Transport / Sunday, 15 May, 2016


EMPOWER is about rewarding change. Funded by the European Commission’s Horizon2020 programme, the activities of the EMPOWER project started in May 2015 to gather fresh and existing evidence on the power of positive incentives and social innovation to reduce the use of conventionally fuelled vehicles (CFV). We are researching how positive incentives can encourage citizens to reconsider their travel choices and reduce the extent to which they travel using conventionally fuelled vehicles.




Rewarding change also means rewarding a shift to travelling in off-peak hours, car sharing, and schemes to help people avoid travelling altogether. EMPOWER is about the use of positive incentives such as information, points, discounts, rewards, community support and games, rather than charging, pricing, rationing, restrictions and regulation. There is already evidence that the use of a range of incentives can have a strong influence on travel choices. For incentives to be effective, past research has also shown that incentives should be personalised. This implies they should be tailored towards the preferences, personal goals and needs for each person at a specific time. The personalisation of incentives is also needed in order to address the needs of specific vulnerable groups of travellers. Smart devices (phones and tablets) allow two-way information flow between the travelling public and transport authorities or providers, including the ability to offer tailored incentives relevant to the individual’s travel patterns. For this type of scheme to be successful, it is important to consider who governs the different types of data, the sustainable provision of incentives and new collaborations between transport authorities, transport suppliers and third parties. As a result, we are also researching viable business models and how best to evaluate the success of such schemes.

Our approach is ‘human based’ including a mix of social science experiments and ‘Living Labs’. This involves micro-level studies with members of the public who will be offered new, technology based mobility solutions with a range of incentives, and a series of ambitious large-scale, longer term, real-life implementations across Europe. We will also be using a variety of mathematical models and developing a new, holistic evaluation approach.

Large scale EMPOWER Living Labs with the travelling public are taking place in four cities (Gothenburg, Helsinki, Enschede and Manchester). To generate real impact we are also rolling-out the EMPOWER approach in seven more Take-Up Cities, which were announced in March 2016. Our chosen Take-Up Cities include Antwerp, Budapest, Bologna, Milan, Newcastle, Odense and Reading. EMPOWER will generate large volume micro-level mobility data from a large number of individuals in these 11 cities across Europe. Secure access across confidential databases (such as ticket transactions and registration data) will be used to profile and segment individuals, allowing personalised incentives.  Other cities and organisations (EMPOWER Followers) are following the progress of EMPOWER and working with us to make the outputs relevant.

The strength of EMPOWER is that it is researching innovative business models and then developing them in practice with ‘real life’ city leaders and suppliers from four experimental Living Labs and seven Take-Up Cities and communities. We will connect with our Follower Cities and more widely to establish a database of evidence and tools and methods that have been tested on the ground. These will become part of the EMPOWER Toolkit, which is currently being produced. EMPOWER has also recently announced our ICT tools are ready to be used in experiments, pilots and full blown incentive schemes. Further details can be found here.

The main five innovation outputs of the EMPOWER project are:

To stay up to date with any outputs from the EMPOWER project, please visit the EMPOWER website.