EU Project "IW-NET" Promotes Innovation in Inland Waterway Transport


AIT part of a broad international consortium

Vienna (AIT): The increased use of inland waterway transportation is an important factor in achieving the ambitious goals of the European Commission to reduce transport-related greenhouse gas emissions. By 2050, CO2 emissions in this sector are to be reduced by around two thirds. With the recently launched "IW-NET" (Innovation Driven Collaborative European Inland Waterways Transport Network) research project, a broad-based consortium is now supporting the EU's strategic efforts through extensive international cooperation. In the process, various concrete innovations for European inland waterways transport are being developed and tested. The 36-month project, which is part of the "Horizon 2020" funding programme, is coordinated by the Bremen Institute of Shipping Economics and Logistics (ISL). The AIT Center for Mobility Systems and five other Austrian research and implementation partners are part of the "IW-NET" project.

Digitalisation, optimised infrastructure management and innovative ships
The broad consortium consists of 26 companies, research institutions and public organisations from the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Spain, Italy, Austria, Greece, Romania and Germany. The common goal is to promote innovation in inland navigation and thus contribute to a sustainable, future-oriented transport network.

The project focuses on the following key aspects:

  • Digitalisation

Proactive and forward-looking transport planning in logistics - regardless of the modes of transport used - is essential. For the integration of inland waterways, however, it is necessary to consider additional framework conditions and needs. Therefore, special attention is paid to the planning of inland waterway operations in urban areas as well as to long-distance transport – on the one hand with demand forecasted routing (e.g. in urban areas) and on the other hand with data-driven optimisation with regard to navigability in uncertain water conditions (e.g. during floods).

  • Intelligent traffic management

Along inland waterways, bottlenecks such as locks impede the free movement of ships. Therefore, emphasis is put on intelligent lock management strategies to reduce uncertainties in freight transport, for example by increasing the reliability of the estimated time of arrival. On this basis, berth planning (including planning of shore power supply and other services) will be optimised.

  • Innovative ships

Due to the changed requirements for inland waterway transport, adjustments have to be made to the vessels used. This applies, for example, to automation in urban goods distribution. Changing environmental conditions, such as longer and more extreme high and low water seasons, must also be taken into account. The development of new push boats and barges, which increase capacity and thus (cost) efficiency along inland waterways, is part of the project, as is the integration of the Galileo navigation system.

Living Labs: Demonstration of the results in real operation

The heart of "IW-NET" are so-called "Living Labs", which will serve as a test environment for the technological and organizational approaches and include several application scenarios in Germany, Belgium, France and Austria. On the Danube in Austria, the development of new push boats and the data-driven planning of navigation will be investigated in order to be well prepared for the increasingly extreme high and low water seasons.

The aim of the project is not only to ensure continuity on inland waterways but also to optimise the interaction with other modes of transport. "A sustainable, future-proof design of European freight transport is only possible by considering the mobility system as a whole," says Dr. Matthias Prandtstetter, Thematic Coordinator for Transport Optimisation and Logistics and Senior Scientist at the AIT Austrian Institute of Technology. "The inland waterway plays an important role, especially in the European context, has sufficient capacity to enable an ecological shift, and at the same time reduces the costs of trans-European transport," adds Prandtstetter, who is looking forward to working together in the international consortium.

In Austria, in addition to the AIT Austrian Institute of Technology GmbH, the FH OÖ F&E GmbH, Skillz GmbH, Nothegger GmbH, TTS-Group GmbH and the Ingenieurbüro Anzböck participate in the project.

AIT Austrian Institute of Technology
The AIT Austrian Institute of Technology is Austria’s largest non-university research institute. With its eight Centers, AIT regards itself as a highly specialised research and development partner for industry. Its researchers focus on the key infrastructure issues of the future: Energy, Health & Bioresources, Digital Safety & Security, Vision, Automation & Control, Mobility Systems, Low-Emission Transport, Technology Experience and Innovation Systems & Policy. Throughout the whole of Austria – in particular at the main locations Wien Giefinggasse, Seibersdorf, Wiener Neustadt, Ranshofen and Leoben – around 1,300 employees carry out research on the development of those tools, technologies and solutions that will keep Austria’s economy fit for the future in line with our motto “Tomorrow Today”.

Center for Mobility Systems
Mobility is a fundamental core element of our society. At the Center for Mobility Systems, around 100 experts are developing holistic mobility solutions for the future based on the interrelation of passenger mobility, mobility of goods, and transport infrastructure. Efficiency, safety, ecological sustainability and the human factor are at the heart of the research and development efforts. Leveraging comprehensive system know-how, scientific excellence, market knowledge, and many years of international experience, AIT experts are using innovation to lead industry and society into the future of mobility.

Further Information about the Center for Mobility Systems:

Press contact:

Mag. Florian Hainz BA
Marketing and Communications
AIT Austrian Institute of Technology
Center for Mobility Systems
T +43 (0)50550-4518 I

Mag. Michael H. Hlava
Head of Corporate and Marketing Communications
AIT Austrian Institute of Technology
T +43 (0)50550-4014 I


Prandtstetter_Matthias (c) AIT_Zinner