Project details

Full project title: Understanding user innovation - unanticipated applications of existing Intelligent Transport Systems

Sponsors: Department for Transport and the Technology Strategy Board (EPSRC)

Principal Investigator: Professor Glenn Lyons

Project partners: Loughborough Design School (LDS) at Loughborough University, Ito World Ltd and Ordnance Survey Research Labs

LDS lead researcher: Tracy Ross

Start date: October 2007

Finish date: September 2012 

Project briefing sheet: Download the briefing sheet document (PDF)


Future Intelligent Transport Systems (FITS) is an EPSRC, DTI and DfT initiative to fund multidisciplinary research and innovation consortia which will address key research issues in the long-term development of the UK's transport system. One of the successful consortia is being led by the Centre for Transport and Society at UWE Bristol and involves a team of four institutions - two universities (UWE Bristol and Loughborough) and two commercial organisations (Ito! World Ltd and Ordnance Survey Research Labs).

Project summary

Modern lifestyles and patterns of travel are increasingly permeated and supported by information technologies (IT). Our transport systems are similarly dependent increasingly upon IT to manage system capacity and the demands placed upon it. IT is the facilitator of opportunities to address present and future needs, desires and problems. The field of Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) has traditionally looked to realise such opportunities through innovation that is commercially led (e.g. Satellite Navigation systems) or government led with commercial companies implementing systems to its specification through a tendering process (e.g. real-time information systems for bus services).

This proposal stems from the contention that there may be another significant, but largely over-looked, source of innovation - specifically where users (people, organisations and businesses) are conceiving of uses of existing forms of IT and ITS in innovative ways and different contexts than those anticipated by their providers. Increasingly the producer/consumer model of the delivery of information services is giving way to a network model where content and services are generated by users. By attempting to study and discover 'user innovations' there is the prospect of being able to identify, develop and exploit new opportunities for existing technologies and services to address challenges facing transport systems and users.

This project will develop and apply an 'ITS Observatory' - a mixed method approach to looking for and examining creative behaviours being exhibited by transport system users. Research expertise in social psychology and human factors relating to IT will be combined with industry expertise in data and information generation, manipulation and visualisation to support advances in information services. The cataloguing of user innovations exposed by the Observatory will form the basis for identifying prospective pathways to commercial innovation and exploitation. Selected pathways will then be pursued within the project.


  1. to examine the potential for the field of ITS to be advanced in terms of its applications and their effectiveness (commercially, economically, environmentally and socially) by studying the creativity and innovation of users;
  2. to develop an understanding, through the application of a mixed method approach, of how user innovation related to IT can be searched for, identified, understood and potentially exploited;
  3. to develop an 'ITS Observatory' which is used, for given types of individuals and/or contexts, to search for and catalogue instances of innovation and to enable cross-comparison of case studies to draw out common features;
  4. to take forward a selected number of innovations as sub-projects to develop a deeper and/or accelerated understanding and to critically examine in what ways such innovations can lead to derivative commercial innovation and exploitation; and
  5. to work in the wider context of the FITS programme of projects to ensure the understandings and insights from the project are widely promoted for greater (future) take up.