Interview: Sustainable Mobility in Rennes


The article was created within the H2020 EDUC-SHARE project framework (Working Package 8 "Dissemination and communication”, Task 8.2 “Internships for student journalists in genuinely scientific environment”).


When it comes to the topic of mobility, many people do not associate individual mobility with consequences of economic development. However, with the advancement of industries and an increase in job opportunities, more workers than ever need transit to get to and from their workplaces, which has led to them increasingly turning to individual vehicles. More people using efficient and green modes of transportation – such as carpooling, taking public buses and trains, or even using electric vehicles – has the potential to have a significant positive impact on the environment.

I sat down and spoke with Laurent Denant-Boëmont and Sophie Langouet-Prigent of the Rennes 1 Foundation, a project founded in 2010 by the University of Rennes, regarding how their organization is making strides to learn more about this issue and find ways to combat it.

Laurent Denant-Boëmont is a Professor in the Department of Economics at the University of Rennes. We discussed the issues of mobility as they play into a global context.

Sophie Langouët-Prigent is the vice-president of the Rennes 1 Foundation. She joined our conversation to help us better understand the foundation and its goals and how it is involved in these mobility issues.

ROCHA: Regarding the topic of mobility, what are the biggest misconceptions people know/learn about?

DENANT-BOËMONT: “I guess that most people do not realize, especially in developing countries, that the mobility we currently have is so huge compared to people just 2 centuries ago. The explosion of individual mobility is a key consequence of economic development. Most people also do not realize that this explosion has had very negative consequences on the ecosystem. People mostly think of industries and agriculture, but not of transportation, as harmful to the environment.”

ROCHA: What can be expected in the future in terms of more environmentally friendly alternatives to accommodate the population growth?

DENANT-BOËMONT: “Governments aim towards fighting a lot of issues, and are especially trying to avoid drastic climate change, and therefore will have to regulate mainly in 2 ways. The first way is to massively engage in electric mobility on the supply side of transportation, and the second way is to slow down transportation demand, especially in developed countries.”

ROCHA: Why do the so-called industrialized regions (North America, the Pacific, and Western Europe) still spend more on mobility per capita when compared to highly populated developing economies such as Asia, Latin America, and Africa?

DENANT-BOËMONT: “Because GDP per capita is higher in developed countries, which implies 2 things. The first is that the cost for increasing transportation supply is higher (wages are higher as well as other investment and operating costs). The second is that as people are wealthier and want to feed transportation needs, they are willing to pay much more for these new transportation facilities. The other problem is that developing countries might face difficulties financing new transportation infrastructures due to a lot of external factors (the financial sector is inefficient and poorly organized, public subsidies are lacking, etc.).”

ROCHA: Currently, what are the most efficient mobility alternatives to avoid resource exhaustion? How do they operate?

DENANT-BOËMONT: “The most efficient alternatives for short ranges in cities are active mobilities (walking, cycling), but they are limited to young and healthy populations. We need efficient public transit, such as trains for medium ranges or metros for short ranges. At the longer-range level, express shuttles or carpooling might be a good way to increase transportation efficiency. These mechanical ways of transportation must be electric.”

ROCHA: What is the Rennes 1 Foundation?

DENANT-BOËMONT: “The Rennes 1 Foundation ("Progress, Innovation, Entrepreneurship") was created in 2010 by the University of Rennes 1. Its purpose is to bring the University of Rennes together with companies in order to promote innovation and socio-economic development. The Rennes 1 Foundation sets up concrete actions for students and teacher-researchers, organized in synergy with companies and local authorities. These actions are based on four main missions: to promote and enhance cutting-edge research, to improve the professional integration of students, to develop international activities, and to promote solidarity.”

ROCHA: What do you understand as Smart Mobility?

DENANT-BOËMONT: “Smart Mobility means to use up-to-date technologies and computer science to promote sustainable mobility, and to have a systemic approach to transportation problems and its consequences (urban planning, urban logistics, facilities planning, etc.).”

ROCHA: Regarding the goals of the Rennes 1 Foundation, what has already been done and/or implemented?

DENANT-BOËMONT: “We develop new research projects to have a better knowledge of mobility choices and transportation behaviors and how mobility choices could be influenced in order to reach more sustainable outcomes. […], there is an ongoing dialogue between academics of Rennes University and the members of Sustainable Mobility Chair (industries, local authorities) to promote sustainable mobility in the public.”

ROCHA: What is there to expect from the Rennes 1 Foundation in the near future in terms of the implementation of its thematic axes listed on the university website?

LANGOUËT-PRIGENT: “The foundation relies on the university’s expertise to answer major societal issues. To do that, the foundation will still enhance innovation to bring the University of Rennes closer to the socio-economic world. It’s important for us that those innovations provide answers to the main transitions – digital, environmental, and health – in a sustainable world”.

Bearing in mind that the Rennes 1 Foundation is a permanent project operating for over 10 years now that has already shown palpable outcomes, the importance and influence of the academy are noticeable beyond its own walls. It was a pleasure for me to get to know more about this wonderful project, as well as to interview such distinguished people. Thank you Laurent Denant-Boëmont and Sophie Langouet-Prigent for your time and for working so efficiently on this topic of sustainable mobility. 

Author: André Rocha


“The project EDUC-SHARE has received funding from the European Union´s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 101017526.”