By Romain Erny, Head of Mobility at Choose Paris Region
The Business of Mobility is a series of articles penned by business leaders in sustainable mobility.
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Choose Paris Region (CPR) is the agency in charge of promoting Paris Region as an international business destination.
It provides international businesses with support to expand in Paris Region through a range of free and customised services in order for them to bolster their growth strategy, develop strategic partnerships, and succeed in France.
Every year, Choose Paris Region supports over 1,400 companies in their plans to settle, grow, and thrive in Paris Region.
Autonomy’s founder Ross Douglas spoke to Romain Erny, Choose Paris Region’s Head of Mobility in charge of supporting mobility companies to set up a business in Paris Region.
Ross: Choose Paris Region is currently championing Paris Region as an ideal destination for mobility businesses. Demographically, no city in Europe comes close for sheer mass and density of people…an ideal playground for new mobility.
Romain: Indeed, Paris Region is a very important economic hub. It accounts for over 30% of France’s GDP and 5.4% of the EU’s GDP. There’s also the density of Paris itself, which is home to about 2.2 million people with a population density of almost 21,000 people per km2. These numbers are quite extraordinary if, for instance, you compare Paris Region with Berlin, which has only 4,100 people per km2. Paris’s population density is ideal for scaling up mobility solutions such as micromobility and car sharing.
Ross: I’m glad that we set up our mobility event company here and that the world’s leading sustainable mobility event, Autonomy Paris, is in the world’s mobility capital. Paris really does feel like the centre of this new mobility revolution. Since launching in 2016, we’ve seen growing political will to reduce single car ownership and embrace the mobility revolution. Enough about our work, how significant is the Grand Paris Express and what does it contribute to Paris going forward?
Romain: This is a massive project, the biggest in Europe actually. Two lines are being extended and four new railway lines are being built, adding some 250 km of rail to the Paris Region. We are also building 68 new stations connecting 49 towns across Paris Region. A massive €35bn is being invested in Grand Paris Express, which is expected to generate an extra €100bn of GDP for Paris Region over the long term and create 115,000 jobs by 2025. The project will be fully completed by 2030, but by as early as 2025 commuters will start enjoying the benefits of the upgrades.
Ross: And then of course there’s all the new buildings that go on around the Grand Paris Express network…
Romain: Yes, this Greater Paris project includes plans for 84,000 housing units and 2.1 million m2 of new public amenities. But I think the most important development is in terms of mixed-use property. Paris currently has 363 urban projects in the works (covering 32 million sqm2), and these are aimed at creating greener, more mixed-use areas that promote work-from-home, sustainable mobility and e-commerce.
Ross:So, exactly how many people does the Grand Paris Express network support and how extensive is the support from the network?
Romain: Yes, Paris’ population is around 2.16 million, whereas Paris Region (Île-de-France) is home to 12.2 million inhabitants. So, there are ten million people who need some access to the city centre. One of the goals of Grand Paris Express is to ensure there is a train station within 2kms for 90% of these residents.
Mixed-use developments seem to be the way of the future.
Ross: That’s an important ambition when you consider that residents living within the Périph (the Boulevard Périphérique) tend to be very much onboard with the mobility revolution. But those outside the Périph are not as enthusiastic about new mobility. The Grand Paris Express project could change that…
Romain: Sure. Average occupancy of Paris cars is a lowly 1.1. In my role as Head of Mobility at Choose Paris Region, it’s my job to attract businesses that can solve this problem.
Ross: Yes, if Paris wants to encourage foreign investment, then it should make it easy for young employees to commute from outlying (cheaper) parts of town. On the other end of the spectrum, the pandemic has accelerated the work-from-home revolution and seriously questioned the wisdom of sitting in traffic to get to the office…
Romain: The pandemic put a temporary dip on the growth of mobility, but as we can see from the trends around the world, including Autonomy PARIS 2022, mobility has a lot of room to grow. The Law on Orientation of Mobility (LOM), which passed in 2019, is sometimes mistaken as solely a means to combat climate change when in fact it is much more than that. One of the major challenges it aims to address with regard to the work from home revolution is to combat isolationism. Everybody should be enabled to move at their own preferred pace and not be stuck at either their home or within the car. Here’s an off topic question, what has been your experience doing business here and sourcing talent?
Ross: I have been pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to conduct business in English. My French is still very rusty, which is not great for the social aspects of life, but this hasn’t affected my ability to conduct business here from the heart of Paris. We have a number of people working for Autonomy who are international…from countries like Brazil, Ireland, India, the UK and America…and they love the stimulation Paris provides; and of course they’re passionate about new mobility. It’s very exciting to collaborate with these talented, enthusiastic youngsters in building towards our vision of a better city.
Romain: That’s good to hear and it’s something we’re trying to communicate to the market. I think the stereotype of French not wanting to speak English is truly dead and buried. Our universities (particularly our “Grande Ecoles” (equivalent to Ivy League universities) are setting rigorous international language standards. These days graduates study abroad and have compulsory internships abroad, thus allowing them to strengthen their language skills, especially the use of English in Business.
Ross: For our publication at Autonomy Paris (March 2022), Autonomy Times, we asked the provocative question: ‘Will Europe Lead the New Mobility Revolution’? It turns out that there is some smart money betting that it does. Venture capital is indeed coming to Europe.
Romain: Yes, that’s true. One of the main draw cards for venture capital is the fact that there is so much talent here. I think the French Tech visa helps, as does the fact that Paris is home to 10 of the world’s top 500 universities in Computer Science and Engineering. The Shanghai Academic Ranking of World Universities placed Paris Saclay University the world’s top institution for Mathematics and one of the best in Engineering and Sciences.
Ross: What do you see as the main opportunities in terms of mobility right now in Paris Region?
Romain: There’s plenty that can be done around e-mobility and related infrastructure. For example, Paris Region wants to replace its diesel buses with ones that run on clean energy. That’s a great opportunity for innovative companies focussing on electromobility and hydrogen.
Also, given that Paris has great public transport, as well as ample bike lanes and subsidies for e-bikes, it seems ripe for MaaS solutions that bring all the options together on a digital platform. Urban logistics is another key opportunity, especially in terms of e-commerce and last-mile delivery. Moreover, Paris needs more innovation now than ever because of the Paris Region Climate Plan, which will ban diesel vehicles by 2025 and petrol-fueled vehicles by 2030, and it is my belief that international companies can provide the solutions Paris Region is looking for. Many international mobility companies such as CaoCao, Migo, Cafler, Swapfiets have already expanded and we are seeing more of them everyday.
Ross: Thank you for helping us establish Autonomy in Paris and we look forward to pursuing our partnership.
If you would like to find out more about scaling a mobility business in Paris Region, you can download Choose Paris Region & Autonomy’s guide dedicated to international companies wishing to enter Paris Region’s urban mobility market.
Join Choose Paris Region in Berlin alongside Autonomy at Autonomy’s first edition of the Berlin City Summit.. If you’re interested in learning more about drastically reducing air pollution and congestion, or you would like to attend the Berlin City Summit event, please register here.