Two organisations within Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) are part of a project that has been awarded nearly € 25 million in EU funding for a project that will improve the sustainability of ports in the European Union. In total 45 organisations will be collaborating in an international alliance working on a Horizon2020 project under the Green Deal Call to boost the green and digital transition. The project, led by the Port of Rotterdam, is expected to start in September 2021 and will run for five years.

The Erasmus Centre for Data Analytics (ECDA), hosted by Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) and the Erasmus Centre for Urban Port and Transport Economics (Erasmus UPT) will have prominent and leading roles in several parts of the project that has been given the acronym MAGPIE: sMArt Green Ports as Integrated Efficient multimodal hubs.

Speeding up sustainable port energy

In the years ahead, the transport sector is expected to transition to clean energy, but it’s not yet clear which types it will adopt, and for which modes of transport. However, speeding up the implementation of sustainable energy and enhancing its roll-out on a larger scale is dependent on the development of new digital tools, new market mechanisms and non-technological frameworks. Here’s where the expertise of the two specialist EUR centres will be used in the MAGPIE project. Given MAGPIE’s thematic focus on green energy and autonomous mobility, its collaborative nature, and its focus on strengthening the regional economy, it fits perfectly with EUR’s strategy to create positive societal impact, as well as with the Erasmus strategic convergence initiatives on AI, data and digitalisation from the universities and medical schools of Delft, Rotterdam and Leiden, and on Resilient Delta.

“Integrating academic knowledge at EUR with business-led innovation and knowledge from other institutes and disciplines allows EUR to contribute to one of the major challenges of the city of Rotterdam and its port: the energy transition.”

Ed BrinksmaPresident of the Executive Board EUR

The MAGPIE project will create demonstration and pilot projects in the living laboratory environment of the Port of Rotterdam, to advance technological, operational, digital and organisational aspects of energy supply for use in ports. Once the grant agreements and the formal selection process are satisfactorily completed, ECDA and Erasmus UPTexpect to work on the pilot projects and to do supporting research in various fields. They will collaborate closely with TU Delft, and with TNO.

Enhancing logistics and energy systems

Prof. Rob Zuidwijk, Professor of Global Supply Chains and Ports at RSM and Academic Director of ECDA, said: “This project will allow us to work with public and private partners on innovative concepts for autonomous and green logistics in ports. We can build on our expertise in these fields, but can also learn from and contribute to the demonstrators in the project. For example, some of the demonstrators will help us further understand how logistics systems support energy systems but also depend on it, and how methods can be deployed to enhance the performance of these combined systems. Also, we will discover how autonomous transport solutions help create new modes of transport that give new meaning to ‘modal shift for green performance’.”

Data analytics in port operations

Dr Marcel van Oosterhout, Associate Exective Director of ECDA, said: “In this project, the power of data is harnassed by linking a digital twin of the port with the power of AI to optimise the energy system and the use of renewable energy in connection with an optimised logistics network. ECDA’s expert practices on energy and sustainability, and sustainable global supply chains and ports will provide a cross-disciplinary perspective on this challenge. The project fits well into our purpose to prepare society for a data-driven future that is hands-on and human-centred and that guides us towards a sustainable world.”

Towards a ‘new normal’

Dr Larissa van der Lugt, Director of Erasmus UPT, an Erasmus University based independent specialist knowledge centre for applied research into port economics and management, urban economics, mobility and transport, noted: “Not all developments in the project are about technology. Erasmus UPT is responsible for impact monitoring and developing the right non-technological frameworks to enhance adoption of the innovations. These can include new market mechanisms, new financial models or price differentiation – in fact all the financial and economic infrastructures that would help a technological innovation to be implemented in a port business. We will consider the cost gap between the old way of doing things and the new way, and what that means when encouraging new users to adopt it. The information we generate for MAGPIE can be used in similar port environments around the world, for scaling up the innovations from the MAGPIE pilot projects, while the information we uncover will help to make new developments become the norm in the market.”

Disclaimer: This communication should not be regarded under any circumstances as a formal commitment by the CINEA to provide financial support, as this depends on the satisfactory and timely conclusion of grant agreement preparation and on the internal completion of the formal selection process.

RSM/ECDA: Dr. Marcel van Oosterhout and Prof. Rob Zuidwijk
Erasmus UPT: Dr. Larissa van der Lugt and Martijn Streng