In December 2020, BP launched its first off-forecourt customer offer / city solution – BP Mobility Hub. Our Department of Sociology student El No’s fellowship , saw her helping to prove the positive economic business case for BP to roll out a mobility hubs network globally.

Located off-forecourt, the BP Mobility hub provides consumers access to EV chargers, electronic cars, bikes, parcel lockers, a café and has space for other modes to be introduced. A BP digital platform (a mobile app) allows people to book Hub cars and bikes as well as mass transit, taxis, and hotels. The hub will operate until early 2022 on the Greenwich Peninsula.

During this test-bed project, the team focussed on generating and analysing quantitative data and customer insight to understand whether a Hub network could be a future business proposition, including offer and business model development. The project explores peoples’ experience of using the Hub services, views on how they would like to see these evolve and the commercial pathway to delivering this.

The aims of El’s fellowship with BP were were to:

  • Gain an understanding of how commercial players in the mobility, energy, and retail sectors define and shape the future of urban mobility
  • Be part of the beginning of “grand” changes, i.e. shifting towards carbon neural cities
  • Through working with multiple internal and external parties that form a Mobility Hub, have a firsthand insight into what takes to bind them together and how different interests and objectives are balanced

El told us why she chose to work with BP on this project and what she gained from the opportunity:

“Before I applied for this programme, I had come across news about bp, one of the oil majors committed to go carbon neutral by 2050. One of initiatives came out of this big mission was testing out the idea of the “Mobility Hub”. As one of my research areas is urban mobility, I thought this would be a great opportunity to observe (and even participate in) up close new mobility in-the-making.
Additionally, I found the type of tasks assigned to this post, insights & data strategy, fits my expertise and gives me access to real data to identify changing patterns.

My primary responsibility was to consolidate, process, and analyse data from 20+ sources. The end product was the monthly performance review report that captures the performance of the Hub month by month. These reports were the main material discussed during the stakeholder meetings and critical inputs to evaluating the scalability of the Hub. I engaged from the very early stage of the project and participated in developing hypotheses, defining key metrics, and mapping out data sources.

From the process point of view, I created data collection templates and reporting templates to streamline data collection and manipulation. For insights, in addition to managing standard set of metrics (over 100) and charts on transactions and usage, I voluntarily provided some bespoke analysis every month to help the project team members and stakeholders understand changing mobility patterns and to make the performance review meeting a little less boring. Despite the limited capacity (I only committed 0.25 FTE), I produced useful insights for a monthly KPI review, critical materials for having all stakeholders on the same ground and coming up with actions to perform better. Streamlined process of data manipulation meant reduced time required for data preparation and more time can be spent on analysis and actions

I feel that the ‘added value’ benefits this fellowship brought me were:

  • I had a taste of how mobility, energy, and retail businesses operate
  • Improved communication skills, in particular making it easy for partners to provide the data required by giving them data templates and succinctly stating the context and aims for the data collection

In terms of the impact on my future career, I want my research – current and future, rooted in the real world. Six months with BP’s Mobility Hub project team was a valuable opportunity to reflect on how the environmental challenges could be thought of and addressed at multiple levels – business-level, city-level, and planetary-level.

Given the nature of the tasks I did (data analysis), I leveraged my previously earned skills than learning new skills. However, one thing I found really fascinating was to work with people who speak sales and marketing languages in the industry that deals with physical space and materials, which is a whole new experience for me. I enjoyed working with people from different backgrounds very much. I got to work with various internal and external partners – EV charging, EV rentals, bike rentals, parcel deliveries, convenience stores, data science and market research. I learned what different groups of people care about the most and how they consume and interpret information

I feel that the team used my academic knowledge well to refine the hypotheses clearer and more tightly tied to the objectives of the project, and mapped out the suitable methods to test those hypotheses. Additionally, I created and validated calculations for key metrics. I also established the semi-auto process for data consolidation and processing and created a standard pack of performance analyses informed by the hypotheses and metrics defined. In addition, I introduced new types of data analysis and visualisation that provided deeper insights into customers’ Hub usage patterns.

A key piece advice I would give to a prospective Cambridge Grand Challenges student, would be to find the project that is aligned with your PhD project or general research interests. You will want to be clear with what you want to get out of the Scheme and regularly check in with your supervisor. In addition, attending various meetings (where possible) helps settle in, cultivate network that you will need to carry out the tasks during the fellowship (and maybe beyond), and gain new knowledge. Organisations and projects are well selected, meaning that there is high chance that a student can find a project that is aligned with their PhD project, compared to opportunities in the general job market.”

El No’s placement with BP took place between January and July 2021.

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