Sector Spotlight – The Opportunities (& Problems) of the 15-Minute City

Big cities are renowned for their lengthy commutes, fast-paced lives and time-consuming routines. Yet it doesn’t have to be that way, according to Carlos Moreno, a teacher at the University of Sorbonne and father of the 15-minute city concept.

The concept is built around the idea of urban efficiency and how people’s time can be put to better use if they have all their daily necessities with a 15-minute walk reach. This means having access to groceries, entertainment, healthcare, education in your own neighbourhood.

The Paris born project has the potential to improve life satisfaction, reduce CO2 emissions and help local shops and small businesses retain a steady customer base.

This almost utopian philosophy has been fast-tracked into reality by the pandemic itself, which made us more in tune with our immediate locality. Moreover, as cities implemented ‘corona lanes’, bikes and scooters became one of the ‘driving factors’ behind the shift to more time-efficient cities.

Voi-Scooters, a company featured at the Start-up Grind European Conference believes in the promise of “cities made for living, free from noise and pollution”.

They deliver on that promise not just by making their scooters operate without releasing emissions, but also by extending vehicle lifespan and reusing spare parts when scooters become no longer rideable.

As companies embrace new ideas, cities do too. The recently re-elected Paris mayor, Anne Hidalgo, included principles of proximity, diversity, density and ubiquity in her election manifesto. Glasgow too is rethinking how much city space they allocate to vehicles, slowly transitioning to biking only in the city centre.

This is not to say the concept is without its flaws. Someone living in a poor neighbourhood is unlikely to benefit from the 15-minute city, but merely feel cut off and experience segregation from the better parts of a metropolis.

What is clear, therefore, is that effective urbanism is not just about physical mobility and hyper proximity, but also about social mobility and access.

But new problems present opportunities for new, innovative solution. All in all, the widespread adoption of the 15, 20 or even 30-minute city provides interesting forecasts for the private equity arena, as entrepreneurs will be increasingly able to leverage the transition to push forward their business ideas.

Investors too will be more confident in the companies they invest in, as many of these will work alongside city halls and local councils, receiving guidance and support.

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