November 20, 2014 Leave a comment
A European Commission (EC) initiative called Horizon 2020 – 2105 Smart, Green and Integrated Transport will facilitate collaboration between logistics clusters on developing supply chain solutions, particularly projects that promote environmental sustainability. In addition to helping companies bring new ideas to fruition, the initiative gives academic centers such as the Zaragoza Logistics Center (ZLC), Zaragoza, Spain, an important supporting role in unlocking the collaborative potential of these hubs.
Key players came together at the first European Logistics Clusters Forum, on October 14 -15, 2014, in Brussels, Belgium, to explore their possible involvement in the initiative. The bidding process is expected to begin early next year and run until the last quarter of 2015. The EC is providing some €18 million (about $23 million) of funding for a single large project on pan-European logistics applications.
Much effort has already gone into developing logistics clusters in Europe. For example, the Cluster Association of Innovative Logistics of Aragón (ALIA) in Spain was created by ZLC, the Aragón Institute of Technology, Aragón’s Council of Chambers of Commerce, and the Foreign Investment Office of the Government of Aragón. ALIA’s main purpose is to build on the success of PLAZA – Europe’s largest logistics park located near Zaragoza, Spain – by identifying and developing opportunities for logistics research and new alliances, and to promote the region of Aragón (for more on ALIA see the article How to Harness the Economic Power of Logistics Clusters, Frontiers fall 2013).
The creation of clusters such as ALIA involved academia, government and industry. The EC 2015 Cluster Excellence Program is driven by industry only, explains Carolina Ciprés, ZLC Director of Research Programs.
“The aim is to continue the collaboration but at a cluster level, with the participating companies developing their own action plans,” Ciprés says.
Specific plans will emerge during the bidding phase, but an example could be a project to improve the use of synchromodal transportation in Europe (where logistics service providers choose the transportation options for delivering products on behalf of shippers) says Ciprés. Countries such as the Netherlands have well developed options for road, rail, and waterway intermodal links. In Spain, however, there are relatively fewer rail options, and the challenge is to persuade rail operators to expand the number of services for shippers. It’s a chicken-and-egg problem; shippers will not provide the cargo until operators guarantee the rail capacity, and vice versa. Perhaps regional logistics clusters can collaborate on supplying the freight volumes that justify new rail services, and convince terminal operators to supply more origins and destinations. With the capacity in place, shippers and logistics service providers would be better able to make real-time decisions on the optimum intermodal routes for their cargoes.
The sharing of carrier space – called horizontal collaboration – represents another opportunity for improving the efficiency of freight operations while also reducing transportation’s carbon footprint. This type of collaboration is very difficult since it requires companies, including competitors, to pool cargoes and exchange information on relevant freight operations, thus requiring the involvement of a neutral party (or trustee). Cooperation between companies in logistics clusters could provide a collaborative platform for sharing carrier capacity over the last mile.
Although ZLC will not be directly involved in the 2015 Cluster Excellence Program, the Center will provide critical support for the participating clusters in the Aragón region.
“We will try to involve the clusters in our applied research and also in our proposals for research projects in Europe,” says Ciprés. ZLC can also offer advice on potential projects and help to demonstrate the impacts of projects that the clusters choose to pursue.
At the same time ZLC will benefit from its exposure to real-world logistics projects, and can incorporate the lessons learned into its educational and research programs. This two-way exchange will help ZLC to identify subjects for future research.
“This market-oriented approach to collaboration across logistics clusters will benefit companies as the main participants, and give academic centers such as ZLC more visibility in our regions,” says Ciprés.
For more information on the European Commission 2015 Programs contact Carolina Ciprés at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was published in the fall 2014 issue of Supply Chain Frontiers. Subscribe for free to Frontiers here.