PAVING THE WAY TO LIVEABLE URBAN SPACES IN EUROPE
Part of the business literature defines the impact of a group as society with their involvement minus society without their involvement. Nice definition, but this inherently begs the question: How can I make an impact? Better, how can we, with purpose-driven organisations, make an impact?
This is indeed the defining question of our times. Impact is urgently needed to curb transport sector emissions and make urban mobility cleaner and safer.
The EU Green Deal objectives give us an idea of what impact should look like in the transport sector: - 55 % CO2 emissions by 2030 and -90 % by 2050 compared to 1990 levels. The fact that these emissions rose by about 24 % between 1990 and 2019 shows the magnitude of the challenge. Cities will be instrumental in meeting these goals, and improved cooperation between private and public entities key to deliver them.
No impact without collaboration At EIT Urban Mobility, supporting European cities in this ambitious environmental and technological transition is a core task. As an initiative of the European Institute for Innovation and Technology (EIT), a body of the European Union, we strategically fund and invest in innovative mobility solutions that address cities’ challenges. EIT co-funding of up to € 400 million between 2020 and 2026 will help us in our journey to improve mobility and liveability in cities. One of five regional innovation hubs EIT Urban Mobility has created is located in the Munich Urban lab, at the heart of one of the most vibrant mobility innovation centres in Germany. From there we connect our partners from Germany and further seven countries together with relevant public and private partners across the whole of Europe and beyond.
Thanks to our partnership of more than 400 organisations across the private and public sectors, we connect urban mobility practitioners to identify major mobility challenges and jointly elaborate targeted solutions. Since our creation in 2019, we have funded more than 40 innovative mobility projects and supported almost 200 start-ups and scale-ups focussing on sustainable mobility solutions from all around Europe. Our urban mobility marketplace, launched in November 2021, features over 70 market- ready solutions and best practices that can fit the sustainable mobility needs of companies and public authorities. Based on this entrepreneurial mindset we also educate graduates and professionals alike, so they master the skills required to develop and efficiently implement cutting-edge mobility solutions.
With our collaborative approach, we explore pioneering innovations like urban air mobility (UAM). We recently launched an UAM working group bringing together ten organisations from five European countries to critically assess the use cases where UAM makes sense. With this initiative, we support responsible investments in the technology, aligned with cities’ goals and offering solutions to urban mobility challenges.
Target your investments, deliver change
To maximise the impact of our investments, we rely on the valuable experience of our diverse network of cities, industry, academia & research, as well as on scientific evidence: in our latest study, we found that the transition to sustainable mobility in line with the Green Deal objectives brings more benefits than costs: For cities in the EU, this could lead to net benefits of up to € 177bn by 2030 and € 698bn by 2050. To get there, we need to invest more on both behavioural and technological innovations.
On the one hand, changing mobility habits away from a primary focus on car ownership requires a big rethink of how people move around but is essential to reduce urban transport CO2 emissions in the short term (2030), as zero emission mobility is still ramping up in Europe. Until it becomes the norm, our modelling shows that a drastic reduction in car ownership (-31%) is needed if cities are to meet 2030 Green Deal objectives.
Aware of the radical change ahead, we are supporting innovative solutions that help urbanites and commuters make the most sustainable mobility choices. One of them, AI TraWell, is an artificial intelligence supported, proactive Chatbot to offer personalized travel alternatives suitable for citizens‘ needs and preferences. In this way, behavioral changes that contribute to building healthy cities and improving transportation services are encouraged by citizens sharing their subjective personal attributes (e.g. users’ preferences, physical and mental wellbeing, perceptions) of the built environment in combination with objective data such as level of pollution and mobility service data.
On the other hand, technological innovations are needed to improve the efficiency of our mobility systems and accelerate the sector’s decarbonisation. In fact, European cities will need extra investments in sustainable mobility measures, compared to business- as-usual, of up to € 86bn by 2030 and € 150bn by mid-century. Such measures include solutions like demand-responsive transport (DRT), public and private fleet electrification, congestion and pollution charging, micromobility and vehicle sharing, intelligent transport systems (ITS), etc.
This is the reason why we have invested in more than 30 curated start-ups that develop and deploy the solutions cities need to decarbonize urban mobility. Veomo is one of them: thanks to its data platform, it aggregates real time mobility data and connects real estate owners and mobility providers to optimise transport options for residents, enabling a more sustainable and convenient mobility offering in urban areas.
To allow cities to find out what are the most effective sustainable urban mobility investments for their specific geographic areas and socio-economic contexts, we have developed an interactive tool based on the study. Overall, our research shows that for small cities, charging schemes are the most effective measures to rapidly reduce urban transport CO2 emissions, while innovative services (e.g. DRT, ITS, autonomous vehicles) and shared mobility are preferrable in medium and large cities.
Strategic approach to impact investing
To drive investments in future-proof solutions and unlock the benefits of the sustainable transition, EIT Urban Mobility leverages its network of urban mobility stakeholders across Europe. As an impact investor in urban mobility, we support market-ready or close to market solutions with high technology readiness level, that actually contribute to solving challenges faced by European cities.
Importantly, measuring the impact of our investments is key to meet our ambition. To track this, we are currently developing an Impact Assessment Framework and analyse the economic, social, and environmental impact of our start-ups and their deployed solutions. For that, the Sustainable Development Goals are a fundamental part of our activities and determine every investment decision. We are also working closely together with the start-ups to measure their environmental impact and carbon footprint. Gender balance and team diversity are additional impact dimensions we are carefully monitoring and supporting.
We believe that impact-focused, targeted investments will enable us to fulfil our mission to pave the way for more liveable urban spaces in European cities.
Judith O‘Meara is Director of Innovation Hub Central which serves as a one-stop-shop for more than 50 partner institutions located in its region. It is one of the five hubs EIT Urban Mobility has set up to connect cities, industry, universities, and start-ups across Europe to create real impact with tangible urban mobility solutions.