The vision of the project is to create an “Innovation-driven Collaborative European Inland Waterways Transport Network” (IW-NET) by developing and proving technological solutions. IW-NET is funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.
Exploiting inland waterway transportation (IWT) is an essential ingredient to reach the European Commissions’ ambitious target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from transportation in the upcoming decades. Especially in dense urban areas, today’s road and rail networks, which also accommodate passenger transport, have already reached their capacity limits. In this regard, IWT not only represents an environmentally friendly but an economically advantageous alternative. However, inland waterway transportation faces a number of challenges that may hinder a "modal shift", such as:
- lacking public awareness, especially compared to rail and road transportation
- low transparency and coordination with other transport modes
- unexploited potential in the field of urban logistics
- infrastructure bottlenecks, such as locks, berths and fairway sections with encounter restrictions
- high average fleet age, increasing requirements to crews combined with a shortage of skilled workers
In contrast to other research projects, which are often dedicated to individual sub-areas of the waterway transportation system, IW-NET is intended to take on a holistic perspective and thus develop and link innovations from the following areas:
- Digitization and integration into multi- and synchromodal transport chains,
- optimized and ICT-supported management of waterway infrastructure
- green and innovative vessel technologies.
The most important element of the project is the so-called "Living Lab", which will serve as a test environment for the technological and organizational approaches. It will include several application scenarios along important waterway corridors in Germany, Belgium, France and Austria.
IW-NET is a joint project of 26 companies, research institutions and public organizations from the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Spain, Italy, Austria, Greece, Romania and Germany. Within this consortium, ISL is taking over the role of the project coordinator and thus represents IW-NET towards the European Commission and the general public.