Israeli smart mobility innovators were in the global spotlight at the end of May during EcoMotion Week 2023, a well-known trade event attracting participants from all over the world. “Israel’s innovators have an outstanding track record of taking a range of cutting-edge technologies, often stemming from the defence field, and applying them to the mobility sector,” comments Joost Ortjens, Head of International Business Development – Smart Mobility at Luxinnovation, Luxembourg’s national innovation agency. He attended the event together with Daphna Brunshtein-Frucht, Senior Trade and Investment Advisor at the Luxembourg Trade and Investment Office in Tel Aviv, in order to meet with companies looking for the best way to scale on the European market.
A high potential, complex market for smart mobility
Europe is a very interesting market: economically, it is on par with the US and there is much interest in smart mobility solutions. However, there are also challenges. “Israeli companies often underestimate how complex the European market is with so many different countries, cultures and languages,” says Mr Ortjens. “The EU is not the ‘United States of Europe’! If you come with that expectation, you will most likely be disappointed.”
The EU is not the ‘United States of Europe’! If you come with that expectation, you will most likely be disappointed.
According to him, many companies make the mistake of working with a single, potential customer in Europe – a large OEM, for example – and adapting their products to its requirements, thinking that once they have gained the first contract, they will set up a local team and scale across the continent. “This is fraught with risk: if, in the end, the customer says no they stand there empty-handed. But even if they get the contract, they still do not know the market except, perhaps, the local ecosystem where their customer operates. They are not in a good place for scaling to other countries and clients.”
Local team, local use cases
For Mr Ortjens, having a team of people established in Europe at an early stage is crucial for success. “Mobility companies need to invest a substantial part of the funding they raise from investors in developing the market, and not spend it all on product and technology development,” he points out. “Having people on the ground even before you have your first client is essential for developing that in-depth knowledge of the market. And choosing to open your European office close to one potential big partner is not always the best option – it can be wiser to choose a more neutral location that gives you access to several of the EU’s biggest consumer markets.”
Having people on the ground even before you have your first client is essential for developing that in-depth knowledge of the market.
Another essential factor is to make sure that products match the actual needs of the market. “A technology-wise fantastic product is not always the best solution for the market. Doing the last 10-20% of the development work together with customers who can provide use cases from the target market is often what makes the product perfect.”
Luxembourg: a living mobility lab
This is where Luxembourg can come in. “Luxembourg has a great potential to be used as a living lab for mobility solutions,” says Ms Brunshtein-Frucht. “Luxinnovation has a very extensive network among the Luxembourg innovation ecosystem, and when we guide companies interested in using Luxembourg as their base for expansion in Europe, we always try to connect them with potential partners that can provide real-life use cases.”
A good example of this is self-driving bus shuttle manufacturer Ohmio Automotion Ltd, with roots in Australia and New Zealand, which recently opened its first European office in Luxembourg after winning a key contract with national railway company CFL. “We met Joost Ortjens, who introduced Luxembourg to us, in Copenhagen in 2018,” says Ohmio’s CEO Dan Zabrieszach. “He told us that it is a very progressive country interested in implementing autonomous vehicles. This gave us the opportunity to show our vehicles and later, to respond to the CFL call for tenders.”
Mr Ortjens invites any mobility company interested in knowing more about the opportunities to use Luxembourg as their launch pad to Europe to get in touch. “We offer free, neutral information and help companies explore whether Luxembourg could be of interest to them. We will also assess whether there is any potential use case partner that would be relevant for their specific mobility solution.”