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23 March 2016

Interview with Younis Hijazi

Younis Hijazi works as Senior Advisor on European Funding for Luxinnovation GIE, the Luxembourg innovation agency. He is the Chair of the ‘New Mobility Services’ initiative, from the Sustainable Urban Mobility Action Cluster. This initiative has identified four areas of challenges regarding ITS-based new mobility services: governance, data, technologies and services. 

Could you describe your initiative “New Mobility Services” in a few words?

Our vision is to build a sustainable European platform for “mobility on demand”. In practice, a user would get customized mobility services via an app that takes into consideration their special needs or preferences, weather conditions, traffic, etc. to go from point A to B. The foreseen impact is threefold: societal (improved quality of life), ecological (greener mobility) and economic (new business models for citizens, cities and companies).

It is often the case that many things exist yet they are not well known. So the first step of our initiative is really to connect all the relevant mobility service initiatives, and then replicate and scale them in Europe.

What improvements could Smart Cities achieve regarding information and booking of mobility services?

For the user, I think that the most important feature is to have a kind of one-stop-shop to access mobility services while travelling in Europe. If you need to install an app each time you travel to a new place, you will get annoyed! If you look at Uber’s success, people like using the app because they install it once and it works the same anywhere in the world. Also, the app / service needs to be reliable and intuitive to ensure that it is used. For the sustainability of the service, we definitely need a good business model. If the price is fair, people will pay for it.

Of course, to achieve such a one-stop-shop with all these nice features you need a very strong underlying collaboration among stakeholders and countries regarding (open) data exchange especially at the borders (take the example of Luxembourg with three neighbouring countries).

Which stakeholders are you targeting for the investment in new mobility services? How active are they? Would you need any other stakeholder to join?

The New Mobility Services Initiative builds on the commitment of 20+ cities: Amersfoort, Barcelona, Belgrade, Berlin, Bilbao, Bologna, Brest, Brussels, Burgos, Coimbra, Deventer, Eindhoven, Genoa, Lisbon, Luxembourg, Lyon, Monza, Paris, Prague, San Sebastian, Valencia, Valetta, Vienna, and Tartu. All these cities can build on local (private and public) stakeholders that are active in this field. Let’s connect all of them before seeking new ones!

How will your initiative contribute to the achievement of the EIP Goals?

We are targeting the Vertical Priority Area “Sustainable Urban Mobility” of the Strategic Implementation Plan. By optimising door-to-door mobility for EU citizens, we contribute to Europe’s goals (20/20/20): tackling congestion, improving air quality, accessibility and sustainability.

What are the challenges for your initiative?

Our Initiative has defined four challenges:

·         Challenge 1: Technologies – the technology is available, but some obstacles exist for its wide deployment and choices have to be made where to focus public investment.

·         Challenge 2: Services – innovative mobility services exist but they are fragmented and isolated and generate their own sets of data. The main issues relate to the question of who is the target group and what business model to follow.

·         Challenge 3: Governance – there is insufficient communication among actors. How to reach a balance between private and public bodies and how to define the governance structure and decision-making process is also important. So this is a challenge for  business models.

·         Challenge 4: Data – there is fragmented creation/distribution of data among actors, no data-sharing, which leads to a need for a common platform for data sharing. What types of data can be shared also needs to be defined. Further questions relate to: how to ensure the quality of data and how to deal with standardisation / interoperability?

What is the status of your Initiative right now?

We are still at the beginning of this initiative. We now have a stronger web presence with a dedicated webpage where people can express an interest to join our initiative.

Regarding the next steps, we will provide methods and tools to overcome the identified challenges on two levels:

1.    the creation of test-beds in the context of regional innovation clusters, providing local governance, data handling and business models;

2.    the promotion of near-to-standardised new mobility service models, data handling protocols and contractual models for data sharing as developed in the commitments OPTICITIES and the EU research project MyWay.

What are your next steps?

A picture is worth a thousand words…