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Startup solutions help in port operations, shipping and maritime services

17 shortlisted startups battled it out for a chance to win a spot for the 2018 Smart Port Challenge. The top three winning teams could bag cash prizes totalling SGD 18 000, as 12-month premium digital subscription valued at USD 2000 and multiple prototyping grants of SGD 50 000.

Its second year running, the Smart Port Challenge brings together maritime companies with technology startups and innovators to work on key issues faced by the maritime sector. Through the Challenge, a vibrant maritime entrepreneurial and innovation ecosystem in Singapore is hoped to be built.

The Challenge is one of the several industry-wide initiatives under PIER71 (Port Innovation Ecosystem Reimagined @ Block 71). Founded by NUS Enterprise (the entrepreneurial arm of the National University of Singapore) and the Marine and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA), PIER71 aims to grow Singapore’s maritime innovation ecosystem. It does so by attracting talents, creating opportunities for the exchange of knowledge and ideas, attracting investments and creating opportunities to internationalise.

 “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 Pin Min, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Transport and Ministry of Health.

Dr Lam was the Guest-of-Honour at the Challenge’s finale. All 17 shortlisted startups had a chance to pitch their ideas to him and an audience of 250.

The 17 were chosen from a pool of 122 proposals. Hopefuls could choose to respond to one of twenty challenge statements identified by maritime companies. The challenge statements encompassed areas like port operations, shipping and maritime services. These were submitted by fifteen maritime corporates.

Following their shortlisting, the startups had to go through PIER71 Accelerate, an eight-week market and business model validation program. During the program, startups learn about the maritime sector, focusing on areas such as customer discovery, competitive analysis and prototype development.

“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.

This year’s challenge saw a 45% increase in proposal submissions. According to Mr Andrew Tan, Chief Executive of MPA, many innovative prototypes were received.

NUS President Professor Tan Eng Chye adds, “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.”

The competition doesn’t end there.

MPA and NUS Enterprise will continue to provide resources to support the finalists in working with maritime companies to progress into the prototype development phase. Startups can have access to funding from MPA for test-bedding and developing prototypes. Up to SGD 50 000 will be available for startups which establish partnerships and receive letters of intent from a maritime company.

The startups will also have access to international markets. Startups can tap on PIER71’s established partnerships to enter global markets.

Furthermore, through NUS Enterprise, PIER71 has signed agreements with several companies to provide SPC start-ups free access to their technologies for prototype development. Singtel is one of the participating companies. They will provide access to its satellite network, IoT network and curated data. Four other companies have also been named, providing access information on weather, vessel locations, communication technologies, and security technologies and solutions.

Finally, the startups can look forward to mentorship from MPA and NUS Enterprise’s strong networks with technology entrepreneurs, maritime veterans and domain experts. These will guide the startups to bring their innovations to market.

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