6 Jun 17

Europe’s thriving start up cities

San Francisco may have its Silicon Valley and Israel is putting Tel Aviv on the hi tech map, but Europe, too, is home to metropoles with ecosystems in which start-ups prosper.



The German capital has evolved into one of the world’s most important start-up hotspots, rivalling competitors both in the EU and elsewhere in the world. Every year, 44,000 new companies are founded in Berlin. Its unique ecosystem and openness attracts investments and international talent alike, while boasting an extraordinary network connecting all related sectors.

In terms of available venture capital, new jobs in start-up businesses, co-working spaces and tech events, the ‘Bear city’ is clearly evolving in a way that promises a proliferation of innovation, not least in the mobility field. It is not without reason that Volkswagen Group chose Berlin as the hub for Moia, an independent 50-employee company investigating new shapes of mobility in large urban areas. And there are other examples galore.     

ParkTag: the social parking app

A fleet-relevant time, money and frustration saving mobility innovation comes from the Berlin-based predict.io, a start-up founded in 2014 with the mission to turn smartphones into parking sensors. Their so-called social parking app ParkTag allows users to find on-street parking spaces thanks to the community. Users share their departure location when they are about to leave. Their space is displayed in a map interface to the other app users. This can help reduce urban traffic up to 30 percent and save users 15 minutes of time every day.

High Mobility: connected car software

Founded in 2013, High Mobility directly and securely connects cars with applications around them, allowing a multitude of applications such as keyless access and communicating with infrastructure such as charging poles or payment machines in car parks. What makes it different from other solutions is that it does not require an internet connection. This means that services can be offered in areas with limited network coverage. For car makers, the platform makes for flexible, fast innovations in the shape of apps.



That the Catalan capital leads the way in terms of digital endeavour, is demonstrated by the fact that it hosts the annual Mobile World Congress, the planet’s largest gathering for the mobile industry. In recent years, automotive suppliers and car manufacturers too are showcasing new developments at MWC, as connected services and infotainment have become key decisive factors for customers.

With the worst of the economic crisis over, Barcelona is regaining entrepreneurial support for start-ups and is home to several leading accelerators, such as Wayra, Startupbootcamp, Seedrocket and Conector. Moreover, the city prides itself on its commitment to entrepreneurship, with initiatives such as Barcinno, an English online resource dedicated to strengthen the community within the city. Barcelona may not have the status of London or Berlin yet, but chances are it will climb up the ladder with Spanish fury.

CityOS: the smartest city in the world

A metropolis in which all forms of mobility are perfectly connected and where resources are used efficiently: that is what CityOS is about. American consultancy Accenture, French power supplier Engie and Spanish telecom company Cellnex are developing a smart Operating System for the city, uniting every aspect that influences the lives of its inhabitants on a single platform. Onto this basic layer, intelligent urban services can be added. In this context, it is important to attract new start-ups to the city to invent and develop these new smart services.

Metropolis:Lab Barcelona: mobility research

Spanish VW subsidiary SEAT has inaugurated a research lab in Pier01, the heart of Barcelona City Tech, allowing the carmaker to interact with the city’s innovative ecosystem. 25 engineers, developers and data scientists are working on mobility service software based on information provided by cars, Barcelona as a Smart City and pedestrian movements, with the goal to enhance the relationship between man and vehicle in urbanised areas. At the same time, the lab’s employees are using electric eMii cars to promote a car sharing pilot project.



According to innovation foundation Nesta and the European Digital Forum, the British capital remains the best city in Europe for digital entrepreneurs. It ranks first in the European Digital City Index thanks to its access to capital, entrepreneurial culture and the availability of a skilled workforce. London allegedly also boats the highest number of start-ups turned into successful international businesses.

Particularly interesting is East London Tech City, also known as Silicon Roundabout, the third-largest technology start-up cluster after San Francisco and New York City. Companies like Cisco, Intel and McKinsey & Co have invested in the area. Many of Tech City’s projects get academic support from local universities. Moreover, Google’s London Campus is home to two of the four biggest incubators, Seedcamp and Oxygen.      

InMotion Ventures: moving the city

Powered by Jaguar Land Rover, InMotion Ventures invests in the future of mobility and intelligent transportation. It funds start-ups in various stages (up to Series B) and boasts an Accelerator programme in London, focusing on pre-seeds and supporting ten to fifteen early stage pioneers per year. At the same time, it works together with its parent company to create innovative products and services in the mobility and transportation space.

Citymapper: making cities usable

A prime example of a London-based mobility start up grown into a million-dollar company is Citymapper. Making use of mobile and open transport data, its handy app for city commuters calculates the best intra-urban routes in real time with live updates, taking multimodality to the next level and making it much more feasible to combine buses, underground, taxis, bikes, and so on. Citymapper has partnerships with Google, Apple, OpenStreetMaps, Foursquare, Uber, Hailo, Car2Go and Autolib.

Authored by: Dieter Quartier