MAGAZINE: Mipim morphs to fit agenda of change

A packed line-up of conferences crammed a mini-Mipim plus the Mipim Awards into Paris Real Estate Week, as well as its third annual proptech show.

It was Mipim, but not as we know it. Paris Real Estate Week, a brand-new happening in the real estate calendar – and perhaps tellingly, the only international property trade fair to have taken place in Europe so far this year – embodied its message of embracing change with a new formula of events, stands and panels distributed across the city of Paris.

Combining a number of Reed Midem’s property events, including its proptech show, now rebranded as Propel by Mipim, and a ‘mini-Mipim’ in the shape of two days dubbed the Mipim Urban Forum, the event organisers also managed to shoehorn the 2020 Mipim Awards into the four-day conference.

While keynotes ranged from Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak to former French president Nicolas Sarkozy, representing the twin topics of innovation and the future of cities, conference sessions moved away from big-picture themes to provide surprisingly granular insight on concepts as diverse as the countryside, building tall, 5G and 6G tech, asset flexibility, gender representation and reinventing hospitality.

Live streams and Zoom
Attendance was never going to match the figures of Mipim in Cannes, with the French government capping conferences at a maximum 5,000 participants as part of its Covid strategy. Around 1,500 delegates showed up in person, with international quarantine scenarios complicating the picture for potential US, UK and German visitors – plus other would-be international travellers. However, with the entire conference streamed live online for free, another 6,000 participants were able to follow the show on its online platform, plus through live streams on social media.  A number of key speakers also joined via Zoom, projected on large screens, managing to successfully engage in live panel debates.

This ‘phygital’ formula continued with the Mipim Awards, which combined a packed gala dinner with video messages on a big screen from award winners that couldn’t make it. Again, the combination was slickly executed, with a Zoom-savvy room barely blinking as real estate players dropped in via their studios and living rooms from all over the world.

Overall, the conference seemed to have a symbolic value for both participants and organisers, keen to get at least one show on the road in this highly unusual year. They pulled it off, and although a significant international presence was lacking, the week definitely presented a blueprint for how conferences can be done in Covid times.

Propel by Mipim
On paper, the highlight of Propel by Mipim was a moderated chat with Apple co-founder Steve Wozniac, in conversation with the New Statesman’s editor in chief, Courtney Fingar. In reality, Wozniac’s avuncular anecdotes never provided truly epigrammatic fodder. However, Wozniak’s message, that innovation is created by humans, for humans, reinforced the user- and talent-centric theme of the conference.

‘People who had entrepreneurial sense inspired me. Young innovators are often locked out of major success today because you need a big, powerful company to get your product out into the world,’ he noted.

Fingar said that she disliked the social and political omnipotence of today’s big tech companies and asked for Wozniak’s view. ‘I agree completely, so I don’t need to comment further,’ he noted.

When asked if remote work would become the new normal, he said: ‘A lot of programmers work from home. But firms – and those with power – get to make the rules. They will probably want to have more control over their staff, and bring them back on site.’

On the topic of automation, Wozniak added: ‘I’ve never feared humans not having jobs. For a while I really believed that machines would get true smartness and be able to think, have feelings and emotions, and care for you… One problem is – we have AI but we don’t know how the brain is structured, otherwise we could make a brain.’
He quipped: ‘I was only in one company where they figured out how to make a brain – it takes nine months!’

Crisis propels proptech
Other event highlights included a ‘fireside’ chat tracking the acceleration of the industry’s client-centric approach with Méka Brunel, CEO of Gecina, and Brendan Wallace, co-founder and managing partner of Fifth Wall, moderated by digital entrepreneur Gilles Babinet.

Brunel said that the pandemic has been accelerating three key trends, namely ‘urbanization, digitalization and sustainability’. She added: ‘They are affecting us personally, but we have to make them work collectively.’

Said Wallace: ‘These trends are having a profound effect on real estate. You now have to think like a sociologist. Landlords that take a forward-looking view – such as building brands – are going to be well-positioned going into the future.’

A strong message emerged from the Propel sessions that proptech companies, on the whole, were well-placed to benefit from the global health crisis.
Faisal Butt, CEO and founder of proptech VC Pi Labs said: ‘The pandemic doesn’t change what we do, but provides a tailwind. A lot of our companies are beneficiaries of the crisis… the fact that a lot of change will come out of this shouldn’t surprise!’

However, finance for Europe’s property technology start-ups is still a stumbling block, according to Rudy Aernoudt, chief economist of the European Commission, who featured in a live link with Dirk Paelinck, chairman of the European PropTech Association. Aernoudt lamented the fact that there were no proptech unicorns in Europe. ‘In the US, there is 34x more funding available. It’s easy to source friends, family and founder money, or business angels, but hard to win big backers. 44% of EU-financed scale-ups leave the EU,’ he said.

However, Paelinck was positive about the outlook. ‘Despite liquidity challenges, firms which have already invested in start-ups will not let them fail; and Covid accelerates the need for digital solutions,’ he underlined.

Mipim Urban Forum
Mipm Urban Forum was an experimental approach to injecting some Mipim-appropriate themes into Paris Real Estate Week. Taking place at three venues over two days, the first day of Mipim Urban Forum kicked off with a worthy intervention from former French president Nicolas Sarkozy in a moderated interview. Sarkozy stuck to the urbanism theme but also went off-script to add some fascinating political anecdotes to the chat. Drawn into the populism topic, he said: ‘You should love a country for what it is, not for who leads it. No one wants a Donald Trump in charge of their country. The Americans will choose. But Trump, Bolsonaro or Johnson are not people I’d have liked to work with.’

Sarkozy’s key message was that delegates should ‘love cities!’, promoting a high-spending investment model to secure their future, rather than putting money into the pockets of individuals.  ‘The best response to the crisis is taking initiatives. The size of the debt is not important,’ he said. ‘Invest in museums, infrastructure… things that will make people proud. Louis XIV was accused of ruining France; I think Versailles is more than profitable now!’

Mipim Awards lead with the green and good

Against all the odds, the Mipim Awards 2020 finally took place in the glamorous InterContinental Paris Le Grand hotel, as part of Paris Real Estate Week, held from 14-17 September.

The ceremony, which took the form of a grand dinner, managed to unite the physically present gala-goers with digital participants from all over the world. This year’s winners were selected by an expert jury featuring big names from the sector and led by chair Méka Brunel, CEO of Gecina.

In January, the jury had whittled down the contenders from 228 entries representing 45 countries, to 45 projects from 19 countries. In order to select the overall winners, in the absence of the usual in-person vote for Mipim attendees, registered event participants were invited to vote online, casting their preferences alongside the views of the jury. 

A total of 12 prizes were handed out, including a new award for the best cultural and sports infrastructure. France took the most prizes, winning three gongs. Many prize-winners, unable to attend due to strict border controls and quarantine rules, sent pre-recorded video messages of thanks. The Mipim Awards themselves were also celebrating a milestone – the 30th year of this ceremony, which found a way to unite the protagonists of the global real estate industry despite a health crisis which has left little to cheer this year.

‘It is particularly satisfying that in these exceptional times, we have been able to honour the winners of the Mipim Awards 2020 following deliberation from the international jury chaired by Méka Brunel and an online vote. The winning projects are, once again, of the highest quality and I thank the jury, the finalists and the international real estate community for supporting us through thick and thin,’ said Ronan Vaspart, director of Mipim.


Irina Viner-Usmanova Rhythmic Gymnastics Palace
Moscow, Russia
Developer: USM Development


Grand Central Saint Lazare
Paris, France
Developer: The Carlyle Group
Investor: Union Investment Real Estate


Québec, Canada
Developer: La Maison Simons


Lodz, Poland
Developer: Virako Sp. z o.o.


Jo&Joe Paris Gentilly – Street Art Inside
Gentilly, France
Developer: AccorInvest


Diamond Exchange, Capital C Amsterdam
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Developer: Zadelhoff B.V. and Sijthoff Media


WAVE waterside living berlin
Berlin, Germany
Developer: Bauwerk Capital GmbH & Co. KG


Stockholm, Sweden
Developer: Akademiska Hus (client), Karolinska Institutet (tenant)


Granary Island
Gdansk, Poland
Developer: IMMOBEL Group, Multibud
Investor:  UBM (hotel investor)


Paris, France
Developer: Gecina
Project Manager: Hines


Inventing the Greater Paris Metropolis
The Greater Paris Metropolis, France


Changing cities into forests W350 project for a sustainable future
Tokyo, Japan
Developer: Sumitomo Forestry Co., Ltd.



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