Senior Partner & Managing Director
The Motor City is driving innovation in the new ways we navigate the urban spaces where we work and live. In Project Kinetic, a unique collaboration of public agencies, companies, and philanthropies spearheaded by BCG are working together to design, fund, and implement truly innovative mobility solutions. In the process, the coalition is developing new approaches to mobility that will help define the future of cities.
During a 12-week “innovation sprint” in early 2018, the partners brainstormed more than 100 ideas for tackling the mobility challenges facing Detroit. The options were whittled down to six promising projects that are slated to run as pilots over the next 12 months. They range from a revolutionary approach to car sharing to dynamically-scheduled public transportation.
This role as innovator is a natural fit for Detroit, given its roots in the automobile industry and renewed creative energy that’s driving economic and cultural growth. As Detroit moves ahead, it is grappling with a problem that is plaguing other cities as well: mobility can limit residents’ access to jobs, health care, education, and civic activities.
The novel public-private model that BCG organized helped to marshal Detroit’s resources to pursue creative solutions, but can equally be extended to other metropolitan areas.
The BCG approach is grounded in the belief that highly effective public-private initiatives require far more than getting people together to talk over a problem and put possible plans down on paper. Partners must be selected carefully to bring specific and complementary expertise covering the full mobility ecosystem to the table. City and state agencies, for example, can remove roadblocks and get pilots to market faster, while businesses bring a combination of knowledge, technology, capabilities, and resources.
Each side has to be able to see clear benefits from collaborating so that they’ll “put skin in the game.” For companies, this can be an opportunity to boost their own local businesses and access to untapped, local talent. Successful projects also promise to provide a direct boost to a company’s ability to influence mobility in Detroit and put technology and strategies in play that are being developed internally. For the city government, participating can help its citizens gain access to better jobs, health care services, and educational opportunities, and reduce congestion.
Working closely with Detroit’s already existing Office of Mobility Innovation and project sponsors, the City of Detroit and PlanetM (the mobility arm of the State of Michigan), BCG and BCG Digital Ventures recruited a lineup of partners that reflects the ecosystem of the targeted mobility issues. Corporate team members include General Motors, one of the world’s leading automotive companies; Lear Corporation, an automotive supplier of advanced automotive & mobility technology; DTE Energy, the local electric utility company essential to providing infrastructure for electric vehicle charging infrastructure; Quicken Loans, Bedrock, one of the city’s largest employers and real estate developers, and the philanthropy, the New Economic Initiative (NEI).
Once assembled, the group launched what BCG calls a 12-week innovation sprint. The sprint is a rigorous process designed and managed by BCG and BCG Digital Ventures to identify the most critical mobility issues and to come up with solutions for testing.
Drawing on the partners’ experience and interviews with Detroiters, commuters, and mobility experts, the initiative pinpointed four key areas of friction affecting mobility in the city:
Using these insights, the initiative generated more than 120 ideas. Then in 3 distinct, fast-paced sprints, the team filtered those ideas. Unlike projects at other cities that could take years to implement, the team focused on picking solutions that weren’t just cutting edge, but that could be implemented in the next 12 months.
The selections had to meet the following criteria:
The team studied and screened the concepts, settling on six cutting-edge, data-driven mobility initiatives to roll out as pilots:
The pilots will be run in select areas of Detroit and along certain bus routes. As the pilots move ahead during the next 12 months, teams will test the viability of the services with the objective of scaling them more broadly throughout the city.
The initiative’s board has continued to be engaged and is being used to guide the pilots to launch.
While the direct impact of Project Kinetic will become clear only once the pilots get underway, the exercise has already proven how successful BCG’s unique model can be. The team built a dynamic public-private partnership and quickly generated solutions to mobility challenges. The participants can also take their process learnings back to their companies or other cities to apply the approach there.
The model creates a roadmap other cities can use in building meaningful coalitions of companies and public agencies whose respective skills, capabilities, and resources make it possible to move speedily from innovation to impact. For instance, while some bike-sharing projects in other cities took years to put in place, the innovative ideas in Detroit could go from drawing board to pilot in as soon as six months.
The BCG model also helps to shape mobility solutions that address a region’s unique challenges and opportunities, rather than simply adopting generic programs. For example, Detroit does not have a public transit subway or underground, but an innovative flexible bus system would radically change Detroit’s transportation landscape.
The full impact of BCG’s model will play out as more and more cities adopt this rigorous, accelerated, and effective approach to public-private mobility solutions.