Along with the Transport Research Institute at Edinburgh Napier University the South East of Scotland Transport Partnership (SEStran), jointly hosted the mid-term conference of the EU Interreg NSR funded SURFLOGH project. As an international collaboration, SURFLOGH aims to green ‘last mile/first-mile’ delivery, developing cargo hubs that are really ‘smart’, efficient and sustainable.
The whole day was compared by Richard Llewellyn of Edinburgh Napier University, and attended by over 60 delegates from Scottish local authorities, transport operators and voluntary organisations, along with around 30 international guests from the Netherlands, Belgium, and Sweden.
Keynote speakers were Assistant Professor Paul Buijs from Groningen University, who presented the concept of the ‘physical internet’ examining the interface between smart technology and logistics, Dr Jonathan Cowie from Edinburgh Napier, who gave a critical overview of the academic research on last mile consolidation, and Mr Sam Keam, Director of the UK Sustainable logistics operator Zedify, who gave an insight into the commercial realities and practicalities of working in sustainable city centre logistics.
In the afternoon four ‘action labs’ were then hosted by each of the project partners, focusing on:
- Economic viability – critical elements in creating a financially sustainable business (SEStran/Edinburgh Napier)
- Marketing sustainable city logistics (City of Mechelen, Belgium)
- Stakeholder engagement – how do we develop the relationships and ensure the necessary ‘buy-in’? (City of Groningen, the Netherlands)
- Learning by doing – key lessons and insights from a pilot project in the Netherlands (Provence of Drenthe, the Netherlands)
The whole day generated much debate in both the plenary and action lab sessions, with key issues emerging around the ideas of business establishment through bottom-up rather than top-down approaches, the importance of key partnership working in the form of both public-private and private-private, the need to increase public awareness and the importance of validating the concept of the last sustainable mile in order to increase commercial confidence.
The work continues, and the final SURFLOGH conference will be hosted by our project partners the City of Mechelen in October 2020 in Belgium.