Intelligent Mobility Summit

3 May 2012





By Vince Cable Secretary of State.

[Check against delivery]

Good afternoon, it’s a real pleasure to join you for what is an important event.

We are not here to talk about technology – There are plenty of global technical congresses to do that. This Summit is about the business opportunities. Fostering new collaborations and business innovations in the spaces between traditional sector boundaries.

Effective transport infrastructure, which enables people and goods to move freely around the country, is a necessary ingredient of a resilient and successful economy. After all, nearly two thirds of goods are moved using the UK’s road network.

We can’t afford for our transport networks to become clogged or gridlocked. Analysis by the Cabinet Office suggests the costs of congestion, in its wider sense, are substantial: £12bn lost through delays; up to £10bn as a result of pollution; around £11bn because of the associated effects on health.

But, as you have already heard today, there are substantial challenges involved in tackling the issue. Trying to build our way out of this problem is not a viable option, either financially or environmentally.

Instead, we need to harness the potential of new technologies, those in development and new ones not even thought of yet, to become more intelligent in our management of vehicles and roads, using the existing capacity more efficiently while improving safety and reducing congestion.

An intelligent transport network offers wide-ranging benefits for the economy – enabling businesses to become more competitive as transport and logistics costs are reduced; ensuring journey times are more predictable; and reducing the associated CO2 emissions as less fuel is consumed.

Economic opportunities

It also has the potential to create substantial new markets, which UK-based manufacturers – in automotive, telecoms, electronics and other sectors – can exploit to find new customers, at home and abroad. As the number of cars in the world accelerates from one billion today to an expected four billion by 2050, all countries will have to invest in technology to avoid the chaos of global gridlock.

So the leadership that Britain’s automotive industry is showing on Intelligent Mobility is critical.

Vehicle design and production is one of this country’s most successful manufactured products. The sector outperforms many of its international competitors, producing high-value, high-quality vehicles that the world wants to buy.

Over 40 companies manufacture vehicles in the UK, ranging from global volume car and bus builders to specialist, niche marques. Over 3,000 companies, which directly employ 135,000 people, operate in the sector.

Over the past 18 months around £4bn of new investment commitments have been pledged by major global car producers, including JLR, Ford, BMW, Bentley, Toyota. The clarity and leadership provided by the Automotive Council has helped create the confidence that underpins new investment in Britain.

Our auto industry is moving in the right direction – car exports are almost at an all-time high and evidence suggests our cars are winning global market share from others. This continuing success provides strong foundations on which to develop the new products and technologies needed to meet the Intelligent Mobility challenge.

And the potential benefits for the bottom line are substantial for companies that establish themselves in these markets at an early stage.

Current projections suggest that, in the UK alone, Intelligent Mobility may expand to be an industry employing 20,000 people and turning over up to £5bn within a decade. This analysis is provisional – it is difficult to quantify the growth potential of an industry still in its infancy – but it gives a sense of the commercial opportunities on offer.

Industry leadership and collaboration

The Automotive Council will be overseeing important work in the months ahead to help realise this untapped potential. Its Intelligent Mobility working group is developing a roadmap – which today’s event is intended to shape – to identify what needs to be done to foster the convergence of technology and transport systems.

The group will also be compiling a report that identifies the UK’s current capabilities, analysing strengths and weaknesses, to go hand-in-hand with the roadmap. Both pieces of work are expected to be completed later this year.

But this is just the beginning, and it is important to emphasise that successful development of new transport systems and technologies will require collaboration between different industrial sectors.

As cars with sophisticated on-board computers become the norm, equally sophisticated communications systems will be required so they can talk to one another – enabling car-to-car warning systems; driver aids that warn of traffic jams and accidents; or vehicles using sensors to drive in close formation to use road space as efficiently as possible.

In the longer term, the road ahead may include autopilot driving modes; cars that connect with parking systems to reserve spaces at destinations; or smart systems enabling vehicles to communicate and avoid each other at junctions.

If we are to achieve these innovations, which once seemed to belong purely in the realms of science fiction, collaboration needs to be the norm – between vehicle manufacturers and mobile communications companies; electronics businesses and infrastructure companies; clean energy developers and logistics firms.

Government role

And government has an important role to play, too. We cannot just leave it to market to generate the investment in R&D required to get this fledgling industry off the ground.

Last month we announced plans to set up a transport systems Catapult Centre, which will help get ground-breaking research out of the lab and into the marketplace. It will be one of seven Catapults, backed by over £200m of government funding, which will support the development of industries and technologies important to the UK’s economic future.

The Transport Systems Catapult will provide facilities for businesses and researchers to develop and test innovations that will lead to integrated, efficient and sustainable national transport systems.

We are also collaborating with innovITS, the UK Centre of Excellence in transport telematics and technology for sustainable mobility; MIRA, one of the world’s leading automotive design and development facilities, and the Transport Research Laboratory on the ‘Innovits Advance’ facility, housed at MIRA’s headquarters in Nuneaton. Government has already contributed almost £10 million funding towards its establishment.

The state-of-the-art research and development centre will enable the telecomms, automotive and electronics industries, along with highways authorities and operators, to develop, test and refine future transport technologies in a highly controlled environment. Earlier today you will hopefully have seen the short video showing the types of activities that are being carried out at innovITS Advance.

The facility is equipped with communications networks including GSM, 3G & Wi-Fi; roadside beacons and monitoring systems such as inductive loops; and precision position-monitoring technologies such as differential GPS, Ground Truth and Galileo based systems. And these are just some of its features. In fact it boasts everything required to realise Intelligent Mobility in a safe and secure environment. This is what makes it unique in Europe and possibly the world.


These investments clearly signal the government’s commitment to meeting the challenges of Intelligent Mobility head on – and our determination to support the UK’s world-class automotive sector as it leads the way in designing the technologies and infrastructure the world will want to buy.

I am ready to work with the Automotive Council, and with industry, to enable the UK to realise the opportunities created by Intelligent Mobility – and the contribution it can make towards sustainable economic growth, efficient transport networks and a cleaner, safer society.

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