been the case in many of the cities were these concepts have been implemented (e.g. Congestion charging scheme in London). Together with this it is also essential to involve and communicate with the citizens and user groups, and to do so before, during and after the implementation of the Concept. The NICHES results are presented in a series of publications that include horizontal reports addressing urban transport innovation issues as well as policy notes dedicated to NICHES Innovative Concepts.