The need for innovation in the transportation sector

When talking to the people who build and facilitate transportation in Norway, an overwhelming majority say that they need innovative and entrepreneurial competence in the industry, leader of Konnekt Basit Mohammad says.

By Stine Vedvik

Earlier this month, Konnekt hosted an intensive workshop in collaboration with Engage Centre for students to explore the future of technology in transportation. The students got presented multiple issues related to how transportation can reduce its impact on the environment in a tougher climate. In teams of four, the students came up with innovative solutions with the help of supervisors from Spark* as well as professionals from the transportation sector. The concept “Waymaker” won the cash prize, which is an idea for a software to optimize new roads.

The importance of student collaboration

Leader of Konnekt, Basit Mohammad, says that a majority of people in transportation say that they need competence on innovation and entrepreneurship in the industry.
– They need people that can think in new ways and that dares to make changes. This is also important for students to realize, says Basit. He states that the industry needs interdisciplinary competence, for people to work together across professional environments to come up with solutions together.

Konnekt works to educate students on what is happening in the transportation sector and what challenges the industry is facing, as well as connect businesses and students together for collaborations. This workshop is an example of a such collaboration, in addition to collaborations on bachelor- and master theses, summer internships, and so on.

– We’re under the impression that people are positive for what Konnekt stands for, which is to motivate collaboration for the entire transportation sector, communication manager for Konnekt Petter Aanonsen says. He experience positivity both from the businesses, academia and students by facilitating collaborations such as workshops. 
– We see that it is easier to get perspective in this sector in a wider aspect, in contrast to when a single business is looking for something specific, Petter says.

Thinking outside the box

The general theme for this workshop was how transportation can reduce its impact on the environment in a tougher climate. Senior Engineer in Statens Vegvesen, Hans Westerheim, says that events such as this workshop is important because some of the people that have been in transportation for years might have a more conservative way of thinking.
– It is interesting and important to attend these kind of events, because students are thinking outside the box, Hans says.

Hans believes it is important to incorporate sustainability to the transportation sector.
– To bring the environment and sustainability perspectives into transportation is something that is very important, and there might be a lot of grey-haired people in the industry that don’t regard this as important. This generation [of students] has grown up with there always being an app or technology to solve problems, and therefore I think it is important to get their insights, Hans says.


Finja Tietjen and Dagmar Coelle was part of the team behind the concept “Waymaker” which got awarded the cash prize at the workshop. The idea behind the concept is a software to optimize ideas for new roads.
– We want to build a software that enables us based on geological data, traffic data, data of existing infrastructure, to optimize ideas for new roads. And we have different parameters for that. For example the cost, how much pollution are we going to produce, how much are we going to improve the traffic, but also how much land we are going to use, says Finja.

The software will provide a foundation for discussion, because it will provide a list that compares different options based on the parameters of the program.
– We also want to incorporate new ideas, for example have different types of roads that this model incorporates, Dagmar says. This could entail to reuse old streets, to focus on heavy roads mainly for trucks, or focus on light roads that can be easily torn down.
– So if the road is not used anymore or not used in the same capacity, you can make it smaller so the environmental impact is limited.

Finja Tietjen and Dagmar Coelle are both physics students. Both of them are exchange students from Germany and interested in the environment.
– I always want to try new things, especially now that I’m here as an exchange student. Workshops like this one is a great opportunity to experience new things and think about topics that you wouldn’t otherwise, says Dagmar. The setting of this workshop was something they both enjoyed.
– I really like this setting. You get a problem, a fixed amount of time, and get put in an interdisciplinary team. I think this way is how to generate the best ideas, Finja says. Their team consisted of different academic backgrounds, which they saw as useful for different perspectives and productive discussions on the topic.