Active Research Themes

Through the Academy’s reinvestment research programme, we build knowledge and awareness in the transport and mobility market. We are focussed on five key topic areas.


TRL’s parent body, the Transport Research Foundation (TRF) is a non-profit Scientific Research Association, which uses the income from its investment in TRL to fund an annual programme of research in areas of strategic importance. Through the Academy’s reinvestment research programme, we build knowledge and awareness in the transport and mobility market. By understanding short, medium and long term developments across these sectors, the Academy ensures we have the skills and capabilities needed to maintain our market leading position. We invest in a range of innovative idea across new, emerging and maturing topics/themes.

We participate in other externally funded research opportunities – many led by Innovate UK – collaborating with industry and academia, furthering our collective science and engineering skills and ensuring the UK is at the forefront of transportation and mobility research. Whilst commercial in nature, these strategically important projects are managed by the Academy, within TRL, to ensure appropriate knowledge transfer takes place, and that the intellectual property generated is fully exploited or disseminated.

Our current focus for independent research is on five areas which will support the UK industrial strategy for transport. Each theme links to a page describing active projects at TRL.

Connected and Self Driving Vehicles

When Henry Ford started selling cars, horse-drawn carriages were obsolete within 10 years. We are in a similar decade of evolution which will see radical changes in the form and function, operation and ownership of cars, trucks and buses. There are so many questions about automated, connected, electric, shared (ACES) vehicles, and everyone is in a hurry to have answers.

Ultra Low Emission Technologies

Zero emission transport modes are the holy grail. We will live in an era of mixed technologies as alternatives to fossil fuels are developed and tested and the hype curve runs its natural course. At the moment, the alternatives are untried at scale and largely unregulated. It’s frontier country and our role is to help policy makers to support the solutions with the most promise to deliver on our core mission objectives.

Shared Mobility Services

The personal mobility solution is dead! Long live shared mobility services! In the UK, there just isn’t enough land for personal transport services to be sustainable long term. Future mobility must be based on shared, multi-modal services and new-to-be-invented transport systems for both goods and people. What those services are, how we might use them, their impact on city design, transport planning, and personal lifestyle etc is a whole new area of research.

Intelligent Asset Information

This is not just about collecting data about assets, but collecting the right data in the most efficient way to derive the most insight from it. It’s about the benefits of real time data, collection methods which don’t impact the customer experience, and anticipating data needs of infrastructure and assets not yet in use…

Big Data, Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence

The aggregation and accumulation of increasing volumes of data is beyond human capacity to make sense of. “Computing power” will enable smarter decisions to be made faster.

Strategic Academic Links

We support PhD’s and smaller projects at a range of universities in order to share our knowledge, evolve thinking, and develop new skills. We are currently working with Warwick University, Southampton University, Imperial College London, and Royal Holloway University.

TRL is also an affiliated research centre, which allows us to run our own PhD projects under the governance of the Open University.

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