PIER71’s Smart Port Challenge to boost innovation in port operations, shipping and maritime services

28 November 2018

Joint Media Release

Top three start-ups to partner maritime companies on winning projects

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) and NUS Enterprise, the entrepreneurial arm of the National University of Singapore, today announced the three winners of the 2018 Smart Port Challenge (SPC). 17 finalists pitched their solutions this afternoon to an audience of 250, at an event graced by Dr Lam Pin Min, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Transport and Ministry of Health.

2 The second edition of SPC brings together maritime companies with technology start-ups and innovators to work on key issues faced by the maritime sector. SPC is one of several industry-wide initiatives under PIER71 (Port Innovation Ecosystem Reimagined @ Block71) that seeks to build a vibrant maritime entrepreneurial and innovation ecosystem in Singapore.

3 “The Smart Port Challenge, along with other initiatives under PIER71, brings together a global network of talent and expertise to create innovative solutions for the industry. This adds to the vibrancy of our maritime innovation ecosystem and supports our vision to be a global maritime hub for connectivity, innovation and talent. I am heartened to witness today the close collaboration between start-ups and maritime companies to develop innovative solutions, with technology as an enabler, for a smarter and more efficient maritime sector,” said Dr Lam.

4 The first, second and third place winners of the 2018 SPC were Ocean Freight Exchange, SkyLab, and Claritecs, and they received cash prizes of S$10,000, S$5,000 and S$3,000 respectively. A total of 122 proposals were received in response to 20 challenge statements identified by maritime companies in the areas of port operations, shipping and maritime services. 17 start-ups with innovative technologies were shortlisted by MPA, NUS Enterprise and maritime companies involved. These start-ups went through PIER71 Accelerate, an eight-week market and business model validation programme where they learnt about the maritime sector, focusing on areas such as customer discovery, competitive analysis and prototype development.

5 “MPA started the Smart Port Challenge in 2017 as part of our wider efforts to promote innovation and catalyse collaborations in the maritime sector. With the formation of PIER71 with NUS Enterprise this year, SPC returned stronger with a 45% increase in proposal submissions as compared with last year. We are pleased to see many innovative prototypes and will continue to provide opportunities for start-ups as we embrace new technologies, such as Virtual Reality, Blockchain and Artificial Intelligence, that are transforming the maritime sector,” said Mr Andrew Tan, Chief Executive of MPA.

6 “Strengthening Singapore’s maritime innovation ecosystem will help to develop the talent, accelerate new ventures and attract investments into the sector. This will play a crucial role in bringing Singapore’s maritime industry into the digital age and create exciting opportunities for growth,” said NUS President Professor Tan Eng Chye.

7 “We have been fostering strategic partnerships to help bridge and provide platforms for start-ups to engage with the flagship industries. The maritime sector plays a crucial role in Singapore’s economy, but is known for being somewhat resistant to innovation and digitalisation. As such, it is heartening to see tech-savvy start-ups working closely with larger, well-established maritime corporates, to catalyse the digital transformation of the industry and create new opportunities for innovation-driven growth,” said Dr Lily Chan, Chief Executive Officer of NUS Enterprise. 

Access to funding, technologies and expertise key to bringing SPC start-ups to market

8 Beyond SPC 2018, MPA and NUS Enterprise will continue to provide a range of resources to support the 17 SPC start-ups in working with maritime companies to progress into the prototype development phase. These resources offer access to funding, international markets, innovative technologies and maritime expertise. 

9 Funding – MPA will provide grants of up to S$50,000 for test-bedding and developing prototypes. SPC start-ups that establish partnerships and receive letters of intent from a maritime company will be eligible for the funding.

10 Global Market Access – PIER71, through MPA and NUS Enterprise, has established partnerships with a number of organisations to help SPC start-ups enter global markets. This includes PortXL (a port and maritime accelerator with presence in Antwerp, Rotterdam and Singapore), Rainmaking (a cooperative of entrepreneurs with co-working space next to Copenhagen’s harbour) and INNOSPACE (a start-up incubator in China). MPA and NUS Enterprise are also working with Startup Wharf (a maritime accelerator based in London) and Katapult Ocean Accelerator (a maritime-related technology accelerator in Norway). 

11 Innovative Technologies – PIER71, through NUS Enterprise, has signed agreements with several companies to provide SPC start-ups free access to their technologies for prototype development. These companies include: 

• Singtel – to access its satellite network, IoT network and curated data

• MarineTraffic – to access information on vessel locations

• Terra Weather – to access information on weather

• AdNovum – to access security technologies and solutions

• Panasonic R&D Centre Singapore – to access vision and wireless communication technologies

12 Maritime Expertise – MPA and NUS Enterprise have established strong networks with technology entrepreneurs, maritime veterans and domain experts, who will serve as a pool of mentors to guide SPC start-ups as they bring their innovations to market.