The Next Level of Traffic Safety and the Next Level of Innovation Cooperation –What have we learned from NIRA Tech Day at Geely?

Traffic safety – from national to global version and from national action to international cooperation… As the first country that introduced and implemented  “Vision Zero”, i.e. no one should die or be seriously injured in traffic...

Traffic safety – from national to global version and from national action to international cooperation…

As the first country that introduced and implemented  “Vision Zero”, i.e. no one should die or be seriously injured in traffic in 1997, Sweden has also become a research and innovation forerunner in the field of traffic safety.  From a national to a European, and now a global vision, concrete targets have been set up in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to improve traffic safety on a global scale.

Departing from the extensive policy experience as well as the strong research and innovation capacity, Sweden was the first foreign country that launched research and innovation cooperation in the field of traffic safety with China.

China-Sweden Research Centre for Traffic Safety (CTS) was stablished in 2013, co-financed by Sweden’s Innovation Agency (Vinnova) and the business sector. As a first mover of international innovation cooperation in this field, it has been a challenging, but rewarding journey. One key success factor was that the cooperation has attracted interests and engagement of both key policy- and technology actors as well as the best universities from both sides.

Figure: CTS consortium

Even more importantly, the cooperation has also enhanced a mutual understanding of and common interest in the increasingly complex and sophisticated research and innovation needs to ensure and deliver traffic safety. Throughout Phase I (2013 -2016) and Phase II (2016 -2019), the research and innovation strategy and focus have been continuously updated and advanced to develop an integrated approach to addressing both emerging research needs as well as changing policy and regulatory frameworks, associated with increased automation, connectivity and intelligent transport systems.  

Source: CTS

In this development, the dialogue between Vinnova and the key Chinese policy, research and innovation actors has played an instrumental role in making CTS-cooperation a high priority of Sweden-China innovation cooperation. 

Moving beyond a unilaterally funded program from the Swedish side, the CTS has received funding from the Vinnova-MoST (Ministry of Science and Technology) joint innovation programme on traffic safety for 2 projects by 2019 and more projects will be funded in the near future.

Software-based traffic safety solutions – The next level traffic safety with new Swedish actors and new cooperation…

The automotive industry in China is, in comparison with the European, Japanese and North American automotive industries, a young, but fast-growing one. In the face of structural and technical transformations in the automobile industry, particularly when it comes to data-driven and connectivity-driven transformation, we see a rapid innovation development in the Chinese automotive industry, targeting at different market segments, but with a high-ambition for getting the “digital dividend”.    

This new trend and new need have opened opportunities for new Swedish actors to establish cooperation with China for the next level of traffic safety cooperation. This what we have seen at NIRA Tech Day at Geely’s Innovation Centre in Ningbo last week.

NIRA Dynamics, a Swedish deep-tech company with global reach from Linköping Science Park has been working on the Chinese market since 2013 and established partnerships with many of the Chinese car manufacturers. The cooperation between NIRA and Geely was initiated 6 years ago, starting with the cooperation with Volvo cars in 2013. As a world-leading solution provider of software-based Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS), China’s regulation “ Performance requirements and test methods of passenger car tire pressure monitoring system (GB26149)” from 2017, approved by the MIIT (Ministry of Industry and Information Technology), has become a “game-changer” for NIRA Dynamics market outlook in China. According to the new regulation, from 1st Jan. 2019, all M1 model vehicles[1] must carry TPMS in the Chinese market and since Jan 1st, 2020, all vehicles being produced must have a TPMS. This means that China will overtake Europe to be the world’s largest TPMS market by 2020. Given the mandatory TPMS standard, the installation rate in the Chinese TPMS OEM market will grow rapidly over the next couple of years, hitting an estimated 74.2% on a market size of 23.22 million sets in 2021.

NIRA Dynamics Team, Geely Technological Management Center Leadership and Sweden’s Embassy team at the NIRA Tech Day at Geely Innovation Centre, 16 Sept. 2020

I have learned from our NIRA Dynamics colleagues that low tire pressure is a wide-spread problem and important for many reasons: 

  • Tire problems are the 3rd most common reason for passenger vehicle breakdowns.
  • Approximately 20% of all passenger cars have tires which are underinflated by up to 40%.
  • With every 0.2 bar the tire is underinflated, fuel consumption increases 1.5% and the life span of a tire decreases 15%.

With its world-leading iTPMS solution, NIRA Dynamics is delivering smart and responsible mobility services – smart for the wallet and responsible for human life, environment and climate. Geely’s Lynk & Co currently has a sale volume of 1.2 million cars. If the entire system adopts NIRA’s TPI, this alone can save Geely about 80 – 120 million RMB per (104 -156 million SEK) per year through using software-based solutions instead of using sensors, together with significant environment and climate benefits as well as cost-saving for consumers.     

From a Geely perspective, the cooperation with Swedish deep-tech companies, such as NIRA Dynamics is a complementary part of its own heavy investments in research and innovation and a fast-track path to accelerate its digital transformation. Geely position itself as a “pioneer in transformation of automotive technology”, with a larger, but also more diversified core technology portfolio. In this context, safety technologies have become a key component in the development of “software-defined vehicles” to realise electrified, intelligent, connected and shared mobility in the near future.       

The next level of traffic safety and the next level of innovation cooperation – what have we learned?

From CTS-cooperation to NIRA Dynamics’ cooperation with Geely, we see an evolving and encouraging development of Sweden-China cooperation on traffic safety, which provides us with valuable and inspiring insights:

  • Successful cooperation of strategic nature requires a long-term and trust-building process to prepare the ground for mutual understanding and joint efforts. In this context, the cooperation between large companies and between universities on both sides is of strategic importance for a deeper engagement in the innovation ecosystems both in Sweden and in China. In other words, innovation cooperation is not only about making better products. More importantly, it is about becoming part of the innovation ecosystem, i.e. people like your products, share your value-proposition and you grow together with your partners in the ecosystem and on the global markets.

  • Given the complex market- and regulatory conditions, the cooperation between large companies, such Volvo and Geely, play an important facilitating role for smaller companies to establish cooperation in China. We see that there is a significant market and innovation development potential in China for Sweden’s deep-tech companies, such as NIRA Dynamics and its partners. However, for both technical reasons and regulatory viability, the “clustering effects” and the leverage from previous trusted cooperation can hardly be overestimated.
  • In the rapid data-driven and connectivity-driven innovation development, Swedish/foreign companies see their comparative advantages in the Chinese market and an increasing demand for their products and services. At the same time, the regulatory and market conditions are also in a transitional period, in which new challenges and constraints must be managed. To a large extent it is a “learning-by-doing” process for both market actors and policy/regulation-makers, which, more than ever, requires open dialogue and best practice exchange.          

Last, but not least, I would like to thank our NIRA Dynamics colleagues for inviting the Embassy to join the Tech Day and the Geely colleagues for a very inspiring tour at the Innovation Centre.  Digitalization has changed people’s view on mobility and safety. The technical transformations in the automobile industries have changed producers’ view on the creation and delivery of mobility and safety. We need new solutions and new cooperation for mobility, safety, and even more – sustainability. From the future CTS-cooperation as well as NIRA-Geely cooperation, we do see that we will move forward together, to the next level of traffic safety and the next level of Sweden-China innovation cooperation.

Nannan Lundin    

PS: I would also like to thank the Economic Section’s participation in the Tech Day – as a joint effort of Team Transition, Growth and Trade (TGT)! 

[1] M1 vehicle: a passenger vehicle with at least 4 wheels or 3 wheels and a maximum total mass of more than 1 T, with no more than 8 passenger seats except for the driver’s seat.