Transport Vision 2050: the value of transport and alignment

Blurred light train

The Innovate UK Transport Vision 2050 is intended to inform strategy and investments and stimulate discussion. In this blog we explore why this is needed.

On 29 February 2024 Innovate UK published our Transport Vision 2050, second edition. The transport vision is intended to:

  • inform Innovate UK’s strategy and investments
  • influence investment and actions of others
  • stimulate discussion and increase alignment

Why we need this Transport Vision 2050

Transport matters to everyone. Better transport means we’re closer to our friends and family and the services we need and want.

It also matters to business. Transporting parts to make things or finished product to customers is a cost, both financially and in time. Better transport reduces these costs and makes companies more competitive.

What we want from transport is changing

Transport was responsible for a quarter of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2021. That isn’t something that can continue if we want to reach net zero. Those emissions are embedded in people’s lifestyles and the products businesses sell, and people and businesses want them reduced ideally to zero. In response, transport providers are reengineering their products to remove these emissions.

At the same time transport is getting more efficient as it deploys new solutions including digital ones. This is changing how transport is purchased, how it’s provided and the total customer experience.

It’s a big investment to bring new products to market or deploy new travel solutions. And that gives transport solution providers and their supply chains a challenge. In these changing times, what are the right products and services to invest in and when?

A connected city

A connected city. Credit: siraanamwong, iStock, Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

We need one single vision of the future

We need to turn to the experts and their forward forecasts. Which solutions will come to market when, and in what volumes.

The challenge here is, at least in some areas, there are contradictory and conflicting forecasts.

We found this here at Innovate UK. With our own in-house experts when we tried to form our consensus view, we had several different scenarios and assumptions we were working to. Each was logical and supported by evidence. But they weren’t compatible. They didn’t add up to one single vision of the future.

And that’s a problem for us, and anyone else who wants to invest in the future of transport.

Return on investment

At Innovate UK we make investments on behalf of the taxpayer, and we want these to deliver the maximum return. And like any investor each investment can only be made once. We need to know which changes are more certain, and which are higher risk. We need to have confidence about which products and services will reach the market, when that will happen and in what volumes. These all impact the return on investment.

That’s why five years ago we started working on the first version of the Innovate UK Transport Vision, published in August 2021. We wanted a single view of the future including levels of confidence and supporting evidence. And we found it so valuable we updated this over the last two years resulting in the second edition being published in February 2024.

We’ve completed a desk review covering over 200 published strategies, forecasts and other documents that influence and predict the future of transport. We’ve used these to determine the most likely future for the UK transport system. And then we’ve tested this with over 200 stakeholders, using their feedback to improve and refine this forecast.

A range of forecasts

Alternative methods of transport

Alternative methods of transport. Credit: DmitryMo, iStock, Getty Images Plus, via Getty Images

Some things we’re more confident about, like the use of battery electric technology for cars. There is strong consensus that this is the dominant technology and very limited support for other technologies, at least by 2050.

For other things there is much less certainty. One example is the technology to decarbonise flight, and especially the timing. Will hydrogen power 27% of flights in 2050 as proposed by the mission possible partnership? Will it be 5% as per the Jet Zero strategy? Or will it be lower? There are a range of forecasts out there and this lack of alignment causes challenges for investors who want to invest in the right technology at the right time.

Unlocking a better future

For our vision, after consulting with a number of stakeholders, we’ve aligned with the Jet Zero strategy. But this is one of many areas where more innovation, evidence and discussion is needed to increase alignment. If we can make that future more certain we should unlock more investment and a better future for transport and therefore society and the economy.

This is one of the reasons we’ve published the transport vision. We want to prompt these discussions and listen to the feedback so that we can update and improve our view of the future.

Your feedback

This second edition of the vision builds upon the first edition, updating where new evidence and trends have emerged. But most importantly it’s been updated to reflect the feedback we’ve received from the community. We really want to hear from you. What have we got right and where have we gone wrong?

Your feedback will help shape our investments. We continue to use the Transport Vision to inform our investments and we believe it’s a useful source for others to inform theirs.

Please do read the UK Transport Vision 2050 and let us know what you think via the feedback form. Your views will shape the third edition.

PS. Over the coming weeks some of our subject matter experts will share a bit more insight into a few areas covered in the vision. The vision has deliberately been kept concise but with a bit more space on a specific subject our experts can add a bit more colour. Please look out for these.

Top image:  Credit: Bim, E+, via Getty Images

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