NECTAR has a short, but dynamic history. It is essentially an offspring of an initiative of the European Science Foundation (ESF) in Strasbourg to favor fundamental, social science instigated thinking on transportation and mobility. Rather than adopting a conventional engineering approach, the focus was mainly on social, economic, psychological and institutional aspects and driving forces of the transportation and communication sector.

Ever since, NECTAR has played a central role in the European debate on the actual performance, the future and the European orientation of transportation systems and networks. The European unification and also the widening of Europe towards the East have meant an enormous stimulus for a broadening of the research horizon of European transportation experts. They have not only been extremely active in academic circles (through the publication of numerous articles and books), but also in policy preparation and analysis (through various forums and programs of the EU and the ECMT). The regular working group meetings and conferences form a refreshing opportunity for an exchange of views and for a deepening of various types of research cooperation.

We are at the crossroads of major changes in the way we travel and deliver goods. The paper authored by Macharis, C., K. Geurs (2019) and published in the journal “Region” describes the scope and history of NECTAR and its clusters. Moreover, it presents a research agenda for the future of transportation research structured along eight cluster topics of NECTAR. The research agenda firstly highlights the growing complexity and need for multi- and interdisciplinary transportation research. Secondly, sustainability needs to be addressed in transportation research in its full meaning, including relationships between policy-making investigations and environmental and equity effects. Thirdly, Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) and digitalization, the development of autonomous vehicles, and shared mobility will have profound impacts on economies, spatial interactions all-around the world, and the availability of high resolution spatial and transportation data. Digitalization generates many new research opportunities but also give rise to new concerns about privacy, safety, equity and public health.

Reference: Macharis, C., K. Geurs (2019). The future of European communication and transportation research: a research agenda. Region 6(3), D1-21.