The UK’s R&D vision aims to have a net-zero status by 2050, meaning emissions from the manufacturing of transport will be zero, materials will be sourced sustainably and products will be designed to be more resource-efficient, recyclable and easier to re-manufacture. Vehicles, fuel, energy and new infrastructures are just a few examples of areas of Research & Development that will help propel the UK into it’s desired ‘innovation-superpower’ status.
Transport is a vital part of people’s lives, with millions of people relying on the UK’s travel methods every single day. A whopping £4.5 billion has been invested in innovative travel projects since 2007, and the Government’s investment will continue to greatly shape the future of transport for the UK. In 2019 alone, transportation accounted for 27% of the UK’s Green House Gas emissions alone, the UK will need to internally change its infrastructure forever to succeed with it’s net-zero goals.
UK Research & Innovation have joined with Innovate UK, merging their strategic partners to build a new, greener, and more sustainable future for the UK, in terms of transport and mobility. The desired outcome is a travel infrastructure that welcomes the movement of people and goods to different locations in a net-zero, cost-efficient, accessible and reliable manner.
The main areas in which investment and technological/scientific advancement will take place are at the heart of travel itself. The net-zero vision to become a leader in design, innovation, manufacturing and deployment will be balanced on how well the UK can develop new ways of living.
The strategy consists of six key areas where it will be most vital to develop, in order to reach the UK’s R&D vision, which are:
Travel & Transport Demand
The ways in which people travel and use transport will need to change drastically, this will be a natural response to new technologies that improve travel experiences, reduce costs and revolutionize travel business models. New policies and guidelines will need to be established and put into place to ensure that the new net-zero implementations are continuously carried out, if not, sustainable efforts could likely go to waste.
An optimized travel system will rely on understanding innovation itself and the impacts that it can have on our daily lives, so ensuring that education is available surrounding sustainable travel will be vital.
With improved communication comes more opportunities for better efficiency, and new products and services for travelers. By improving the connection of transport systems through the use of cellular and satellite communications can lead to significant efficiency gains, easier transport to further locations, and new economic and social value.
In terms of the UK moving to net-zero by 2050, it will need to carry out a complete shift from fossil fuels such as petrol and diesel, to sustainably produced electricity, hydrogen, and other similar resources, but to also switch supply chains that produce new sources of power. Biofuels such as ethanol that is sourced from corn, biodiesel that is sourced from vegetable oils and animal fats, green diesel that is derived from algae, and biogas that is derived from animal manure are just a few examples of new fuel types that will become the norm.
Ensuring that road vehicles are smarter, more energy-efficient, and safer will be at the forefront of the UK’s sustainable travel vision. Automating vehicles will mean that there would be new business models, new services, less dangerous and time-consuming tasks, and better urban transport.
Business Models will need to change to meet the UK’s R&D vision, such as incorporating advances in technology and government policies to ensure that there is a better use of resources, mass customization, and the bundling of services. Digitalization will also open new opportunities for many businesses, with advances in Robotics and Connectivity altering transport services forever.
The UK’s travel consumption of fossil fuels such as petroleum and diesel should fall by over 90% by 2050 to meet the UK’s R&D vision, being replaced by electricity, hydrogen, ammonia, and other sustainable alternatives. This will create endless employment opportunities for sustainable energy generation, production, and distribution. 145TWh electricity will support electric vehicles, which is already 50% of the UK’s 2021 annual demand, generation of this electricity is not projected to be a challenge, but distribution will require further research & development, and innovation to reach all corners of the UK.
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