Newcastle University’s Professor of Intelligent Transport Systems, Phil Blythe, has been named the Government’s Chief Scientific Advisor for the Department for Transport for a further three years.
Supporting the Secretary of State, the Rt Hon Chris Grayling, and his Ministerial team, Professor Blythe will continue his role as strategic advisor on Science, Engineering and Technology to ensure the UK’s transport system is sufficiently robust to meet future challenges.
"We have the expertise, the technology, the innovation and the industry ... for the UK to continue to be at the forefront of this transport revolution" Professor Phil Blythe, Chief Scientific Advisor for the Department for Transport
Launch of the Industrial Strategy
His re-appointment follows the launch of the Government’s ambitious new Industrial Strategy earlier this year, focussing on four Grand Challenges that reflect global trends that will shape our future and represent industries where the UK has an edge.
Two of the challenges – future of mobility and clean growth – will be a key focus for the Department of Transport and Professor Blythe says they present an exciting opportunity for us to put the UK at the forefront of the decarbonisation agenda. In addition we see mobility and ageing an important area for us too, all underpinned by AI and big data.
“We have seen a rapid change in transport over recent years and this will continue exponentially over the coming decade,” says Professor Blythe.
“One of the key differences has been the shift in focus from the mode of transport to the ‘user journey’ and the transition from discreet, independent rail, road and air networks to a more joined up transport system that is underpinned by digital infrastructure.
“We now book one ticket online that connects trains, buses, metros and ferries; paper tickets are being replaced by smart technology; and we can get information and updates about our journey in real time directly to our mobile phones. This change in how we do business has coined the phrase Mobility as a Service (MaaS).
First flying taxis
On our roads we’ve seen the introduction of the first electric vehicles and the implementation of the charging infrastructure that supports them. In Newcastle we are trialling smart traffic systems to reduce congestion and give priority to certain users in a bid to cut air pollution in our city centres. The smart traffic management will ultimately pave the way for automated and driverless vehicles on our roads
“Over the next three years, the transition to EVs will be rapid as we drive forward the ultra-low agenda.
“Newcastle University together with Nissan and other partners will roll out the first 1,000 vehicle-to-grid charging points to allow electric vehicles to be fully integrated into the electricity grid.
“Industry is already starting to explore the potential of Hydrogen as a fuel and it won’t be long before we see the introduction of more autonomous vehicles – from the small two-person pods running around our urban areas to freight convoys on our motorways.
“And I’m sure we’ll also see our first flying taxis. We’re already starting to see the technology and certainly in the UK we should be planning our buildings with reinforced, flat roofs that are strong enough to support a flying taxi rank - there are fourteen consortia worldwide racing to deliver the first prototype taxi.
“What we want is for the UK to continue to be at the forefront of this transport revolution – we have the expertise, the technology, the innovation and the industry.
“The aim of the grand challenges is to boost the drive and ambition to make things happen more quickly and bring us all together.”
World-leading research and expertise at Newcastle
Through major projects such as the £65m Faraday Battery Institution, of which Newcastle University is one of the founding institutions, research is already well underway in the UK to improve battery technology that will make EV’s more efficient and cost effective for the consumer.
Work on smart grids and the implementation of a whole systems approach to energy transitions led by the University’s National Centre for Energy Systems Integration - based on the Newcastle Helix site - are test beds that will lay the foundations for decarbonising the grid. And last year Newcastle University, in partnership with Northern Gas Networks and Northern Powergrid, launched InTEGReL – an energy research and demonstration site to develop a fully integrated, zero carbon multi vector energy system for Research, Learning, Skills and Engagement. Working with Nissan, the University is part of the world’s first, large-scale trial of Vehicle-to-Grid technology.
Newcastle’s world-leading expertise in the field of Healthy Ageing and the University’s National Innovation Centres for Ageing and Data, also put it central to the final two grand challenges of Ageing and AI and Data.
“There is a great deal of cross-over between the grand challenges – particularly the areas of Ageingand mobility – and Newcastle has extensive expertise in both these areas,” explains Professor Blythe.
“Projects such as DriveLAB which is helping older people retain their independence by driving safely for longer are vital to the ageing well agenda.
“On public transport, we need to be looking at how we continue to improve accessibility and affordability so it is the best possible service for everyone.
“The challenges are ambitious and exciting and I’m looking forward to the next three years at the heart of the UK’s transport revolution."