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Federal Highway Administration > Publications > Public Roads > Vol. 57· No. 3 > Looking for a Few Good IDEAs

Winter 1994
Vol. 57· No. 3

Looking for a Few Good IDEAs

by K. Thirumalai

The Innovations Deserving Exploratory Analysis (IDEA) Program of the National Research Council's (NRC) Transportation Research Board (TRB) is designed to nurture innovative concepts for technologies, systems, methods, and processes for application to highway and intermodal transportation practice.

The IDEA program approach was first implemented as part of the five-year Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP) from 1987-1993. The new TRB IDEA program adopts several of the successful features of SHRP-IDEA and applies them to solicit a broad range of technical innovations for highways, intelligent vehicle highway systems (IVHS), and transit systems. The program provides an excellent opportunity for proposing innovative approaches for transportation systems and for transferring advanced technologies that have not yet been applied, tested, or used in the highway or intermodal transportation practice. Any individual or institution in the United States or from abroad is eligible to submit proposals to the following three IDEA program areas:

  • National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) IDEA Program. The NCHRP IDEA Program is funded by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and state highway agencies in cooperation with the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO). NCHRP IDEA seeks to introduce new technologies, methods, or processes for application to highways and intermodal surface transportation through the development and testing of nontraditional and innovative concepts.
  • Transit IDEA Program. The Transit IDEA Program is funded by a cooperative agreement with the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and the Transit Development Corporation (TDC). Transit IDEA is designed to foster the development and application of innovative technologies, methods, management processes, materials and systems for application to transit practice.
  • IVHS IDEA Program. The IVHS IDEA Program is funded by the FHWA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) of the Department of Transportation (DOT). IVHS IDEA is designed to produce new concepts and innovative products that would accelerate the development and implementation of IVHS in the nation's highways, vehicles, and intermodal surface transportation and transit systems.

Proposals submitted under any of the IDEA programs should have one or more of the following features:

  • Technically credible but unproven concept that may require high-risk investigation to prove its feasibility but offers potential for significant breakthrough and large payoffs.
  • A concept that offers the potential for advancing the state of the art of IVHS, highway and transit systems, or one that may emerge into new areas for followup research by a national program.
  • An advanced method, technique, process, technology, or system developed for other industries such as aerospace engineering, communications, modern material processes, in formation, computers, robotics, and automation, but not yet tested, applied, or available to IVHS, highway, transit, or multimodal transportation systems.

Two types of IDEA proposals are available. A Feasibility Phase (Type I) IDEA investigation would include an evaluation of an innovative technical concept for which adequate knowledge, technical information, or data are not currently available. An Advanced Testing Phase (Type II) IDEA investigation would perform a larger scale test or field testing of a proven feasible concept. All IDEA awards typically are fixed price contracts not to exceed $100,000 and must be completed within 12 months. Cost sharing is encouraged but is not a requirement for IDEA proposals. Researchers from all disciplines and with no prior experience in transportation research or systems development are encouraged to submit IDEA proposals.

Individuals interested in o ne or more of the IDEA programs may request copies by phoning the IDEA Program Off ice at (202)334-3568 or by writing to Dr. K Thirumalai, IDEA Program Manager, Transportation Research Board, 2101 Constitution Ave, N.W, Washington, D.C 20418.

Dr. K. Thirumalai is the IDEA Program Manager for the Transportation Research Board.

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