Future-Proof and Sustainable Cities in the Making

The example of Urban-X: an accelerator by BMW Mini and HAX
Future-Proof and Sustainable Cities in the Making
Publ. date 6 apr 2016
Not only companies are integrating sustainability into the core of their strategy, also cities nowadays are more and more concerned about becoming sustainable. With our worldwide population set to grow towards 9 billion by 2050 and strong urbanization, cities have to prepare for the future. This topic is the central challenge of Urban-X and accelerator created by HAX, an existing hardware investment company, together with MINI.

The mission of Urban-X is “to catalyze, educate, invest in, and advocate for startups who are shaping the future of cities through technology”. Nick Plante, general partner of Urban-X, says that this accelerator is an opportunity to think at a truly enormous scale, beyond individual consumers and businesses. The goal of Urban-X is to take what is learned from accelerating hardware and software and to apply this to city-scale and societal  scale problems. Urban-X addresses problems as overcrowding, energy production, storage, mass transit, homelessness, and safety and security.

The accelerator, starting in New York city, is backing 10 startups which are focused on intelligent cities, society scale challenges, and urban hyper growth. MINI and HAX together fund each startup with $60,000, provide access to both company’s networks, and mentoring them in the execution of making cities more sustainable. The right knowledge mix of design and engineering, in which MINI is a pioneer, and the hardware and software, in which HAX excels, provide the infrastructure, products, services, and technologies necessary to create a future-proof city.

Contributing to the development of a livable and enjoyable city

MINI’s head of impact venture explains that: “in the 50s, cities were built around cars, but nowadays the city becomes an operating system, into which services will be plugged; a platform of dreams will be realized. MINI wants to have an active part in this, by helping to build a city that becomes more livable and enjoyable”. Additionally, competitors such as Mercedes-Benz, Ford, and Toyota have been involved in programs that support entrepreneurs and start-ups over the last years. By establishing incubators or accelerators, the Goliaths now transform their business model by seeking connections with the smaller David’s to get easier access to innovation and the talent behind it. Eventually, being involved in a corporate accelerator will leave a company with a positive return on reputation, culture, and investment.

Cities100 report for inspiration

Sustainia, together with C40 and Realdania, published the Cities100 report. This study contains a wide line-up of inspirational examples illustrating that cities are already addressing climate change on a global scale. As a sample, here are two (shortened) cases from the report from Melbourne and Jakarta:

  • Teaming up to buy renewable energy in Melbourne: to achieve renewable energy targets and drive investments in green energy, the city of Melbourne has joined forces with 13 local organizations to produce green energy. Currently, 90% of energy is coming from brown coal plants. Melbourne has set itself a target for 2018: 25% of energy has to be renewable. Benefits of teaming up with those 13 organizations are the creation of employment in areas that are in economic and social decline. Approximately 144 jobs are created in the construction of the green energy plant, and an additional of 12 full-time jobs for the operations and maintenance of the plant.
  • Low cost housing in Jakarta: to address the fact that citizens of Jakarta now live in informal housing on vulnerable land, the government start its initiative of providing 400,000 citizens, who reside along the city’s waterfronts, with low-cost housing. The program provides safer and more sanitary housing conditions, contributing to people’s, as well as urban health. With fewer people living close to waterfronts, less waste will be disposed into the city’s rivers and waterfronts, resulting in cleaner and safer water.

Please refer to www.sustainia.me/cities for the full report.

Excited about what your company can do with accelerators?

If you want to know more about how your company can initiate an accelerator, send Josée van der Hoek an email via josee@finchandbeak.com or call +31 6 28 02 18 80, to find out how Finch & Beak can help you.

About Bas Nuijten

Sustainability professional aiming to help organizations to continuously improve their sustainability strategies. | 
bas@finchandbeak.com