Munich Startup: The German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy has established hubs in Germany to promote collaboration among various players in an ecosystem. One of those hubs is the Digital Hub Mobility in Munich. Could you tell us about the players in the hub and the aims that are being pursued in this collaboration?
Digital Hub Mobility: Our vision is to create sustainable mobility for everyone in a liveable city. We know that can only be achieved if all of the relevant players in the field of mobility are involved, which is why we have been building an open mobility ecosystem since 2017. Our approach is to bring relevant players together to work on concrete projects, creating direct added value. Our ecosystem now includes established companies, startups, city representatives, local mobility services, research institutions, students/graduates, investors, politicians and more.
Rapid development as an opportunity
We see our ecosystem as a response to rapid developments in the field of digitization and in the mobility sector in general. These developments are breaking down boundaries between industries. With our balanced ecosystem, we view the situation as an opportunity. Our goal has become more about integrating companies that have been outside the sector — such as financial institutions — into our ecosystem so we can holistically and collaboratively shape the future of mobility.
Munich Startup: A major component of the Digital Hub Mobility so far has been the Digital Product School. You now have an additional project known as “Citizen Mobility.” What exactly happens in both groups?
Digital Hub Mobility: That’s right. Since spring 2019, we have also been working on Citizen Mobility in the ecosystem. Both projects are united by the hub concept, meaning to create added value together and make users and citizens the center of all of our considerations.
With the Digital Product School (DPS), we offer companies and cities the opportunity to develop digital solutions to mobility problems. The project teams use the same methods as modern tech startups and are very diverse in their compositions: A team includes employees from different companies as well as graduates and freelancers from around the world. In addition to this intentional diversity, the teams also include an equal number of female and male members. At the beginning of the three-month full-time projects, the members are confronted with major challenges. The teams receive assistance from experts, however, who can support them with their expertise around the clock.
The DPS can already look back on significant achievements. Work has continued on projects after the three-month time period in the form of spin-offs that become startups or as spin-offs from partner companies. Some solutions have been developed to market maturity in individual companies or continued cooperatively.
An example of the latter is the cooperative project between Nokia and the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg. The members developed a smart solution together that can automatically detect construction sites with a smart device. The transmitted information and data are sent to a central data platform where it is made available to all interested parties. The product benefits not only everyone involved in construction site planning, but also to those in traffic planning. They can access the data remotely at any time and direct traffic accordingly. Both parties are currently trying to test the solution under real conditions and are continuing to develop the underlying algorithm.
Bringing together all relevant minds in an ecosystem
While the aim of the DPS is to train people in agile work practices and finding digital solutions, Citizen Mobility puts the focus more on the concept of co-development and its implementation in cities. To find solutions to problems, all of the relevant minds in an ecosystem are incorporated to achieve concrete results. The ecosystem as already sketched out earlier is extended in Citizen Mobility to include the city’s residents. They take on a central role. Involving the residents makes it possible to analyze social acceptance of different approaches to a problem. The greater the acceptance, the greater the chances are of sustainably implementing the solution.
A further objective of Citizen Mobility is to nurture a fruitful connection between everyone involved. For startups in particular, it is often difficult to simply test ideas and solutions in the city or to find cooperation partners. With Citizen Mobility, we bypass these kinds of difficulties. Collaboration that would normally only be possible through extensive internal coordination or processes becomes feasible with Citizen Mobility. In two-week sprints, every project participant works remotely on parts of the project. At the end of each sprint, everyone comes together here to share their results. Plans for the next sprint are also made at the same time. After three months, the Citizen Mobility teams complete their work within the framework of the project. That is not considered the end, however, but rather a starting point for future, more in-depth cooperation. During the three months of Citizen Mobility, we have already been able to set the course for subsequent projects between the participating startups and company partners.
Munich Startup: Speaking of startups: Why are startups so important for digital transformation? What do you focus on when working with startups?
Digital Hub Mobility: Due to their size, startups are better at adapting to current conditions and quickly reacting to changes around them. That is an asset not only from a macro economic point of view, but also from a micro economic perspective because established companies can also benefit and learn from startups.
“The bottoms line is that we view startups as essential for digital transformation”
Citizen Mobility addresses that point. Everyone works together using agile working methods. Established organizational forms in particular are exposed to different working methods when collaborating with startups.
In the DPS, in which all participants learn how to work like a tech startup, this concept also plays a decisive role. DPS participants, who usually work for a company, can apply what they have learned in their organizations after completing the program. That makes it possible to establish a culture of innovation in companies in this day and age of digital transformation. The bottom line is that we view startups as essential for digital transformation.
We focus on different aspects when working with startups. For us, it is most important that they have the right attitude and motivation. It’s also important for the startup’s solution to be a good match for the problem that everyone would like to work on. Last but not least, we are always pleased to have participants who are open minded and can also have a good laugh.
Munich Startup: Could you name a few startups that you’re currently working with on projects? Whom should startups contact if they would like to meet with you?
Digital Hub Mobility: In Citizen Mobility, we’re currently working with three startups: Moonride provides a platform where you can find and book mobility sharing offers, such as e-scooters or bike rentals, in 490 cities Teratrace makes it possible for public mobility service providers to measure passenger flows in real time and forecast the capacity of their networks. With Upride, we’re working together on the collection and smart linkage of bicycle traffic data and also on smart parking zones. Interested startups can contact Henning Richarz at any time.
Munich Startup: What makes Munich particularly suitable as a location for a mobility hub? What kind of support have you received locally?
Digital Hub Mobility: A strong automotive industry has grown in Munich over a long period of time that has global appeal. The importance of the city has even attracted Chinese automotive companies in recent years who have opened their global design centers here. The automotive industry, which traditionally included car manufacturers, suppliers and service providers, has now been extended to include several mobility companies. Flixbus, Lilium and the initiative TUM Hyperloop are perhaps the best known examples.
Thanks to the strong university environment, the professionals needed for the mobility industry can be educated right here in Munich. These and other factors were pivotal in the decision made by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy to appoint Munich as Germany’s “Digital Hub Mobility.” But we receive support not only at the federal level. The Bavarian Ministry of Economic Affairs, Regional Development and Energy also provides financial support for our endeavors, and for that we are grateful.
Munich Startup: Last but not least — the trend of the year in the field of mobility is…!
Digital Hub Mobility: Cooperation is of growing importance in our era of digitization. And the same is true in the field of mobility. At the beginning of the year, the MVG (Munich Transport Corporation) announced their cooperation with Trafi to offer a host of mobility services in one app in the future. We anticipate more cooperation of this kind.
Moreover, including local communities and residents will also grow in importance so that more sustainable mobility solutions can be created. It is precisely in these developments that we as the Digital Hub Mobility want to support all of the players.