Interview with Mark Nicholson, CEO at City AI Tech Company: Vivacity Labs

Mark Nicholson

Our vision at Vivacity Labs is to make cities smarter, safer and more sustainable. We work with government, local and transport authorities to deliver the tools they need to achieve this. Our AI technology provides anonymous, highly accurate and real-time data on transport modes, traffic flow and travel trends, helping councils to make more informed strategic decisions and making existing systems, such as traffic lights, more intelligent.

With this greater data insight and optimised transport networks, towns and cities can improve their urban infrastructure, reduce overall congestion, and create safer and more sustainable ways for people to travel.

The goal is to create the European or British vision of a smart city – one that puts the citizen first and runs on privacy-by-design principles.
Home - Vivacity Labs

How did you come up with the idea for the company?

The Vivacity Labs journey actually started back in 2011. I met my cofounders, Peter and Yang, while designing, building and racing a solar-powered car as part of a student-run project at Cambridge – an unusual starting point to say the least! The project was done in our spare time around our degrees, and it ended up with us going all the way to Australia to race it. While not quite the success we had wanted, it provided us with the critical lessons we needed to get a business up and running.

We went our separate ways after graduation and into different jobs. However, after that entrepreneurial experience of the solar car, we had “the itch” to start something new – and, four years after our first meeting, Vivacity was officially born.

After lots of trial and error, manufacturing sensors in our bedrooms, we gradually established our core product. We have now successfully developed this over the last 5 years and now have cutting-edge artificial intelligence sensors and Smart Junctions signal control gathering detailed and anonymous data – 24/7.


What advice would you give to other aspiring entrepreneurs?

In my eyes, the only way to start a new venture is to focus on one single, narrow problem, and solve that better than anyone else. The chances of that problem being identical in many countries is very slim – there are always local adaptations that are needed. So my advice would be focus, focus, focus, and don’t let this time of international opportunity and global discussions distract you from what you need to do to win in your core, original market.

What can we hope to see from Vivacity Labs in the future?

Our focus for the future is to continue to use our technology to contribute to the evolution of the smart city. This encompasses three key areas: better data about roads, real-time control systems for existing infrastructure, and the future intersection of vehicle and fleet technologies with infrastructure. As we emerge from lockdown, how we travel and manage our transport networks is going to be crucial for our social, economic and green recovery.

Moving forward, the use of our technology will help facilitate CAVs, create smarter, more interconnected journeys, and promote active travel, all of which will have a positive impact on the sustainability and efficiency of cities across the UK and beyond.