ULI Europe Conference wrap: The tech challenge

Lisette van Doorn, CEO of ULI Europe, has highlighted how technology has an important part to play in decarbonisation and sustainability of real estate, but that big challenges still exist.

During the annual ULI Europe Conference last week, Sir David King, emeritus professor of chemistry at the University of Cambridge and founder and chair of its Centre for Climate Repair, said the property industry ‘must act now’ on climate change.

And delegates also heard the latest advances in technology in a session entitled: 'The innovation mindset: are real estate companies on track for the great tech leap forward?'.

In a post-event interview with PropertyEU, Van Doorn acknowledged decarbonisation was a huge theme and one that required collaboration, not least with proptech companies.

While collaboration is clearly occurring, there is a gap in the provision of real-time data, which to an extent is holding back the industry when it comes to climate change initiatives. ‘Marginal improvement will not help deal with a crisis like climate change and decarbonisation,’ said Van Doorn.

She highlighted comments made by Nigel Allsop, senior director of Greystar Europe, who had explained Greystar and its peers were spending a great deal of time gathering data on sustainable issues. For instance, Greystar’s local teams hold monthly calls with competitors to go through transactions and share data in an informal way.

Said Van Doorn: ‘That’s where I see the link with tech – data cleaning and availability is a key thing if you want to move on. Innovation is still quite difficult. If you spend a lot of time collecting data, and having to clean it and interpret it, you cannot spend time on real innovation and on using that data to go forward.’

Though there are a plethora of proptech companies bringing forward products linked to sustainability, in many cases they are still in a development stage and are mostly start-ups.

One of the speakers at the ULI event was Gab McMillan, CEO of Equiem, a proptech company that was founded in 2011. ‘They are one of the few that have been around for several years,’ said Van Doorn.

‘There are many proptech companies, but many are still in sort of development stages. Therefore, it is harder for real estate companies to choose which one to use.’

For more information about the session on ‘The Innovation Mindset’, visit the ULI Europe Conference programme or contact ulieurope@uli.org


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