Interview with Lionel Grotto, CEO, Choose Paris Region.
Could you tell us a few words about Paris Region’s recent COP conference? How are businesses going to be impacted by the outcomes of this conference?
The Paris Region has indeed just held a regional COP to identify solutions to tackle climate change. The conference has shown that the environment and the sustainability of the region have become key political and industrial priorities. 192 measures have been adopted. These include the use of hydrogen and solar-powered transport, the adoption of ‘greener’ and more sustainable mobility options and a pledge to making the 2024 Olympic & Paralympic Games environmentally friendly. The objective is to have a positive vision of ecology and build the future thanks to companies that will help us find solutions. The ambitions are great, and companies are welcome here to contribute, they will find a testing ground for their solutions.
Lionel Grotto, CEO, Choose Paris Region
How is the use of hydrogen going to be implemented in Paris Region and what effects will this have on businesses?
The potential of hydrogen-powered mobility is clear and could revolutionize the way we travel both by land, air, and water. Clean hydrogen is currently enjoying unprecedented political and business momentum, with the number of policies and projects around the world expanding rapidly. A depot is being built with 100 purely hydrogen-powered buses, a hydrogen corridor will be constructed along the Seine with charging docks along the Paris-Le Havre axis, and the implementation of hydrogen-powered aircraft is due to be commercialized by 2035.
Regarding hydrogen/’green’ businesses, this is a perfect time for them to scale-up their technologies here as we are committed to bringing down costs to allow hydrogen to become more widely used. There will be a significant rise in financial support towards major R&D programs with high environmental stakes: hydrogen fuel cells, decarbonated aircraft, electric vehicles, “clean” industries, etc. Paris Region will become an ever more ideal place to grow and develop a sustainable business.
In what ways is public transport becoming more sustainable and what does this mean for businesses in Paris Region?
There are major plans ahead concerning public transport, with the electrification and automation of the metro lines, the development of autonomous vehicles and shuttles as well as the Grand Paris Express project. This last project is the greatest of its kind in Europe: it includes 200 kilometers of new lines which means doubling the length of the existing metro network, and 68 new stations. The new lines are built specifically to maximize energy and efficiency during both construction and use. This will better connect the region to airports and high-speed train stations and allow certain areas to greatly increase their connectivity and the number of jobs their inhabitants will have access in a given amount of time. By 2030 all schools, rail, and Metro stations, both in the city-center and suburban, will have bicycle parking and storage. Additionally, as well as free registration and subsidies for buying environmentally-friendly vehicles, 12,000 charging bays will be installed to promote their use. These are steps in the right direction, and we are constantly inviting new ideas and innovations to meet our goal of a truly ‘green’ metropolis.
I hear that many e-mobility companies are expanding to the Paris Region as it is a great testing ground. To what extent do you agree with this?
Yes, I could not agree more. More and more companies focused on green and sustainable mobility are coming here to try out new ideas, and for a good reason. Paris Region is a diverse and dynamic environment offering a talented and accessible pool of engineers. With the aim to ban all diesel and petrol-fuelled vehicles by 2025-2030 the region is keen to find innovative new options for mobility, therefore welcoming innovative companies focused on mobility. The region is home to the highest population density in Europe of 12,060 residents/km² with only 35% of Parisians owning a car, it is therefore a duty to ensure that a sustainable level of mobility is reached. The Paris Region is keen to attract these innovative businesses and offers a vibrant start-up scene as well as strong financial and legal support from policymakers. The excellent existing infrastructure makes the Paris Region the right area to test new ideas and technology.
With the upcoming 2024 Olympic & Paralympic Games, what measures are in place to ensure that all the new infrastructure being built is in line with the Region’s focus on sustainability?
The upcoming Olympic & Paralympic Games promise to be at the forefront of environmental stewardship. There will be a 55% decrease in the Games’ carbon footprint in comparison with the Olympic Games held in London 2012 and Rio 2016. Sustainability is at the core of planning, logistics, and strategy.
As a matter of fact, the Athletes’ Village will be powered by local geothermal energy with eleven wells drilled in the area. The Olympic and Paralympic Village will include 100% of all the following: bio-based materials, green energy during the games, sustainable and certified food sources and clean transportation. Additionally, over 26 hectares of biodiversity will be created on the Olympic sites in Seine-Saint-Denis and the seats provided for the future Olympic aquatic centre will be entirely produced from locally collected waste, thanks to the network of local collectors and manufacturers who make such innovations possible.
Furthermore, the Olympic and Paralympic Games will see the first experiments of our Urban Air Mobility industry with flying taxis and freight deliveries by Urban air vehicles. Indeed, Paris Region, Groupe ADP and RATP Group announced at the end of September 2020 the structuring of an Urban Air Mobility industry at the Pontoise Airfield, which will be a testing area for players developing electric vertical take-off and landing vehicles (eVTOL). We are now seeking creative minds and the right partners to help us structure this ecosystem to facilitate the development of Urban Air Mobility and accelerate the maturity of both the ecosystem and the regulatory framework. A call for expression of interest has been published on our dedicated website and applications are open until November, 13.
To sum up, Paris Region is taking sustainability to the next level by turning to renewables, to promoting more responsible growth and to helping projects with a positive local impact emerge. The prospect of the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games provides an exceptional opportunity for foreign companies and investors to try out their solutions in the region and Choose Paris Region will be there to help them through every stage of their expansion plans.