“Transport is what brings Europeans together”

Evangelos Bekiaris is well known within European transport research. In an interview with VTI he shares his solid experience and views on transport research.

Since 2019 Dr. Evangelos Bekiaris is President of both European Conference of Transport Research Institutes (ECTRI) and European Rail Research Network of Excellence (EURNEX). During his career he has also been President of Forum of European Road Safety Research Institutes (FERSI) and HUMANIST, European cooperative research networks of importance for VTI as well. He has participated in over 120 EU-projects, in 40 of which he coordinated the whole Consortium.

ECTRI supports the European Commission to formulate its Research Policy Agenda and Roadmap within the transport area, with emphasis on multimodality and integrated transport chains. VTI is well represented in ECTRI, as member of the Board and in several of its working groups.

“Our cooperation within ECTRI makes us the Ambassadors of European transport research and gives us the possibility to express European positions with one voice,” says Evangelos Bekiaris.

He emphasizes two major challenges for the future of transport. The first one is the Greening of transport, where rising energy costs and the European need for rare and high-cost materials make development vulnerable. Research can play a role concerning new technologies to invest in.
The other challenge is automation of transport, shared mobility and micromobility. The Covid-19 pandemic was negative for the public transport which has affected the investment capacity. A result of this could be a delay in deployment of cooperative, connected, and automated mobility actions, as well as a reduction in road safety.

The role of research is here to develop multimodal automated public transport chains that have embedded security and Covid-19 protection. Geofencing based on smart speed adaptation for e-scooters and other electromobility vehicles is a solution to improve traffic safety.

“The fight towards Vision Zero is far from over, given new challenges and conflicts due to fleet automation and micromobility among other.”
On the European level, the financing of transport research needs to be intensified, especially in view of non-European countries in relation to which we still are lagging behind.

Evangelos Bekiaris proposes further financing on what he calls a “European Army of Researchers”, i.e., a better European research integration with an improved mobility of researchers. There is a need to make an Erasmus for researchers.

The competition project TRA VISIONS 2022 is one of several EU projects in which Evangelos Bekiaris participates and where VTI is also a partner.
“The competition is good at every level; young and senior research competition is always good. The young researchers get trained in preparing and presenting high quality publications, compete, integrate at the TRA conference, and get promoted vis-à-vis their future academic, research and even industrial career. This competition promotes the notion of European research championship for our youth.”

Beyond his many international assignments Evangelos Bekiaris is the Director of the Hellenic Institute of Transport (HIT). HIT is, in turn, part of CERTH, a leading centre for research and technology in Greece. HIT covers research within all transport modes and its research has turned out well in an international perspective. HIT is an equal institute regarding gender with many women also on leading positions.

“VTI has always been a model for HIT. When VTI invested in simulators we followed, today we even have a motorcycle simulator. We have also learnt a lot from your complementarity and our researchers represent many different disciplines.”

What are Evangelos Bekiaris´ thoughts about VTI as a research institute then and its role in an international context? He finds that VTI has succeeded in keeping a specialist competence within several areas like simulators and safety. For the future it is important that VTI can continue to develop within this kind of specialized research areas.

“VTI will have a strong role to play on future CCAM as well as micromobility, says Evangelos Bekiaris, who also mentions the VTI traffic safety conference RS5C as an important way to make European research more visible outside Europe.”

Transport is what brings Europe together, says Evangelos Bekiaris. But there are still big problems to solve within some areas like multimodality, safety, security, and inclusion. That is why EU must intensify its research fundings and be in the forefront of transport research.

Evangelos Bekiaris has had many and well-established collaborations with VTI. He mentions especially Björn Peters, former Research Leader at VTI but now retired. Anna Anund, Ingrid Skogsmo and Birgitta Sandstedt are other acquaintances from VTI who have had great importance as partners in different international projects.

“It is always a great pleasure to work with VTI and its cool and high-quality researchers,” Evangelos Bekiaris concludes.

Text: Catharina Arvidsson/VTI
Photo: Anna Manukyan

The original, somewhat abridged, text was written in Swedish and published in the magazine VTI aktuellt 2-2022.