Singapore launches PIER71 to grow a vibrant maritime entrepreneurial and innovation ecosystem

On 6 June, Singapore Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Transport and Ministry of Health Dr Lam Pin Min launched the Port Innovation Ecosystem Reimagined @ Block71 (PIER71) and Smart Port Challenge (SPC) 2018 to catalyse greater innovation and digitalisation in the maritime industry.

PIER71 is an industry-wide acceleration programme that supports innovation and encourages the maritime industry to venture into new growth areas through collaboration with technology start-ups.

“The launch of PIER71, in collaboration with NUS Enterprise, is part of the MPA’s broader innovation strategy under the Sea Transport Industry Transformation Map (ITM). PIER71 will catalyse collaborations between the maritime companies, technology start-ups and adjacent sectors to position Singapore’s maritime industry for the next wave of growth enabled by digital technologies,” said Mr Andrew Tan, Chief Executive of MPA.

Set up by MPA and NUS Enterprise, the entrepreneurial arm of the National University of Singapore (NUS), PIER71 provides a platform for foreign and local companies, start-ups, venture capitalists, and mentors to exchange knowledge and form organic partnerships. It will contribute to building a vibrant maritime entrepreneurial and innovation ecosystem, as envisioned by the Sea Transport Industry Transformation Map, and sharpen Singapore’s competitive edge.  

“The PIER71 programme opens a new chapter for NUS Enterprise,” said Dr Lily Chan, CEO of NUS Enterprise. 

“Building on the foundation that NUS Enterprise laid in spearheading the start-up ecosystem, we are now fostering strategic partnerships to help bridge and provide platforms for our curated start-ups to engage with the flagship maritime industry and create opportunities for innovation driven growth."

PIER71’s first innovation workshop, run by MPA, was for a cohort of digital officers from 23 maritime companies. Concluded on 15 May 2018, the workshop covered the development of systematic processes for identifying and quantifying innovation opportunities, and equipped digital officers with the skills to translate innovative ideas into tangible outcomes for maritime companies. 

Four MOUs signed

To provide start-ups with more opportunities and access to resources such as mentors and networks, NUS Enterprise also extended its support to PIER71’s start-ups by signing four new MOUs with start-up hubs INNOSPACE and Rainmaking Innovation, as well as maritime companies Wärtsilä and Wilhelmsen. This is in addition to an earlier MOU with PortXL to provide start-ups with market access in Rotterdam and Singapore.

(1)    The MOU between NUS Enterprise and INNOSPACE will allow both parties to jointly scout for start-ups in China and Singapore. Both parties will also share resources and allow start-ups in PIER71 and INNOSPACE to access each other’s mentors, networks, programmes and activities. In addition, the collaboration widens the deployment opportunities of PIER71 curated start-ups in China and vice versa.

(2)    The MOU between NUS Enterprise and Rainmaking Innovation will see both parties collaborate to attract and anchor venture building activities focusing on the maritime and logistics sectors in Singapore. This is part of Rainmaking Innovation’s ambition to build a dedicated “Transport Venture Studio” in Singapore. This collaboration will be supported by existing initiatives under NUS Enterprise and Rainmaking Innovation including PIER71 in Singapore and Pier47 in Denmark; and will in addition to venture building provide an additional avenue for PIER71 to help curated start-ups with market access opportunities in Denmark and elsewhere. As a first and concrete step, PIER71 and Rainmaking Innovation will be collaborating on a “venture exploration program” in Singapore tailored to leading maritime and logistics companies.

(3)    The MOU with Wärtsilä will support PIER71 with their maritime expertise in areas like ship-to-ship and ship-to-shore connectivity solutions in Singapore, Germany and Finland. Wärtsilä will also spearhead seminars, lead workshops, and provide mentorships to the curated start-ups as well as the start-up communities in Singapore and strengthen the development maritime communication related applications. Meanwhile, NUS Enterprise will support Wärtsilä in establishing their networks with the start-up communities in Singapore.

(4)    Through the NUS Entreprise-Wilhelmsen partnership, PIER71 will provide outreach platforms for Wilhelmsen to share their knowledge of shipping and maritime services with the start-up ecosystem in Singapore. PIER71 will also review proposals submitted by start-ups or students in relation to problem statements posted by Wilhelmsen for the shipping and maritime service industries.

Smart Port Challenge 2018 

PIER71 also kicked off this year’s SPC, a six-month programme that aims to catalyse digital transformation in the maritime industry by bringing together maritime and technology players to work on identified problem statements. Like other start-up incubators and accelerators.

This year’s SPC consists of three phases: challenge statement formulation, funding support and product realisation. The number of maritime companies participating and contributing innovation opportunities in SPC 2018 has increased from 12 last year to 17 this year and PIER71 expects a total of about 200 participants.

Besides cash prizes of $10,000, $5,000 and $3,000 for the top three proposals, selected finalists also stand a chance to be invited to join PIER71 ACCELERATE, a customised curriculum on building viable maritime tech start-ups, and receive a further grant of up to $50,000 from MPA to develop prototypes with maritime companies.

These innovation opportunities will be released on 6 June during Innovfest unbound, and the closing date for proposals is 6 August 2018. All local and foreign start-ups are encouraged to participate in SPC 2018.

Both the launch of PIER71 and SPC took place at Innovfest unbound 2018, an anchor event of Smart Nation Innovations and a week-long series of events organised by NUS Enterprise to showcase Asia’s most innovation developments

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