Visual interpretation: Conference visitors seen from above looking at posters.

“We want to make sure that Gothenburg remains in the centre for urban freight!”

More than 200 participants from 26 countries gathered in Gothenburg with one area of expertise in common – urban freight. On 17-19 October, 2018 it was time for the 3rd VREF Conference on urban freight organized by the Urban Freight Platform.  Michael Browne (University of Gothenburg), Sönke Behrends (IVL) and Ivan Sanchez-Diaz (Chalmers) were the main conference organizers. 

The importance of urban freight and logistics is increasingly recognised, and Gothenburg is established as a leading city in the logistics field. This large, international conference shows that the city also can serve as a node for urban freight collaboration and knowledge exchange. With researchers, public authorities, city administrations and industry representatives from many different sectors the conference aimed to keep the momentum on urban freight going. The three days offered over 100  presentations and included posters, panel discussions and break-out sessions all highlighting recent research and providing a great opportunity for cross-sector meetings.

The VREF conference on urban freight was organized for the 3rd time by the Urban Freight Platform (UFP) which is an initiative supported by the Volvo Research and Educational Foundations (VREF). The UFP works as a facilitator of academic research on urban freight at University of Gothenburg and Chalmers University of Technology within the context of the logistics competence center Northern LEAD.

Having so many people from 26 countries meeting to discuss this topic was great! Sönke Behrends says.

Visitors had travelled from Europe as well as non-European countries like India, China, USA, Brazil, Colombia, South Korea, Chile, Singapore, Ethiopia, South Africa and Canada to take part in the program. ​

"We obviously need this type of international event"

Michael Browne

Presentations, discussions and posters covered many topics, but some of the main issues were:

  1. The role of freight in denser cities with lower car use in the future.
  2. Finding ways to use capacity more efficiently – both in terms of vehicles and infrastructure.
  3. Initiatives that support private and public sectors working more creatively together and coming up with solutions that can be upscaled and applied quickly.
  4. Exploring the scope to take lessons from one city and apply them to another; maybe even between cities on different continents.

I am pleased to hear from delegates that they found many of the presentations inspiring and motivating, says Michael Browne about the programme.

Among the highlights from the programme was one of the breakout sessions. Colleagues from Lyon invited people to play an urban logistics game – an event that gathered almost too many people to fit into the room. Many presentations contained insights and ideas that stimulated new ideas, and the exchange of information and the poster session on day one generated excellent discussions going on for over an hour as people looked at the work of their colleagues and could discuss the topics one on one.

The quality of the contributions and the enthusiasm of the participants made it a really worthwhile event, says Ivan Sanchez-Diaz.

The conference was appreciated by many visitors and now the UFP team is starting to look ahead, to the next one in 2020. They just received a confirmation that VREF (Volvo Research and Educational Foundations) granted funding for urban freight research a further three years until December 2021, which means that the Urban Freight Platform can carry on with the ambitious research programme and networking that exists today. 

 We obviously need this type of international event and want to make sure that Gothenburg remains in the centre for this debate, says Michael Browne. Now, we gather to learn from the recent conference in order to make the next one even better! ​


Text: Ulrika Georgsson

Photo: Malin Tengblad
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Published: Wed 05 Dec 2018. Modified: Fri 07 Dec 2018