Transport Systems Catapult launches £46.6m bid for Gvmnt funds to boost UK telematics industry

The Transport Systems Catapult (TSC), an initiative to promote telematics in the UK, has launched a bid for £46.6 million in a five-year programme to boost the UK intelligent mobility sector.

Its five-year-plan was officially launched in London (in a transport museum) last week [Wednesday October 23 2013].

At this launch the UK government Minister for Universities and Science, David Willetts MP, stressed ‘..the government’s commitment to the innovation agenda in general and the catapult programme in particular.’

The TSC’s aim is to drive ‘…the UK’s global leadership in Intelligent Mobility, promoting sustained UK economic growth and well being’.

It says that some of its early projects include:

  • seamless journey systems,
  • remote asset management and monitoring,
  • traffic management and control systems,
  • journey assistance systems,
  • infrastructure integrity and security,
  • connected vehicles, and
  • novel economic and business models.

The TSC is to submit its funding bid to the TSB (the Technology Strategy Board).

Just how the TSC intends to meet its objectives is not at all clear from either the five-year-programme or the corporate video shown for the first time at the launch.

The programme does not shy away from promoting wild and wacky ideas (which you could say is bold) but it avoids any mention of major telematics projects currently under way in the UK and Europe. It has an annoying lack of specificity.

This cliche-laden video (animation drawn on a blank drawing board – geddit!?) repeats some well-rehearsed unarguable facts (‘transport systems reaching capacity’; ‘can’t afford limitless building but neither can we afford to do nothing’) but steers clear of mentioning greenhouse gas emissions or global warming.

It states the ‘new vision for the future’ is ‘intelligent mobility’ as though this was a surprising new discovery.

There is a quick glimpse of some ideas: an odd-looking modular travel pod, in which a passenger is taking a trip between what look like two giant ear muffs between London and Milton Keynes (seriously freaky).

We have a giant container ship with sails (wind-driven hybrid) and then a road-train truck (seriously weird).

There is talk of collaboration which does not include anything about the need to consult the general public – or take account of the public interest in these issues – the nearest we get is a mention of ‘customers’.

Although pod-type transport and giant container ships with equally gigantic sails could well be feasible ideas in the future it is not clear how these very long-term projects are going to reap short-term financial benefits, for example, a quoted 1% reduction in congestion and road-traffic accidents.

There is no mention in either plan or video of the work at presently being done in the UK on intelligent mobility and telematics.

Why for instance among the list of universities the TSC is keen to mention is there no mention of the ecoDriving project at present under way in Europe, a project with two-years to run and chaired at the Institute for Transport Studies, Leeds University?

Why no mention of the substantial UK input into the EU eCall project (even though the UK is not officially participating in it)?

Why no mention of the specific and immediate issues UK insurers are facing in face of the rising call for telematics based insurance products – which could, even in the short term, reap some of the congestion and road-safety targets the TSC has built into its budget forecast?

The only specific promises we get from the TSC is the holding of talks and conferences – planned for 2014.

Perhaps we will be given more substance then – and not promises, hot air or comic-book aspiration.


    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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