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Research project

Flipping the gig-economy: transforming parcel workforces towards sustainable and inclusive futures

Project overview

The digital economy (e.g. online shopping) is growing rapidly - already £50bn in 2016 - which is radically transforming the high street. It is estimated that approximately 220,000 vans are operating in London on a typical weekday with approximately 5% (11,000) engaged in parcel collection and delivery. With new `try before you by' clothing services such as ASOS and Amazon Prime Wardrobe, where any number of clothing items can be ordered for home delivery, and returned 'for free', the true environmental costs are spiralling out of control. Freight transport already accounts for 16% of all motorised road vehicle activity in British towns and cities, typically burning fossil fuels and accounting for 23%, 36% and 39% of total road-based CO2, NOx and PM10 emissions respectively,
In response, this project looked at how digital technology can be designed to empower couriers to fight unfairness, challenge unfair models and algorithms in platform courier work, and develop new models that put fairness and sustainability at the core.

FlipGig (2019-2021) ( received funding from the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) under grant agreement no. EP/S027726/1.


Lead researcher

Professor Tom Cherrett

Head of Department

Research interests

  • Understanding and improving the distribution of goods and the management of freight vehicles in urban areas, including the supply of goods to hospitals and the use of consolidation centres; 
  • How optimisation techniques can be used to improve system efficiency and in what ways Intelligent Transport Systems (smart tagging of assets and the use of smartphones) can improve operating efficiency; 
  • Approaches to more effectively collect and manage the movement of waste in terms of both household domestic waste collection strategies, Household Waste Recycling Centre (HWRC) management and joint domestic/commercial waste collection strategies. He has worked on a number of research projects in these specific areas: (Department for Transport grant PPAD 9/142/034, ‘Optimising vehicles undertaking waste collections' GR/S79626/01, SUE project 55 ‘Transport and Logistics'; EP/D043328/1, ‘Green Logistics'.
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Other researchers

Professor Toni Martinez Sykora


Research interests

  • Optimisation and Combinatorial Optimisation 
  • Cutting and packing problems
  • Transportation and vehicle routing problems
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Collaborating research institutes, centres and groups

Research outputs