The changing nature of urban economies and supply chain management, as well as an increase in online retail, has had an impact on the type and volume of goods deliveries in city centres.

This in turn has had an impact on the wider urban environment in terms of air quality, traffic management and infrastructure.

Belfast City Council is working with Dublin City Council and Enterprise Ireland on a joint €230,000 SBIR (Small Business Innovation Research) challenge to find smart, low cost solutions to optimise freight and cargo deliveries in urban centres.

Both cities aim to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of deliveries, reducing the number of goods vehicles, which in turn will improve air quality, noise pollution and road safety.

A number of SMEs applied to the SBIR challenge in June 2018 and six received phase one funding to research and develop their proposed solution and provide a proof of concept:

Solutions include electric vehicles, mobile app controlled parking spaces, virtual parking bays, IoT technology, real-time data analytics and more efficient, consolidated deliveries.

The companies are currently in the process of applying for phase two funding which will enable them to take their ideas forward to a prototyping stage in Belfast and Dublin.