Case study

PlanetM’s Mobility Grant



August 27, 2020

Created as the mobility initiative of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, and most recently incorporated into Michigan’s new Office of Future Mobility and Electrification, PlanetM provides a single point of entry for companies from all over the world to establish a presence in Michigan, work with local partners, and receive the support they need to test or develop their mobility solutions. PlanetM is a catalyst for partnership and economic growth. Its ultimate goal is to create jobs and make it easier for people and goods to move about. It also leverages public/private partnerships to test and deploy transportation solutions with a real and proven impact on the quality of life for residents.

To achieve this goal, PlanetM created two grant programs, one for testing, and one for piloting.

PlanetM Testing Grants have been designed to connect early stage startups with leading test sites in Michigan. The testing grants reduce costs, allowing mobility companies to focus their resources on enhancing and proving out their technologies, while deepening their ties to the Michigan mobility ecosystem. With the pilot grants, PlanetM provides funding to pilot mobility solutions in a real-life environment at small scale, to validate their value proposition and assess their potential impact on the community. Companies around the world can apply, with the only requirement that they partner with a Michigan-based entity .

PlanetM’s grant programs are extremely successful. To date, 28 pilot projects have been implemented through a total of 5 rounds of founding

Rigor, transparency and accountability

To select the grant recipients and make sure that the money goes to projects with a high impact on the local community, PlanetM built a very thorough application and selection process. To assist the team, a review committee made of subject matter experts from the industry as well as local representatives has been assembled. 

But here is where things get complicated. How to coordinate the vetting process efficiently when the members of the committee are busy with their daytime jobs, or when local elected representatives have urgent priorities. Getting all the stakeholders aligned and engaged, while ensuring a fair and speedy evaluation process can be a challenge, but is critical to the effectiveness of the program for PlanetM. 

“Prior to UrbanLeap, PlanetM used a CRM solution and a combination of “homemade” forms to collect applications and excel spreadsheets resulting in inefficiencies in managing the vetting process”, according to Charlie Tyson, PlanetM’s Technology Activation Manager.

UrbanLeap: optimizing workflows to accelerate innovation

In January 2020, PlanetM began to optimize the entire process, from solicitation to pilot implementation, utilizing the UrbanLeap platform, including streamlining the process needed to draft intake forms; collect, review and score applications; and select testing and pilot grant recipients. ”By solving these hurdles from an administrative standpoint, we can focus more of our energy and resources into the work that is having the greatest impact here in the state”, explains Charlie. “An added benefit: UrbanLeap’s user friendly experience for reviewing and scoring applications”.

And the results are there. 

As part of its service offering, UrbanLeap conducts extensive marketing campaigns to promote its customers' intake process as broadly as possible. As a result of PlanetM and UrbanLeap’s combined efforts, the Detroit-based organization collected no less than 98 replies in two weeks. On average, the previous rounds of funding would attract 15 to 20 replies each. “PlanetM has really benefited from the exposure UrbanLeap has given us to other communities and ecosystems”, explains Charlie. 

UrbanLeap enabled PlanetM to cut the time to evaluate applications by 75%.

With such an increase in applications, driven in part by COVID-19 response efforts, a monumental task awaited the review committee. Through the UrbanLeap platform, PlanetM was able to complete a first phase of pre-screening, by very quickly ruling out the solutions that did not meet PlanetM’s qualification criteria. Charlie estimates that this first phase enabled PlanetM to shorten the evaluation process significantly.  For the second round, the review committee leveraged UrbanLeap’s built-in scorecards and communication features, wrapping up the evaluation process in 2.5 weeks only - a process that previously took 2 months to complete even with a much smaller pool of applicants. In conclusion, UrbanLeap enabled PlanetM to collect 4x more replies while cutting the time to evaluate applications by 75% allowing for the speed and responsiveness the COVID-19 crisis required

“UrbanLeap’s application and scoring capabilities are user friendly and neat. I just love them. Our review committee was so impressed. It was amazing to see how efficient and easy it was to review and score applications.”

Next stop, pilot optimization!

Five pilot projects made it through the vetting processWith 5 projects moving to the implementation phase, PlanetM is leveraging UrbanLeap’s pilot management functionality to plan, track and evaluate the pilots. “UrbanLeap gave us additional confidence in the pilot selection phase and  we are looking forward to using the platform to gain efficiency and to collect the data needed to assess the success of these projects”. 

For PlanetM, it is critical to know the impact of the pilots launched and supported through the grant program.. Keeping track of all the pilots in one single interface helps PlanetM to tell the story of these projects once deployed. “Storytelling is a critical component of the work we do with and for the community. Being able to use UrbanLeap to report on our progress and our successes has been extremely valuable”.

“UrbanLeap really gave us the confidence that we selected the projects with the most added value for our community”

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