Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS


INFRAVATION Report Summary

Project ID: 618109
Funded under: FP7-TRANSPORT
Country: Netherlands

Periodic Report Summary 2 - INFRAVATION (ERA-NET Plus on Infrastructure Innovation)

Project Context and Objectives:
Transport ministries across Europe (and globally) are facing ever tougher challenges to cope with the need to accommodate increased traffic growth, minimise congestion and maintain services in the face of increasing climate change effects, as well as deliver on environmental and societal objectives. In the current economic climate, this is the time when innovation for road infrastructure is an absolute imperative, to reduce costs without compromising on quality.

Many innovative technologies are under development in laboratories around the world. Sometimes claims are made about how these technologies can bring about enormous benefits. In other cases, the possible consequences for road construction and maintenance have not been assessed. Admittedly, it is difficult to fully assess the possible impacts of really innovative techniques. Infravation supports developments and encourages the examination of all emerging technologies on the road to implementation.

In order to deliver the full benefits of research and development activities carried out in the transport infrastructure sectors, Infravation - standing for Infrastructure Innovation - brings together funding from the Netherlands, Denmark, France, Germany, Iceland, Israel, Italy, Norway, Spain, Sweden, USA and the EU into one common transnational Call framework, in order to fund joint research projects.

The ERA-NET Plus Infravation 2014 Call has been initiated as a pooled research fund to develop transport infrastructure innovations which address the challenges identified in the European Commission’s White Paper on Transport: Smart, Green and Integrated transport. Its objective is to enable a high quality infrastructure offering high service levels to the user/economy/society through solutions for both new and existing infrastructure. For this Call, the available budget for co-financing is 9 million euros.

The ERA-NET Plus Infravation 2014 Call is aimed at cost-effective advanced systems, materials and techniques in road infrastructure construction and maintenance, including repair, retrofitting and revamping. The solutions called for include materials technology, methods and processes, and supporting systems, such as for monitoring, communication and energy.

The Call falls under the scope of SST.2013.1-3. ERA-NET Plus “Advanced systems, materials and techniques for next generation infrastructure“. The European Commission and Infravation liaises closely to avoid funding duplicate research (in Horizon 2020 and FP7) and makes sure research projects will be complementary.

The Infravation scope is divided into the following seven challenges – each holding a clear focus:
A. Advanced predictive infrastructure performance processes
B. Enhanced durability and life-time extension
C. Rapid and non-destructive methods for routine quality and performance checks of materials and construction
D. Keeping freight routes open through zero-intrusive maintenance
E. Ensuring infrastructure performance under all weather conditions
F. Resource and energy efficiency in road construction and maintenance (eco-design)
G. Virgin material reduction by substitution or recycling

Infravation has been designed to deliver innovative products, systems and services in road and bridge construction and maintenance that will amongst others result in cost savings, improved sustainability and durability, better predictability and less traffic disruption. From the mechanism of a real common pot all results of the jointly funded innovation projects will become commonly available for all funding providers in the ERA-NET Plus Infravation.
Project Results:
The Infravation call was published on 3 March 2014. A large number of information and dissemination activities have been done centrally as well as on national levels by the Infravation funding providers to maximally advertise the open call. Among others, Infravation held a central Information and Brokerage event for potential proposers on 20 March 2014 in Brussels in order to bring proposers together to exchange ideas and build transnational consortia. The event was organised in close cooperation with ETNA Plus, the Transport National Contact Point network. There was great interest from the research community in the event. Over 120 participants attended representing both industry and research institutes.

Infravation applies a 2-step submission and evaluation approach. By the time of the closure of the call for light proposals on 30 June 2014, over 100 proposals were submitted. The evaluation of the submitted light proposals ended on 30 September 2014. Coordinators of the favourably evaluated light proposals had until the end of November 2014 to prepare and submit their full proposals. A pool of international independent experts on road infrastructure innovation evaluated these proposals between December 2014 and April 2015. This included a joint consensus meeting end of March 2015, where these independent evaluators came together to assess and rank each of the proposals. The final decision on projects selected for funding was taken at the Infravation Steering Group meeting end of April 2015.

Negotiations with the selected consortia were carried out in the Summer of 2015 leading to the conclusion of grant agreements for all of the nine projects selected for funding. All projects commenced in September/October of 2015. Prior to this, the Infravation Call Management System (CMT) was developed further to include a platform for the monitoring of the progress of the funded projects. During the fourth quarter of 2015 and all of 2016, the projects were subject to close administrative and scientific & technical monitoring of the work carried out.
Potential Impact:
The (expected) results and impacts of Infravation are described along the following key objectives:

• Improving coordination and reduce overlap in research and innovation in the field of affordable green materials and technologies for reliable road infrastructure
Infravation paves the way to a new extent and quality of trans-national cooperation in research funding by applying the real common pot approach, that merges national and regional funding contributions and related EC top-up funding into one funding pot. This approach allows for a coordinated, common governance structure of the trans-national R&D projects to be funded, independent from individual national funding rules.
Moreover, the common funding provisions applied for this Infravation call correspond to the underlying idea that the research results will be accessible for the funding organisations collectively. Thus, they positively contribute to reducing overlap in national research funding by applying integrated trans-national funding cooperation.
What is more, for the first time the USA contributes funding to an ERA-NET Plus initiative, thus Infravation contributes to coordination between European and US research and innovation in this field.
Finally, this initiative is considered a stepping stone for further, long-term trans-national cooperation and coordination beyond this CSA project related to the Infravation 2014 Call.

• Achieving critical mass and ensure [ensuring?] better use of limited resources in fields of mutual interest and a significant participation of Member States and Associated States
In time of economic crisis, Infravation brings together funding from 9 European countries, Israel, the USA and the EC into one funding pot in order to fund joint research projects of mutual interest. The total funding pot available for R&D funding amounts to 9.025 million EUR. The research topics addressed by the Infravation call reflect the needs and mutual interest of Member States for joint research on road infrastructure.
In order to ensure best research results and to optimise critical mass, the Infravation consortium decided to open the call also for applicants from non funding EU27 and FP7 associated countries .

• Sharing good practices in implementing research programmes and promoting transnational collaboration and generating new knowledge and innovation
Infravation is well embedded in the landscape of road research and the consortium builds on the knowledge and lessons learnt from previous and on-going trans-national cooperation initiatives in the field. This concerns ERA-NET ROAD and CEDR that represent the trans-national cooperation of national road directorates as well as the Forever Open Road Programme (FEHRL). Additionally, consortium members bring in their experiences from Era-net Transport (ENT) and the ERA-NET Plus Electromobility+. Infravation contributes to sharing and combining the good practices of those initiatives. What is more, Infravation will go ahead in the level of cooperation as compared to Electromobility+ by applying a real common pot model for grant funding of R&D projects. Thus, Infravation will generate new knowledge and experience in trans-national funding cooperation offering the possibility for mutual learning and exchange between Infravation, Era-net Transport and Electromobility+ as well as further initiatives under Horizon 2020.

• Mobilising SMEs in transnational projects to enhance innovation
Infravation will place a particular focus on mobilising SMEs. Initial meetings with industry representatives, indicated that the level of interest from industry needs to be improved and in particular that ‘traditional’ infrastructure companies have too much inertia to provide the desired innovations.
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