Singapore collaborates with start-ups to bring innovation to maritime industry

The Smart Port Challenge encourages promising start-ups to translate ideas into real-world solutions.

To bring technology and innovation to the maritime industry, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) and NUS Enterprise held the Smart Port Challenge (SPC) 2020 to encourage promising start-ups to translate ideas into real-world solutions.

The SPC is a core program under Port Innovation Ecosystem Reimagined @ BLOCK71 (PIER71), a collaboration between the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) and NUS Enterprise, the entrepreneurial arm of the National University of Singapore (NUS). The fourth edition of the SPC received 187 applications from start-ups around the world and was conducted online for the first time. 

Many of these applications seek to automate processes and reduce reliance on manpower through solutions such as robots for hull cleaning, and virtual walkthrough of vessels for ship inspections, which is particularly beneficial in light of COVID-19. From the pool of highly qualified proposals received, 16 were selected, putting their teams into PIER71 Accelerate, a six-week market validation and customer discovery program. 

Focusing on areas such as artificial intelligence, data analytics, Internet of Things and robotics, all 16 finalists will be eligible to apply to MPA for a grant of up to S$50,000 to embark on pilot projects with maritime companies. 

Chee Hong Tat, Senior Minister of State for Transport and Foreign Affairs, said: “In today’s age, what gives us a competitive edge is not capital but new ways to unlock value from our businesses. We must ensure that innovation thrives and flourish in Maritime Singapore. This calls for a collaborative approach. Government agencies such as MPA, academia, industry, and solution-providers must come together to translate innovative ideas into real-world solutions. Through SPC, we support technology start-ups to co-create solutions with the industry, which can be exported world-wide.”  

Professor Freddy Boey, NUS Deputy President (Innovation and Enterprise), said: “PIER71 is a collaborative effort that brings vital parts of the ecosystem together to fast-track technology solutions industry-wide. Our vision for this partnership with MPA is to raise the competitive edge of start-ups by injecting deep tech developed in Singapore, starting with those from NUS, to strengthen their offering to the industry, and to broaden their reach beyond Singapore.”

At the grand final held on 17 Nov, three promising start-ups were named winners to the Smart Port Challenge (SPC) 2020.  The grand final saw eight shortlisted start-ups pitching their proposal to a panel of judges.

The first, second and third place winners were BeeX, FUELSAVE and Vulcan AI. Judged on their proposed solution, business model, market opportunity, impact to the maritime industry and overall team capability, they each walked away with cash prizes of S$10,000 S$5,000 and S$3,000 respectively. 

Kok Leong Lee

Kok Leong Lee

Kok Leong, executive editor, has overall editorial responsibility for the direction and focus of Maritime Fairtrade. He has two decades of working experiences, including holding senior regional roles in business-to-business (B2B) print and online publications. He enjoys his work as a journalist, and regards it as a calling.

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