Smart Port Challenge 2019 to Forge Collaborative Innovations Between the Maritime Industry and Start-Up Communities

28 June 2019

Joint Media Release

PIER71 to create opportunities for emerging entrepreneurs to innovate and excel

1     At Innovfest Unbound1 2019, Dr Lam Pin Min, Senior Minister of State for Transport and Health launched the third edition of Smart Port Challenge (SPC), an annual competition which sees both local and foreign start-ups provide innovative solutions to the maritime industry. The SPC is one of several industry-wide initiatives under PIER71 (Port Innovation Ecosystem Reimagined @ BLOCK71), by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) and NUS Enterprise, the entrepreneurial arm of the National University of Singapore (NUS). PIER71 aims to build a vibrant maritime entrepreneurial and innovation ecosystem in Singapore.

2     “The maritime industry is intensifying its digital transformation. The search is on for solutions which tap on technologies such as artificial intelligence, cloud and mobile computing and blockchain to drive greater efficiency, safety and sustainability. The opportunity is immense for start-ups looking to be part of this effort. Smart Port Challenge will facilitate the innovation partnerships that will take the industry to the next level of growth, and sharpen Singapore’s edge as a global maritime innovation hub,” said Dr Lam.

SPC – Catalysing Digital Transformation in the Maritime Industry

3     The SPC is a six-month programme that aims to catalyse digital transformation in the maritime industry by bringing maritime and technology players together to work on identified industry challenges. It consists of three phases: challenge statement formulation, solution discovery and product realisation.

4     The number of maritime companies and start-ups participating in SPC has been increasing since 2017. Over 200 participants are expected to take part in 2019’s edition. Last year, SPC saw 122 start-ups participating, with 13 receiving grant support of S$650,000 in total to develop and test-bed their solutions. 

5     Participating maritime companies grew from 13 to 18 this year. They will be sponsoring a total of 28 challenge statements. This year’s SPC will also feature an open category where start-ups can submit proposals to seek pilot users for disruptive ideas using emerging technologies.

6     Besides cash prizes of S$10,000, S$5,000 and S$3,000 for the top three proposals, selected finalists also stand a chance to be invited to join PIER71 ACCELERATE, a customised maritime-focused product to market validation and customer discovery programme, and receive a grant of up to S$50,000 from MPA to pilot the solutions with maritime companies.

7     The closing date for submission of proposals via is 9 August 2019.

PIER71 – Growing Partnerships with Regional Ecosystems

8     To continue growing the maritime innovation ecosystem in Singapore, MPA will partner Enterprise Singapore to attract more start-ups to participate in the SPC, and to anchor their innovation and enterprise activities in Singapore. Besides MPA’s Maritime Innovation & Technology (MINT) funding to catalyse collaboration projects, participating start-ups can also tap on other avenues of support to help them scale up and access overseas opportunities under Startup SG suite of programmes – a national initiative by Enterprise Singapore to support the growth of Singapore’s start-up ecosystem.

9     To encourage more global partners to venture to Singapore as well as to create opportunities for the start-ups to scale beyond Singapore, PIER71 will be working with like-minded incubators such as Rainmaking Innovation, Katapult Ocean, Symphony Creative Solutions and Wärtsilä.

10    To further foster an enabling environment and support Singapore’s journey to become a global maritime hub for connectivity, innovation and talent, MPA will partner Rainmaking Innovation, a corporate innovation and venture development firm, in an impact programme focused on decarbonisation of the maritime supply chain. Targeted to launch in the second half of 2019, this programme will bring together maritime companies and scale-ups to work on scalable decarbonisation solutions for the global maritime industry.

11    Professor Freddy Boey, Deputy President (Innovation & Enterprise) of NUS, said, “NUS Enterprise has a strong foundation in spearheading the start-up ecosystem. PIER71 will continue to foster strategic partnerships to catalyse collaborations between the maritime companies, technology start-ups and adjacent sectors to position Singapore and the region as a vibrant and innovative maritime hub.”

Access to Strategic Networks

12     Beyond SPC, PIER71 will continue to support start-ups by assigning them industry mentors. Start-ups will have access to extensive knowledge and connections to the maritime industry, by leveraging the rich experience of senior maritime professionals.

13     Additionally, PIER71 will work with the Singapore Maritime Institute (SMI) to help start-ups discover and access R&D capabilities and resources.

14     In July this year, PIER71 will launch its co-working space at BLOCK71 in Ayer Rajah, Singapore’s premier launch pad for start-ups. This new space will become a base for up to 10 start-ups, with facilities to support networking and the exchange of ideas amongst members of the community.


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CE Quah Ley Hoon

Quah Ley Hoon, Chief Executive, Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) addressing the start-up community at this year’s Smart Port Challenge.


Dr Lam Pin Min (center), Senior Minister of State for Transport and Health officiating the launch of Smart Port Challenge, an annual competition which sees both local and foreign start-ups provide innovative solutions to the maritime industry.

maritime mentor

Mr Chua Chye Poh, a maritime veteran and a member of MPA’s newly launched Maritime Mentors Network, for start-ups to gain access to maritime industry experts and tap into their extensive experience and connections to the industry. Mr Chua is seen here participating in a panel discussion on “Building a Regional Ecosystem”.