London’s transport regulator looks to startups to help fix urban mobility

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London’s transport regulator, TfL has announced a partnership with Bosch for its forthcoming co-working space in Shoreditch.

The civic tech project is intended to run for 18 months as a pilot — though Bosch’s ‘Connectory’ co-working facility won’t open until the end of January. A company spokeswoman confirmed the partnership is nonetheless up and running now.

The aim of the collaborative project is to share data and expertise, including by tapping into London’s startup ecosystem, to land on new ideas for tackling urban mobility issues — from traffic jams to awful air quality.

Transport issues are especially pressing for the city as London’s population is forecast to reach a staggering 10.8 million by 2041 — which would mean around six million additional trips being generated per day.

Specific issues TfL is looking for help with include developing more efficient, greener and safer vehicles; reducing congestion; and encouraging more people to walk, cycle and take public transport across London, it said today.

TfL will be providing technical knowledge and “a wide range” of datasets throughout the pilot to allow participating companies to test ideas and “understand patterns in more detail than has previously been possible”, it added.

The data will be based on its existing Unified API and open data platform, which it notes is already underpinning nearly 700 apps used by approaching half (42 per cent) of Londoners.

Startups selected for the collaboration will be provided with dedicated space within Bosch’s Connectory, alongside TfL staff who will also be based there during the pilot.

Commenting in a statement, Arun Srinivasan, executive VP and head of mobility solutions at Bosch UK said: “We believe that the collaboration between Bosch and TfL will enable us to accelerate the development of technologies, products and services that have a positive impact on city life.”

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Startups will be selected by Bosch, according to a TfL spokesman. We’ve asked for more details on selection criteria.

Update: A Bosch spokeswomen told us: “There will be a number of programmes running for start ups in the Connectory. These programmes will be around specific mobility challenges and many will have open calls for start ups to enter. We also welcome direct approaches by small business/start ups who want to be part of the Connectory community feel they have something to offer that will help solve London’s transport challenges. Get in touch!”

She said there is no fixed number of startup planned to be selected for the pilot, saying they will have rolling cohorts “designed around specific London mobility challenges” — launching this process in the New Year.

“This new ‘urban mobility’ lab is the first of its kind with a primary focus on urban mobility, and will provide the forum for private sector partners, academia and public sector to work together to tackle a range of problems facing Londoners in years to come,” the pair added in a press release today.

“By facilitating closer collaboration, TfL and Bosch hope to support start-ups to develop a range of smart products and help them identify ways to bring them to market more quickly through open procurement.”

The entire co-working facility is focused on urban mobility — but will also be open to other interested companies and startups to rent or bag a space (i.e. via Bosch’s scouting programs where it does take equity), not just to the startups selected for the TfL pilot.

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Bosch’s network of Connectory co-innovation spaces also links out to cities internationally, including Chicago and Stuttgart, further expanding potential knowledge-sharing opportunities.

Commenting in a statement, the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “This initiative will foster closer working between London’s tech sector and other leading tech cities. If we are to use data and smart technology to help solve the biggest problems our city faces, it’s crucial we take a more collaborative approach. I see London’s future as a global ‘test-bed city’ for civic innovation, where the best ideas are developed, amplified and scaled.”

Depending on the outcome of the pilot, TfL said the Greater London Authority may seek similar collaborative approaches to support other aspects of its work — including housing, environment and policing, aligning with the mayor of London’s strategic priorities.

“I’ve been clear I want London to become the world’s smartest city and this is a further step towards realising that ambition,” Khan added.

Source: TechCrunch

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