TransPark

Reimagining car parks as active spaces that connect digital, energy and mobility systems.

Last updated: 26th August 2021

Date uploaded:

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Innovation Lead: Jacqui Glass
UKRI funding: £60,550

Website:
transparkuk.org/


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Summary

Car parks are currently designed and built to deliver one service - somewhere to park your vehicle. But what if these passive single-use spaces could offer more valuable services to users? The University of Sussex and The British Parking Association have carried out research to help reimagine our parking infrastructure. The TransPark research programme hopes to transform car parks into active places that deliver energy, digital and mobility services - so car parks could become a place to sell energy from your electric vehicle (EV) back to the grid or where you're incentivised to take a carbon-reducing route home. By making better use of data and innovation in this way, and by connecting partners who normally don't work together, TransPark should help unlock more value to people, communities, the environment and the economy.

Innovation type: Process
Organisation type: Research centre, Supply chain

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Project pioneers

Dr Ralitsa Hiteva is a Research Fellow at the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) at the University of Sussex. She is Principal Investigator on this project to create new business models and opportunities by rethinking our parking infrastructure. She specialises in infrastructure and energy governance, business models and low-carbon transition.

The problem

Currently we don't make the best use of technology in the way that UK parking infrastructure is designed, built and operated. This limited use of technology, combined with business models, means car parks are passive, single-use spaces. And because of the way car parks have been designed and built, it can make it even more challenging to introduce or implement digital innovations without significant investment in upgrading existing infrastructure. In the UK, we are witnessing slow adoption or adaptation to new technologies that could enhance our cities, such as EV charging or integration between energy, transport and digital services in parking.

Vision

TransPark is a research project starting to reimagine parking spaces and smooth the way for greater adoption of innovation in the way car parks are designed, built and operated in the UK. By rethinking parking as innovation spaces and embedding interoperability from the start, TransPark can help turn these passive spaces into active, future-proofed places that do more to benefit people and the environment. TransPark does this by encouraging new collaborations; facilitating knowledge exchange and debate; developing new value-based business models; and by supporting increased use of innovation that responds to local needs and capacities such as improved mobility, increased use of renewables, and uptake of Electric Vehicles (EVs) and EV charging points.

Key Insight

The UK's net zero target by 2050 and the abrupt way in which COVID-19 has shifted long-established practices of mobility and way of living are already leading to radical changes in transport, energy and digital services. Not only that, but in order to achieve the EV uptake in preparation for EV-only manufacturing beyond 2030, EV infrastructure requires investment – not in a piecemeal way, but through integration of services to avoid becoming obsolete with future innovation. This shifting demand is making it all the more urgent for parking and construction sectors to engage with key trends such as electrification, decentralisation of energy, digitalisation, and climate change. Dr Hiteva referred to these 'innovation junctions' and was excited about the potential of making use of an underused area like parking to tackle these challenges. She worked with Julian O’Kelly of the British Parking Association to examine the opportunities and barriers of embedding interoperability into car park projects and saw that it was an area of hidden potential. They realised that by reimagining parking infrastructure they could enable people and places to do more. By turning parking spaces into an active systems, they have the potential to improve wider infrastructure system and contribute to a more efficient urban system.

First step

TransPark is the response to this - a research project designed to help unlock value-based opportunities that support companies, partners, people and the environment. With Transforming Construction's support, Dr Hiteva recruited two fellow researchers - Research Fellow, Dr. K Lovell, and Research Assistant, Ms K Yang to join the team. Together they created an innovative and inclusive definition of interoperability which drew on experiences across other sectors such as energy, digital/app and platform development and mobility. This definition identified a series of key milestones in project development during which interoperability should be considered and applied to the parking sector. This is supported by the need for greater data sharing between companies and customers to improve systems integration and unlock wider benefits for all.

Barrier

Up until now the funding of parking infrastructure has been focused on building and running the quickest, cheapest parking space. Longer term outcomes, about how spaces could provide positive economic, environmental and social impacts, need to be prioritised and integrated into the design. This is going to require significant changes to existing investment patterns and an understanding of interoperability, but has the potential to lead to multi-use infrastructure that can deliver multiple services, benefits and revenue opportunities.

Digital Innovation

TransPark’s objective is to aid the development of innovative business models bringing together energy, digital & mobility services in car parks. The project will make it easier for car users to access and benefit from energy, digital and mobility services. TransPark centres its research on the value of interoperability and how to embed it into a programme - looking at what stage of the process and when to involve which partners. The research team is engaging stakeholders such as parking operators, parking construction and design companies, digital companies, mobility companies, Distribution Network Operators, energy supply companies, National Grid, community energy companies, local authorities, national level policy makers and regional energy and infrastructure groups. It hopes to encourage these diverse partners to help balance supply and demand, aid systems thinking and helps embed interoperability into parking projects and services, from design to customer experience.

Whole life innovation

The research team has been specifically looking at the issue of whole-life value of car parks. These sites which are currently only used with one specific purpose in mind - to park your car - could become an active space for innovation. In particular, the team has been investigating the potential of car parks to integrate a wider set of services such as energy storage and digital and mobility services. One idea is to make car parks a place where electric cars could be synced with the grid or sell off their excess power. Incentives could also be deployed to encourage people to use alternative routes that could improve traffic planning. 

Collaborators

Dr Ralitsa Hiteva from the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) at the University of Sussex is the lead investigator on TransPark. She is working with the British Parking Association on this research project. Across this project, the team engaged with a number of stakeholders through interviews and online meetings. They also took part in a number of major national and international events to communicate on their research. Among these events, the research team took part in the EV World Congress and in Solar and Storage. Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) is using learnings from the TransPark project and sharing them within its own Future Networks work, as well as more broadly within distribution network operators (DNOs) in the UK.

  • British Parking Association
  • Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) at the University of Sussex
  • Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks

Lead support

Transforming Construction and Innovate UK support has, among other things, helped make two research hires. Network+ has supported this project throughout, for example by creating a video on the research, in partnership with the B1M

Long Term Vision

The UK has committed to reaching net zero by 2050 and to review the way we live and move about our cities and towns as part of the green recovery following COVID-19. Business models for parking are short-term and focused on quickest financial return rather than longer term value. TransPark works by helping develop a shared understanding of interoperability between stakeholders in parking, energy, digital, transport and mobility services, and identifying what business model innovations can emerge through embedding interoperability in the provision of parking in the UK.

Human Stories

Dr Ralitsa Hiteva has fostered relationships and collaborations with other organisations, which will accelerate the impact of this project. She is bringing together partners from sectors that would never normally work together, with the shared aimed to improve infrastructure for the people who move about our towns and cities and support a more sustainable built environment.

Powerful Processes

TransPark centres its research on the value of interoperability which requires the sharing of data across diverse partners such as parking operators, parking construction and design companies, digital companies, mobility companies, Distribution Network Operators, energy supply companies, National Grid, community energy companies, local authorities, national level policy makers and regional energy and infrastructure groups. By aiding and encourage systems thinking and data sharing in this way, TransPark hopes to help these partners reimagine car parks as active places that deliver integrated energy, digital and mobility services.

Fascinating Facts

This project brings together an experienced team of researchers in innovation and business models from the Science Policy Research Unit at The University of Sussex and the British Parking Association - the largest trade association for the parking sector in Europe.  TransPark is engaging with parking operators, parking construction and design companies, digital companies, mobility companies, Distribution Network Operators/energy supply companies/National Grid, local/community energy companies, local authorities, national level policy makers and regional energy and infrastructure groups.

Benefits

Active Energy
One of the findings of this project is that car parks could provide methods of energy production and distribution and this could be implemented to create a net zero and carbon positive impact of the infrastructure. For example, car parks could be a place where electric cars could be synced with the grid or sell off their excess power. These benefits extend beyond being energy self-sufficient to having positive impacts through distribution to the national grid.

Whole-life Value
TransPark helps multiple stakeholders - from parking developers, parking managers/operators, distribution network operators, energy supply companies, building managers, digital and mobility companies, and local authorities - create and capture value from a broader set of services. This broader set of services, such as flexibility and energy storage, create local value and contribute to more sustainable development and environmental benefits.