‘Disruptive’ and ‘evangelist’ Transport Systems Catapult five-year-plan out next week

The UK Government-sponsored Transport Systems Catapult (TSC), which promises to be ‘the centre from which the UK leads the world in Intelligent Mobility’ is due to launch its five-year programme next week (commencing Oct 28).

Although a brief announcement about the report – which has the potential to change UK telematics – appears on its website there is little detail about its activities (although there is a wealth of high-sounding ambition).

The TSC, due to fully-open in its Milton Keynes offices next week (commencing October 28) has been given a budget of £46m over five years, with the objective of generating a further £100m in collaborative R&D and commercial revenue.

A fuller note with more detail about its activities has been released to us under freedom of information provisions.

This note – prepared for Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Mr Vince Cable MP by Steve Yianni, the Transport Systems Catapult CEO- contains a startling objective.

It promises that the new organisation will be ‘disruptive’ in its approach to its world-leader task.

The note says:

… we are carrying out a programme which promotes disruptive ideas and solutions, addresses challenges at transport interfaces, demonstrates innovation and accelerates the movement of concepts through to commercialisation. [Emphasis added]

I queried this word disruptive (OED: To break or burst asunder; to break in pieces, shatter; to separate forcibly) with the organisation’s press officer, assuming this was some kind of literal error, only to be told, no it was not, the word was correct.

Just how disruptive this organisation will turn out to be is hard to gauge.

The note says it has four main aims which in addition to ‘disruption’ include acting as ‘evangelist’:

1: Leading Thought: There is currently much advanced thinking in the UK on Intelligent Mobility however more work needs to be done to unify, synthesise, disseminate, and evangelise to a wider community.

2: Innovation Centre: A world-class innovation centre, located in Milton Keynes for people, systems and ideas where economic growth is stimulated via advancements in Intelligent Mobility.

3: Innovation Portfolio: An ambitious range of research, development and demonstration activities. Working relationships are already being developed with commercial organisations within the transport industries, e.g. Honda, Jaguar Land Rover, Network Rail, and including SMEs such as Open City Labs and other Catapults.

4: Platforms and Infrastructure: Core commercial products and services provision.

The Catapult has giant ambitions despite its modest budget and size (about 25 employees).

The note says:

The global market for innovative, integrated solutions for transport systems will be worth approximately £900bn annually by 2025. UK businesses will have the opportunity to sell intelligent solutions around the world, as other nations begin to face the challenge of undertaking the intelligent re-engineering of existing infrastructure and delivering better connectivity between modes.

However, to get a true idea of the job in hand, and the extent to which this catapult has to aim we need go no further that last week’s 20th ITS World Congress held in Japan (October 14 – 18 – Tokyo).

With 16,900 visitors, 3,700 registered participants, 61 countries represented, 560 booth space exhibitions from 251 companies, as far as I can establish there were about 6 -10 or so UK representatives, plus some Brits from Australia and New Zealand. There was only one UK exhibitor (a media company). 


    Jonathan Coe, Editor

    Journalist and comms specialist for over 40 years – trained in print, broadcasting, and industrial intranet. Written about comms policy (eg. as radio editor at Time Out); held senior comms roles in public bodies (National Health Service, local government) and privatised undertakings (London Electricity – now Electricité de France). Since, has developed interests in the ordinary citizen's use of judicial review to challenge irrational decisions of government and the use of rights (like the Freedom of Information Act) to explore irrational decisions (like the BBC's original decision to close the BBC digital radio service BBC 6 Music).

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