April 2021, 8th to 11th

The Fabrique des Mobilités discovers another approach to innovation in Shenzhen

The Fabrique des Mobilités discovers another approach to innovation in Shenzhen

The Fabrique des Mobilités, an association initiated by the French Environment and Energy Management Agency (ADEME) is a regular at inOut. It leads communities on the topic of open innovation in transport. Its founder Gabriel Plassat organised an exploratory trip to Shenzhen for its members (businesses, Grandes Ecoles and authorities) at the end of November 2019. Here we bring you feedback from the man himself.

An original conception of the concept of intellectual property

What first struck our European visitors who are familiar with the world of open source development, was the lack of clarity surrounding the ownership of ideas and products. Shenzhen has become the technological workshop of the world. In addition to the sub-contractors to the giants of consumer electronics, many SME offer white label services whereby once they have paid a licence fee, anyone can put their name or logo on an object or component. In this fast-moving environment, anything that does not work disappears and what does work is adopted, copied and above all used as a building block to invent something else. For Gabriel Plassat, “It’s another way of innovating; new ideas and products become reusable commodities.”

trafic de nuit à shenzhen

An original concept of electric vehicles

In response to local demand, in cities in China, an entire production ecosystem for light, low-speed electric vehicles has developed around this principle. The Chinese entrepreneur David Li presented this story and its current development to the Fabrique des Mobilités’ explorers during their visit. This form of shared innovation, initially found in a few of China’s provinces, rapidly spread throughout the entire country. In 2018, 2 million of these vehicles were sold, “…even though they weren’t approved for the roads”, the trip’s organiser pointed out. This new means of transport is affordable – some models costing the equivalent of €1,000; the entry price for an electric bike.

Inspiration for the return to France

This new way of innovating that impressed our visitors enables Chinese businesses to start by addressing niche markets before aiming for mass production if their product is a success. That is what they are doing with telephones assembled and sold in Africa. The Middle Kingdom’s arrival on emerging technology markets is exclusively via infrastructure and giants like Huawei. In a totally concrete way, the first avenue will be to consider importing low-speed light electric vehicles so that FabMob communities can take part in constructing and mediatising them. To begin with, they have to be approved so they can be used on the roads. For Gabriel Plassat, “It’s a vehicle that’s in the same category as the quadricycle; therefore, it should be easier to obtain approval.”

vue aérienne de shenzhen

We look forward to following experiments to emerge from this exploratory visit to China, and we hope to see the initial results in Rennes at the next edition of inOut from 14 – 17 May 2020.

To find out more,read the article on this visit to Shenzhen written by Gabriel Plassat himself on the Fabrique des Mobilités’ website.