RAPTOR Programme: Matching mobility start-ups with cities to solve real-life urban challenges
The RAPTOR Programme is shaking up the status quo and matching European city administrations with innovative start-ups to disrupt and solve the toughest urban mobility challenges.
A glocal perspective
According to the UN Habitat’s World Cities Report 2022, “the future of humanity is undoubtedly urban”, with 68% of the global population expected to live in cities by 2050. With the world’s population continuing to grow and urbanise, the role of city administrations in shaping the future of citizens has never been more important.
Today, regional and city administrations across the world are rising to the occasion and together finding solutions to many of the shared urban challenges led by the global agenda, such as reducing air pollution and reclaiming public space from cars. But despite this collective vision, the future of cities is not uniform across regions, as each issue presents itself locally in a different way. Each European city is unique, like a fingerprint, with its own complex history of structural, cultural, and political developments and understanding these intricacies is essential for the development of each region’s mobility strategy.
Until recently, each local administration had been finding solutions internally, although bureaucratic processes have often hindered agile problem-solving. The question was posed: How can European cities become more dynamic in their response to localised mobility challenges and still ensure that their solutions are sustainable?
In the future, Jan Šamal predicts, “cars will be prohibited from cities.” He says “for many many occasions if you’re going shopping or to the lake which is beyond the city (you’ll) need a car and I do believe that most of them will be using shared services like car-sharing, ride-sharing (…) This is actually the direction we’re all heading. It will give us a city that will have less cars, zero pollution and freedom to move freely around the city”.
The creation of Nimbee would not be possible without partners like Designwerk and EIT urban mobility, “we enter as a core partner (…) all of these members of the consortium have agreed that we will be improving what we have done already before (…) everything is almost ready for the market and all of these partners are now improving the product.”
This is where the RAPTOR Programme comes in. RAPTOR, or ‘Rapid Applications for Transport’ Programme, was created by EIT Urban Mobility, co-funded by the European Union, to bring the agile methodologies employed by the European start-up scene to bring innovation to cities. This programme swiftly creates and tests solutions to niche mobility challenges, with the help of start-ups and SMEs.
So how does it work? European cities define a mobility challenge that they face, such as increasing bus ridership or making pedestrian journeys safer, and European start-ups or SMEs apply to an open call with their proposed solution. The winners of the competition are then awarded with up to 35 000 Euro, mentoring from EIT Urban Mobility, and process to develop and test their innovative solution in-situ over five months.
Agility for success
“Thanks to the RAPTOR programme we managed to find a start-up working on solving our challenge, the feedback is positive, and we are looking forward to delivering this solution.” –
Vaclav Kozeny, Deputy Mayor of Prague 6
In 2022, 225 start-ups and SMEs applied for the RAPTOR programme, with 19 pilots being selected to run in 12 cities, ranging from smaller coastal towns to larger metropolises, across 11 countries.
Proving its commitment to agility, RAPTOR itself was run with an agile methodology, first running pilot tests across four towns and cities: Sant Joan Despí (Spain), Cunit (Spain), Brussels (Belgium), Toulouse (France). Thanks to the positive results, additional cities joined two further programmes in April and May 2022: Tallinn (Estonia), Cascais (Portugal), Istanbul (Türkiye), Bratislava (Slovakia), Cluj-Napoca (Romania), Riga (Latvia), Tel-Aviv (Israel), Prague (Czech Republic).
The challenges set by the cities covered problem areas such as: pollution and noise reduction, city logistics efficiency, public transport optimisation, sustainable urban planning and improved safety.
From the cities’ perspectives, the 18 experiments were a success. In the project evaluation, all cities surveyed reported that not only did the solutions proposed by the start-ups have the potential to solve challenges in the areas where they were tested, but also in other areas with similar challenges, as well as being cost- and resource- efficient. In the words of Inese Andersone, Head of Riga City Development Committee: “The RAPTOR programme helped us to look at different solutions developed across Europe and made us think about new ways to introduce innovations.”
For the start-ups, all those surveyed agreed that they benefitted from a real-world trial and had also accelerated the development of their solution. “RAPTOR gave us a precious opportunity to test our technology in a tier 1 city. We cannot recommend this opportunity highly enough!” said Josh Liu, Founder at Mosa. In addition, 6 start-ups received follow-on investment from EIT Urban Mobility and 70% of all piloted solutions pursued their collaboration with cities.
From Tel Aviv’s walkability to Bratislava’s climate resilience
Taking a deep dive into the 18 successful experiments, we find the start-up HOPU, which tackled a challenge by Sant Joan Despí (Spain), to monitor air quality. By placing sensors throughout the town, the start-up was able to collect continuous data on vehicle pollutants and offer new strategies for citizen health. Since the 2022 experiment, the start-up has found further commercial success with its solution, and was acquired by leading IoT company Libelium.
Responding to Bratislava’s call for a sustainable climate change plan in Slovakia was start-up BitaGreen. The experiment was perfectly timed, as the city prepared its new ‘zoning plan’. Petra Dzurovčinová, Chief Innovation Officer at the City of Bratislava, explained how the programme has positively impacted their activities: “RAPTOR could help us find the best teams and solutions across Europe to find solutions to our Resilient and Sustainable Urban Plan challenge”.
Israeli start-up Cognata took on a challenge set by Tel Aviv (Israel), to help increase safety for pedestrians. It created a safety digital twin of the area, performing large-scale analytics of scenarios. The result for the municipality was valuable insights to improve road safety and, for the SME, Omri Reftov, Cognata’s Innovation Programme Manager, explained that it was a “highly valuable pilot that helped us better design our safety digital twin solution for cities”.
Also working to improve road quality, especially during peak summer season, the start-up ASIMOB responded to a call by Cunit (Spain). Of the challenge faced by Cunit, David Maquinez Juarez – Vice Counselor at Cunit Municipality explained that “The problem we have as a municipality is that our diagnostic systems are practically non-existent and we are not able to inventory the elements of the road. In this sense, we had the idea to take advantage of the fact that the police cars move throughout the municipality, and we presented to the EIT Urban Mobility the proposal to implement a system that could capture these elements by means of the daily patrols”. ASIMOB’s video-recording solution took advantage of these daily police car patrols to collect data on pavement irregularities and sign inventories. During the live demonstration between March and May 2022, 144km of road was monitored by 4 police patrol vehicles. Over 20 000 pavement irregularities and over 3 600 signs were detected and recorded. Being part of RAPTOR has already helped the start-up to scale their solution to bigger cities in Europe.
2023 and beyond
With all this in mind, it’s no surprise that another RAPTOR competition was launched on 6 March 2023, will take place with 12 challenges, across 10 countries, with winning projects kicking off in August 2023.
If you’re a start-up or SME with an innovative urban mobility solution, don’t hesitate to apply by 6 May 2023! We also welcome innovators from the urban mobility ecosystem to join us in Barcelona on 11 May for the RAPTOR Summit to hear more about the success and future of RAPTOR.