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Is Ireland on the brink of a transport revolution?

Bolt Ireland’s Aisling Dunne outlines three ways in which private transport operators must step up in order to meet carbon reduction targets.

Ireland has not seen a new public transport mode become widely available in nearly a century, but the Road Traffic and Roads Bill looks set to deliver just that; regulating for shared electric scooter schemes now and other powered personal transporters in the future.

With Ireland’s ambitious carbon reduction targets set for this decade, there is a real opportunity now to harness new and innovative approaches to transport.

For this opportunity to be maximised, private operators cannot leave all the heavy lifting to national and local governments.

Ensuring a successful e-scooter roll-out

Ireland has long been seen as the final frontier for micromobility providers, with high levels of car use for short, flat, urban journeys. The most high-profile section of the bill provides the minister with the power to regulate the use of electric scooters across the country.

Electric scooters cover fairly low-distance journeys and can be an amazing alternative, but they are new to Ireland and need to be integrated properly with other transport modes and with the communities they support.

Some areas of consideration fall firmly with regulators. UK trials have shown the importance of competition on pricing. Many areas have gone with monopolistic providers, which have subsequently proven too expensive to really promote a shift in behaviour.

It’s also important for this legislation to be enacted speedily to cover private ownership of electric scooters, which has rocketed in recent years and currently has no regulatory framework at all.

However, we know from Europe that operators also have a key role to play in the seamless roll-out. Irish cities must demand that operators focus on principles that will lead to high usage, delivering an actual modal shift with the added benefit of ensuring there aren’t idle scooters clogging up the city.

These principles include offering affordable pricing, delivering high utilisation rates, ensuring scooters are regularly recirculated, offering leading safety features and the ability to integrate with other services and link up with public transport.

For an example of operators working hand in hand with cities, you only need to look to Bordeaux. Here, the city engages with operators to determine high drop-off and pick-up areas on most streets from user data.

They then respond by providing designated parking spots in lieu of a car parking space for all operators, requiring operators to use GPS and photographs to ensure all users finish their journeys in one of these parking spots. This type of system will be crucial in delivering a popular service in Ireland.

Reviving car-sharing

While all the media coverage will be around new forms of transport like scooters, the key to solving this puzzle could also lie in the time-tested car. One of Bolt’s fastest-growing services is its Bolt Drive car club offering and, from our experience, we see Ireland as having unique characteristics to ultimately deliver world-leading levels of shared ownership.

Some people are always going to need a car, especially in very rural areas. But in urban areas that need might be sporadic – for the trip to Ikea, to do the ‘big shop’ or to bring children to visit relatives. To make those trips, should people actually need to own a car? This is a question being grappled across Europe by both cities and operators.

It’s countries like Ireland that are fuelling this thinking. There are currently less than 1,000 car club vehicles in Ireland. Research shows you need one per 1,000 to make an impact, so we could increase our fleet five-fold and only then start to really see how much it supports a modal shift.

To deliver this, we need to innovate the offering. So far, all car club offerings are station-based, with the car having to be picked up and returned to the same place in a ‘round trip’.

This can be an easier system to operate but doesn’t focus hard enough on convenience for the user, who often doesn’t need the return leg, or doesn’t want to pay for the two days the car is sitting outside granny’s house.

The ‘free float’ model could be the way forward, with a greater number of cars in circulation on a more flexible model. This provides the user with confidence that if they need a car, there will be one available and nearby for the type of trip they need, thus negating the need to own a private vehicle.

Free-floating car clubs require greater investment and active management, but we’ve been able to partner with cities to deliver a huge range of benefits. From experience in Tallinn, more than 90pc of the journeys on our platform are ‘free’ journeys, with 10pc showing the characteristics of ‘station based’. That’s a huge potential market that is being missed.

Regardless of the model, it’s obvious that car clubs should also be considered as key parts of all new housing developments, to cater for future ownership trends among younger demographics.

Providing public transport integration

The final piece of the puzzle is MaaS, or mobility-as-a-service. MaaS is one of those overly technical industry terms that essentially means harnessing technology to integrate private mobility and public transport options onto one platform, improving connectivity.

This has long been talked about as a panacea for solving transport troubles, but we believe the technology is now finally there to harness the potential for MaaS to deliver a step-change in Irish transport.

It is widely acknowledged that to get a user to deviate from the comfort of their private vehicle, the alternatives have to be convenient and affordable. MaaS delivers this, but where a city or country has a state-sponsored MaaS platform, operators need to be willing to sign up and share their information if they want to contribute to an easier user experience and ultimately greater numbers making the switch.

Transport authorities in Ireland are looking at how to bring in a state platform, where users will easily see information and availability on a range of transport offerings, including buses, rail, Luas, bikes, scooters, car-sharing and hopefully taxis. Users will be able to map their whole route out, all through one app and hopefully in time, also pay for it all seamlessly.

Private operators must be open to cooperation with these state initiatives and see that by contributing to these platforms, they help the cities, the users and ultimately grow this customer base. The ability of a provider to offer integration with other modes is a key way we can help facilitate this revolution.

Starting the journey

According to the Department of Transport’s most recent Transport Trends, the private car provides for 73.7pc of transport in Ireland. Bolt’s own research shows that only one in 10 of Irish car owners feel they could currently give them up within five years. So the transport revolution will take time, and all parties need to be committed to seeing it through.

Earlier this month, the Joint Oireachtas Committee for Transport and Communications met with a number of micromobility operators to explore how e-scooters can best be introduced under the pending legislation.

The committee probed and quizzed the operators in attendance, seeking to establish the standards and approach of each to a range of issues such as parking, tandem riding, intoxication detection, riding on pathways, insurance and much more.

Ultimately, one issue united all of the operators present – a desire to help transform the transport offerings in Irish cities and do it in a safe and sustainable manner. We might disagree on who can do that best, but we are all striving towards the same goal.

Irish cities should demand the highest standards and operators should welcome this. High expectations will result in a better service for all, and we all know you only get one chance to make a first impression.

By Aisling Dunne

Aisling Dunne is the head of public policy for Bolt in Ireland. Bolt is an Estonian mobility company that operates e-scooter and e-bike rental schemes as well as taxi-hailing and car-sharing services.

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European Startup Ecosystems Awash With Gulf Investment – Here Are Some Of The Top Investors

European Startup Ecosystem Getting Flooded With Gulf Investments

The Voice Of EU | In recent years, European entrepreneurs seeking capital infusion have widened their horizons beyond the traditional American investors, increasingly turning their gaze towards the lucrative investment landscape of the Gulf region. With substantial capital reservoirs nestled within sovereign wealth funds and corporate venture capital entities, Gulf nations have emerged as compelling investors for European startups and scaleups.

According to comprehensive data from Dealroom, the influx of investment from Gulf countries into European startups soared to a staggering $3 billion in 2023, marking a remarkable 5x surge from the $627 million recorded in 2018.

This substantial injection of capital, accounting for approximately 5% of the total funding raised in the region, underscores the growing prominence of Gulf investors in European markets.

Particularly noteworthy is the significant support extended to growth-stage companies, with over two-thirds of Gulf investments in 2023 being directed towards funding rounds exceeding $100 million. This influx of capital provides a welcome boost to European companies grappling with the challenge of securing well-capitalized investors locally.

Delving deeper into the landscape, Sifted has identified the most active Gulf investors in European startups over the past two years.

Leading the pack is Aramco Ventures, headquartered in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Bolstered by a substantial commitment, Aramco Ventures boasts a $1.5 billion sustainability fund, alongside an additional $4 billion allocated to its venture capital arm, positioning it as a formidable player with a total investment capacity of $7 billion by 2027. With a notable presence in 17 funding rounds, Aramco Ventures has strategically invested in ventures such as Carbon Clean Solutions and ANYbotics, aligning with its focus on businesses that offer strategic value.

Following closely is Mubadala Capital, headquartered in Abu Dhabi, UAE, with an impressive tally of 13 investments in European startups over the past two years. Backed by the sovereign wealth fund Mubadala Investment Company, Mubadala Capital’s diverse investment portfolio spans private equity, venture capital, and alternative solutions. Notable investments include Klarna, TIER, and Juni, reflecting its global investment strategy across various sectors.

Ventura Capital, based in Dubai, UAE, secured its position as a key player with nine investments in European startups. With a presence in Dubai, London, and Tokyo, Ventura Capital boasts an international network of limited partners and a sector-agnostic investment approach, contributing to its noteworthy investments in companies such as Coursera and Spotify.

Qatar Investment Authority, headquartered in Doha, Qatar, has made significant inroads into the European startup ecosystem with six notable investments. As the sovereign wealth fund of Qatar, QIA’s diversified portfolio spans private and public equity, infrastructure, and real estate, with strategic investments in tech startups across healthcare, consumer, and industrial sectors.

MetaVision Dubai, a newcomer to the scene, has swiftly garnered attention with six investments in European startups. Focusing on seed to Series A startups in the metaverse and Web3 space, MetaVision raised an undisclosed fund in 2022, affirming its commitment to emerging technologies and innovative ventures.

Investcorp, headquartered in Manama, Bahrain, has solidified its presence with six investments in European startups. With a focus on mid-sized B2B businesses, Investcorp’s diverse investment strategies encompass private equity, real estate, infrastructure, and credit management, contributing to its notable investments in companies such as Terra Quantum and TruKKer.

Chimera Capital, based in Abu Dhabi, UAE, rounds off the list with four strategic investments in European startups. As part of a prominent business conglomerate, Chimera Capital leverages its global reach and sector-agnostic approach to drive investments in ventures such as CMR Surgical and Neat Burger.

In conclusion, the burgeoning influx of capital from Gulf investors into European startups underscores the region’s growing appeal as a vibrant hub for innovation and entrepreneurship. With key players such as Aramco Ventures, Mubadala Capital, and Ventura Capital leading the charge, European startups are poised to benefit from the strategic investments and partnerships forged with Gulf investors, propelling them towards sustained growth and success in the global market landscape.

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China Reveals Lunar Mission: Sending ‘Taikonauts’ To The Moon From 2030 Onwards

China Reveals Lunar Mission

The Voice Of EU | In a bold stride towards lunar exploration, the Chinese Space Agency has unveiled its ambitious plans for a moon landing set to unfold in the 2030s. While exact timelines remain uncertain, this endeavor signals a potential resurgence of the historic space race reminiscent of the 1960s rivalry between the United States and the USSR.

China’s recent strides in lunar exploration include the deployment of three devices on the moon’s surface, coupled with the successful launch of the Queqiao-2 satellite. This satellite serves as a crucial communication link, bolstering connectivity between Earth and forthcoming missions to the moon’s far side and south pole.

Unlike the secretive approach of the Soviet Union in the past, China’s strategy leans towards transparency, albeit with a hint of mystery surrounding the finer details. Recent revelations showcase the naming and models of lunar spacecraft, steeped in cultural significance. The Mengzhou, translating to “dream ship,” will ferry three astronauts to and from the moon, while the Lanyue, meaning “embrace the moon,” will descend to the lunar surface.

Drawing inspiration from both Russian and American precedents, China’s lunar endeavor presents a novel approach. Unlike its predecessors, China will employ separate launches for the manned module and lunar lander due to the absence of colossal space shuttles. This modular approach bears semblance to SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, reflecting a contemporary adaptation of past achievements.

Upon reaching lunar orbit, astronauts, known as “taikonauts” in Chinese, will rendezvous with the lunar lander, reminiscent of the Apollo program’s maneuvers. However, distinct engineering choices mark China’s departure from traditional lunar landing methods.

The Chinese lunar lander, while reminiscent of the Apollo Lunar Module, introduces novel features such as a single set of engines and potential reusability and advance technology. Unlike past missions where lunar modules were discarded, China’s design hints at the possibility of refueling and reuse, opening avenues for sustained lunar exploration.

China Reveals Lunar Mission: Sending 'Taikonauts' To The Moon From 2030 Onwards
A re-creation of the two Chinese spacecraft that will put ‘taikonauts’ on the moon.CSM

Despite these advancements, experts have flagged potential weaknesses, particularly regarding engine protection during landing. Nevertheless, China’s lunar aspirations remain steadfast, with plans for extensive testing and site selection underway.

Beyond planting flags and collecting rocks, China envisions establishing a permanent lunar base, the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS), ushering in a new era of international collaboration in space exploration.

While the Artemis agreements spearheaded by NASA have garnered global support, China’s lunar ambitions stand as a formidable contender in shaping the future of space exploration. In conclusion, China’s unveiling of its lunar ambitions not only marks a significant milestone in space exploration but also sets the stage for a new chapter in the ongoing saga of humanity’s quest for the cosmos. As nations vie for supremacy in space, collaboration and innovation emerge as the cornerstones of future lunar endeavors.

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Aviation and Telecom Industries Reach Compromise on 5G Deployment

The Voice Of EU | In a significant development, AT&T and Verizon, the two largest mobile network operators in the United States, have agreed to delay the deployment of 5G services following requests from the aviation industry and the Biden administration. This decision marks a crucial compromise in the long-standing dispute between the two industries, which had raised concerns over the potential interference of 5G with flight signals.
The aviation industry, led by United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby, had been vocal about the risks of 5G deployment, citing concerns over the safety of flight operations. Kirby had urged AT&T and Verizon to delay their plans, warning that proceeding with the deployment would be a “catastrophic failure of government.” The US Senate Commerce Committee hearing on the issue further highlighted the need for a solution.
In response, US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) head Steve Dickson sent a letter to the mobile networks, requesting a two-week delay to reassess the potential risks. Initially, AT&T and Verizon were hesitant, citing the aviation industry’s two-year preparation window. However, they eventually agreed to the short delay, pushing the deployment to January 19.
The crux of the issue lies in the potential interference between 5G signals and flight equipment, particularly radar altimeters. The C-Band spectrum used by 5G networks is close to the frequencies employed by these critical safety devices. The FAA requires accurate and reliable radar altimeters to ensure safe flight operations.

Airlines in the US have been at loggerheads with mobile networks over the deployment of 5G and its potential impact on flight safety.

Despite the concerns, both the FAA and the telecoms industry agree that 5G mobile networks and airline travel can coexist safely. In fact, they already do in nearly 40 countries where US airlines operate regularly. The key lies in reducing power levels around airports and fostering cross-industry collaboration prior to deployment.
The FAA has been working to find a solution in the United States, and the additional two-week delay will allow for further assessment and preparation. AT&T and Verizon have also agreed to not operate 5G base stations along runways for six months, similar to restrictions imposed in France.
President Joe Biden hailed the decision to delay as “a significant step in the right direction.” The European Union Aviation Safety Agency and South Korea have also reported no unsafe interference with radio waves since the deployment of 5G in their regions.
As the aviation and telecom industries continue to work together, it is clear that safe coexistence is possible. The delay in 5G deployment is a crucial step towards finding a solution that prioritizes both safety and innovation. With ongoing collaboration and technical assessments, the United States can join the growing list of countries where 5G and airlines coexist without issue.

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