Due to its small size in comparison with other modes of transport, inland navigation is a niche sector in the transport industry. For the further development of this efficient and environmentally friendly mode of transport the need for innovation regarding infrastructure, digitalisation, education and training as well as fleet modernisation has to be considered in the European research agendas.
In 2017, the explicit consideration of innovation needs concerning inland navigation and inland waterways was attained in the Work Programme 2018-2020 of the EU Programme for Research and Innovation "Horizon 2020" (call "Moving freight by water: Sustainable Infrastructure and Innovative Vessels"). The close cooperation with the Federal Ministry of Climate Action, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology (BMK formerly known as BMVIT) and other relevant stakeholders (e. g. other waterway administrations, research partners, representatives of the industry) is necessary for that purpose and is being continued during the preparation of the Research Programme for the next financial period of the EU (2021-2028).
Furthermore, the connection to the technology platform ALICE (Logistics and supply-chain management) was actively established, so that inland navigation and inland waterways are properly included in the next innovation programme of the EU.
In January 2019, the European sector representations for the inland navigation sector - European Barge Union (EBU), European Federation of Inland Ports (EFIP), European Inland Barging Innovation Platform (EIBIP), European Skippers' Organisation (ESO), Waterborne Technology Platform and Inland Navigation Europe (INE) - published a joint strategy for targeted research and development work in inland navigation and ports ("Strategic Research Agenda"). In order to achieve the objectives of the strategy, both the inland navigation sector and the European Union need to invest. It is therefore essential to include inland navigation and ports in the future Horizon Europe programme and the Connecting Europe Facility 2021 - 2027 of the European Union. The Strategic Research Agenda is thus also a call from the sector to the European Union to take account of the research and development needs identified.
A document of the same type and name ("Strategic Research Agenda") with the same objective was also published by the Waterborne Technology Platform in January 2019. The big difference between the two documents is that the focus of the Waterborne Technology Platform is not exclusively or only partly on inland navigation. The focus here is on the much larger sector of maritime navigation.
As a member of the Inland Navigation Europe (INE) Executive Board, viadonau played a key role in the development of both Strategic Research Agendas during the reporting period. Within the framework of the INE platform, European waterway administrations and interest groups meet to anchor inland navigation in European strategies. An important step was taken regarding the development of a new european strategy programme for improving of inland waterway transport of the period after 2020 (NAIADES).