Smart transport is just as important as low-carbon transport in reducing global greenhouse gas emissions. The Pilot-T scheme gives Norwegian developers of export-friendly, smart mobility solutions a big boost.
It is imperative: global transport must become sustainable. But it will take more than electric vehicles and hydrogen-fuelled ships. Making transportation smarter and capable of moving passengers and freight with less resources, greater flexibility and fewer accidents will be equally important.
This is why Norway has established the Pilot-T funding scheme, which is designed to accelerate the application of novel, smart mobility solutions. The scheme provides support for developing and piloting technologies and business models with the potential to enhance the transport system of tomorrow by increasing mobility, improving safety and security, and reducing emissions.
“It’s all about smart tools that reduce emissions, improve traffic safety and increase freedom of movement,” says Tor Mühlbradt, who is responsible for the Pilot-T scheme at Innovation Norway. The scheme is a collaborative effort between Innovation Norway and the Research Council of Norway, commissioned by the Ministry of Transport.
The scheme is divided in two. The Research Council allocates funding for research and development of smart solutions. Innovation Norway, meanwhile, allocates funding for demonstration, commercialisation and scaling of smart transport technology. Mühlbradt explains the difference.
“The Research Council finances knowledge development. We finance market-oriented development, and projects are required to culminate in a concrete application.” The Pilot-T scheme encompasses all commercial and passenger transport within all four modes of transport – road, rail, air and sea.
“To be eligible for Pilot-T funding, projects must involve smart technology and ICT and there has to be a business and scaling plan. The project must also involve a partnership or other form of cooperation.”
MobilityLab is an arena for Norwegian mobility startups. Together with a large network of corporate partners and partner organisations, MobilityLab works to cultivate smart, profitable and sustainable mobility solutions – exactly the type of project the Pilot-T scheme is looking for.
According to MobilityLab, the scheme is an effective, precise and useful instrument.
“Pilot projects are very capital-intensive. Pilot-T allocates a significant sum, making it possible to invest in pilots. If your application is approved for funding, you will get a big boost,” says Henrik Hatlebrekke, the former head of MobilityLab.
Not only is the scheme useful for companies, but the way it is organised brings forth the best solutions.
“One of the best things about the scheme is that you won’t receive funding if your project doesn’t involve cooperation between several actors. This yields better, more effective solutions,” says Hatlebrekke.
Øyvind Sævig, who took over the reins at MobilityLab in early 2020, praises the Pilot-T scheme for being accurately targeted, and therefore more effective.
“The Pilot-T scheme is precisely targeted towards the interface between transport and ICT. This makes it easy to determine who satisfies the criteria and who doesn’t. For example, if we invite 100 companies to an information meeting about the scheme, we will receive a positive response from over 60 – that is a huge hit rate in this industry. Our experience with other support schemes is that it’s very difficult to determine who is eligible and who isn’t.”
According to Sævig, the Pilot-T scheme has definitely had a positive impact on Norwegian business and industry and on establishing smart transport systems.
“There’s a lot of good activity in car subscription and carsharing services in Norway. The mobility platform Urban Sharing, for example, received Pilot-T funding in 2019. They’ve already managed to launch in Italy amid the coronavirus lockdown. That’s pretty impressive. Another example is imove, which offers car and electric scooter subscriptions, and which is now entering Sweden and Germany,” he says.
Although MobilityLab works primarily with early-stage startups, Sævig clearly stresses that the focus is on highly sustainable solutions.
“The transport industry is a climate sinner. No single solution that can change this. However, the sum of numerous solutions can make a difference. If we can facilitate the replacement of fossil-fuelled cars with electric cars and car ownership with carsharing and implement low-carbon logistics, these together will have a genuine impact.”
“I’m 100 per cent certain that Pilot-T is a huge help in bringing forth these types of solutions,” he says.
“Mobility and associated infrastructure are critical to society and affect our everyday lives. New digital technology gives us tools to redesign our transport systems. We must take advantage of these to develop sustainable transport that benefits both people and the planet,” says Torun Degnes.
Degnes is General Manager of SAMS Norway, a business cluster for Norwegian companies that develop sustainable autonomous transport solutions. In her opinion, the Pilot-T scheme has an important role to play in the industry.
“The scheme promotes innovation within a system perspective and – as a collaboration between the Research Council and Innovation Norway – supports a cohesive, long-term development pathway. Sometimes we need to do research to obtain new knowledge, while other times we have to find the right way of applying, scaling and commercialising a technology,” she says. She believes that Pilot-T projects can create fertile ground for wide-ranging changes in the way passengers and freight are transported.
“Pilot support schemes like Pilot-T are extremely important for testing and introducing cross-sectoral solutions. These in turn can yield significant positive social effects.”
“Cooperation is virtually obligatory within mobility and transport. It’s impossible to achieve system impacts on our own. And this is a global growth market where Norway can carve out a strong position. We need programmes that strengthen cooperation, bring financial instruments to the table, and support research, innovation and piloting in a cohesive pathway,” she concludes.