6 December 2018

Discussion on how emerging technologies and real estate can help European cities

The recent conference ‘Innovation, Technology and Real Estate: building cities for Europe’s future’ was organised by the URBAN Intergroup and INREV. It took place on Tuesday the 4th of December in Brussels.

In his opening speech, Jan Olbrycht, President of the URBAN Intergroup, emphasized the importance of integrated, rational urban planning if we are to meet the challenges facing cities. “It’s not possible to have long-term real estate investment without a stable legislative and political system” – said Olbrycht. It was followed by several  presentations explaining the role that technology and real estate can play in improving the quality of life in cities.

The first presentation made by a representative of ULI (the Urban Land Institute) explained the challenges facing cities such as increasing density, congestion and aging populations and underlined some of the growth trends in urban areas.

A leader of the URBAN Air Mobility (UAM), within the Sustainable Urban Mobility Action Cluster of the EIP-SCC (European Innovation Partnership, Smart Cities and Communities), illustrated their vision of smart cities and how urban air mobility and electric flying vehicles, which are developing rapidly, can help address some of these challenges. As there is a significant disconnect between urban planning and new technology, a strong call was made for a more integrated approach. Moreover, the need for urban planners to take into account the “fourth” dimension of urban mobility (not only walk, ride, bike but also fly) was underlined.

The next speaker from Parkbee concentrated on more efficient use of parking spaces in existing buildings, which can significantly reduce congestion by getting cars off the street and opening up room for more green space in cities. He explained how a mobile application already implemented in Amsterdam and London helps find unused parking spaces available in commercial buildings. This innovation addresses the general need to use buildings more efficiently, such as using roofs to generate electricity and other ideas, which building owners and investors are exploring and rapidly embracing.

A representative of the European Commission, DG MOVE, gave a presentation about the importance of mobility in cities and explained the essence of “responsible design”. An integrated approach to urban policy developed between different DGs in the European Commission it is an important initiative that embraces developing technology and could lead to innovative solutions for the challenges facing cities.

The meeting ended with a discussion panel that allowed the participants to share their thoughts on the issues presented. Jan Olbrycht concluded the event by emphasizing that developing new technologies can be very costly. However, he stated that urban planners and politicians need to start by analysing urban problems and only look for solutions after understanding the problems. If the technologies help solve those problems better, it is worth investing in them. However, he warned “we should have enough courage not to use it if it is not needed!”


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