Innovation is delivering better mobility systems: highlights from the IRF Annual Conference 2023

Highway & Network Management / January 7, 2024 1 minute 30 seconds Read
By IRF Geneva
Extract from the presentation of Sveta Milusheva, senior economist in the Development Impact (DIME) Department at the World Bank

The IRF Annual Conference 2023 proved to be once again an enlightening experience for the road and transport community, welcoming participants from 105 countries, and 40 distinguished speakers from leading organisations including the IDB, UNECA, the World Bank, ERTICO, ASECAP and many more.

In celebration of World Sustainable Transport Day and under the theme “Innovation for Better Mobility Systems” the conference explored ground-breaking ideas around five thematic sessions, addressing road assets management, road pricing, safety, ITS and big data, and CCAM. Completing the rich programme, the conference hosted a parallel session in Spanish in collaboration with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and a special session for the Start-Up Label, where finalists of the 2023 Edition pitched their solutions.

The high-level opening session of the conference welcomed leading figures from the transport industry to sketch the salient features of innovation that can help us deliver better mobility systems that leave no one behind. This included Anouar Benazzouz, president of the International Road Federation (IRF) and general manager of the National Highway Company of Morocco; Joost Vantomme, CEO of ERTICO-ITS Europe; Arianna Legovini, director of Development Impact (DIME) at the World Bank; Ana María Pinto, transport division chief, Inter-American Development Bank (IDB); and Robert Lisinge, chief of the Energy, Infrastructure & Services Section in the Private Sector Development & Finance Division at UNECA.

“We need to leverage digital systems to support and drive innovation. Governments need to create the right conditions for that to happen,” said the IRF president in his opening speech. “As we continue our journey into the future of transportation, let us remember that each revolution in transportation has not only shaped the way we move but has also transformed the world around us,” Benazzouz added.

The dialogue extended to the Latin American audience through a parallel session hosted in collaboration with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and conducted in Spanish. Titled "Towards Resilient and Sustainable Mobility: Latin America in Perspective," the session offered insights into the recently-launched IDB report, "Transportation 2050: Pathways to Decarbonization and Climate Resilience in Latin America and the Caribbean" and welcomed distinguished speakers from the Argentina Road Association, the National Infrastructure Agency (ANI) of Colombia, and ASIMOB. The panel discussion examined the current landscape of sustainable transport in Latin America and the role of innovation.

Through an interactive poll that delved into the crucial question, "Where is innovation most needed?" The audience also actively provided useful food-for-thought for the conversation. The poll results were further discussed with a distinguished guest—Magali Anderson, former chief sustainability and innovation officer of Holcim.

Infrastructure planning and design, along with policy and regulation emerged as the as the critical areas most in need of innovative interventions.

“Whether is procurement, policy and regulation, or the workforce, a change of mindset is crucial. Innovation does not just mean embracing technology, it’s about changing the process. This will not happen if people continue to think the same way,” stated Anderson.

Recognising the pivotal role that start-ups play in driving innovation, particularly within the road transport sector, on the second day of the conference the IRF welcomed the finalists of the 2023 edition of the IRF Start-up Label: Lane Patrol, Svarmi, BANF and Measure. Each pitched their solutions before the south korean-based start-up, BANF, was announced as the winner of this third edition.

In closing the event, Hamdi Aydin, board member of the Turkish Road Association (TRA) and of IRF, introduced the landmark event of 2024: the IRF World Congress 2024 to be hosted in Istanbul on 15-18 October.

The IRF would like to extend its gratitude to all the speakers, its sponsors, Northern Marmara Motorway and Road Trace by Aisin, and its partners, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the China Highway and Transportation Society (CHTS), for their invaluable support in making the IRF Annual Conference 2023 a resounding success.

For a first-hand look at the event, featuring the recordings and insightful speaker presentations, please visit or contact the IRF at [email protected]

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