Rapid transformation of the transport sector is changing research

​The transport sector has undergone revolutionary changes over the past decade and the pace of change continues to increase. This has entailed a transition from traditional vehicle research to completely new research areas that span several disciplines. Sinisa Krajnovic, who is leaving the position as Director of Transport Area of Advance on 31 March after a total of six years, has extensive experience of these changes.

What changes have you seen during this period?

“So much has happened in recent years and the major restructuring of the transport system has created a need for compl​etely new research and education in new disciplines”, says Sinisa Krajnovic.

“The first major shift is related to new vehicle technologies such as electrification and automation, which have driven development forward at a very fast pace. But also new technology such as AI (Artificial Intelligence). A good example is that today we have electrified trucks. Who would have thought that development would go so fast?”

“The second major shift in the transport industry is the development from product to service orientation. It has fundamentally changed the industry. Today, the automotive industry is talking less and less about the manufacture of cars and more and more about the services it offers.”

“Our partners in the transport industry say that they have to run faster and faster to keep up with the development. This means that we at Chalmers must run even faster to ensure that we can meet the needs for research, education and competence provisioning, both next year, and in five and ten years."

“Simultaneously with the changes in the transport system, a change in the energy system is also underway. This means that boundaries between different research areas are blurred. Transport issues are integrated with both energy issues and urbanisation issues, as well as digitization issues.

“Our way of working in areas of advances is a huge advantage that makes it easy for us to quickly adapt to changes in the world around us. We can create new research areas and adapt our education.”

What are you most proud of having accomplished?

“To prepare our researchers for the major societal challenges, we in the Transport Area of Advance have
created a way of working that is based on close collaboration between different departments, divisions and research groups. But also with the University of Gothenburg, which complements our competencies, and with authorities in the transport sector. It has been a key to success, and I am very proud that together we have developed an effective organisation for education, research, skills supply, infrastructure issues and utilisation.”

“We have a very strong network at Chalmers, but we have also created a great deal of trust externally. We have developed clear strategies for our cooperation with the Chalmers strategic partners: Volvo Group, Volvo Cars, CEVT and the Norwegian Transport Authority, Statens vegvesen. Together with the industry, we have built strong infrastructures such as Asta Zero (the world's first full-scale test environment for road safety), Revere (a 400 square meter lab for test vehicles, environmental sensors and simulators) and we are now building SEEL (a national test bed for electromobility).”

“I am also proud that we have created completely new forms of cooperation. For example, through projects with our researchers as academic experts in industry. The fact that researchers can divide their working time between academia and industry and gain direct insight into the needs of industry is very valuable. So-called capstone projects at bachelor's level that are based on collaboration between industry, Chalmers and foreign universities are other initiatives that we have supported and that aim to equip our students for the future."

“Our formation of an EU group to effectively organise efforts around funding from the EU is also worth mentioning.”

What have been the greatest challenges?

“Internally, developments in society have placed great demands on our researchers to switch from being specialists in an area to increased collaboration across disciplinary boundaries to address common challenges.”

“We have needed to create new meeting places and forums that provide opportunities for increased dialogue. We have also created thematic calls in response to the needs of industry, government agencies and research funders.”

“As development goes faster and faster, we have seen a tendency for transport research to be characterized by short-term projects. The short-term perspective entails a risk that we stress research and development and do not have time to work with fundamental research in the new research areas. New research must have a chance to mature and it is important to work actively for a long-term perspective in the education of engineers and PhDs.”

What will be your focus going forward?

“I have had a lot of fun in my role as Director of Transport Area of Advance during these six years, but I also think it is useful to change perspectives and assignments from time to time.”

“In addition to my regular position as a professor of Computational Fluid Dynamics, I have already got a few new assignments. Since last autumn, I am Assistant Head of Department at the Department of Mechanics and Maritime Sciences. There, my experience and the network from the assignment as a Director of Transport Area of Advance will be very useful. In collaboration with the industry, I will also continue to work with long-term funding for vehicle research.”

“Additionally, I will continue to work with gender equality, including in Chalmers Genie initiative (Gender Initiative for Excellence), after the mentoring program for senior female researchers at Chalmers that I have been involved in and initiated”, says Sinisa Krajnovic.

On 1 April 2022, Sinisa Krajnovic is succeeded by Balázs Kulcsár in the position as Director of Transport Area of Advance. 

Text: Linda Wallgren Jirvén

Page manager Published: Tue 29 Mar 2022.