Marine tech start-ups sailing to cleaner waters

The Smart Port Challenge (SPC) 2022, an innovation competition that aims to identify the best ideas and solutions from international tech start-ups to address challenges put forth by Singapore-based maritime corporates, came to a close with the Grand Finals on 18 Nov 2022. SPC is the flagship programme of PIER71, an initiative launched in 2018 by NUS Enterprise and the Maritime Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) to establish Singapore as a vibrant maritime ecosystem and spearhead world-class innovation.

The Grand Finals were the culmination of a year of SPC activities. A maritime leadership roundtable and innovation workshop was first held to understand key challenges faced by the maritime corporates, with 15 innovation opportunities identified for tech start-ups to work on. The start-ups were also offered world-class entrepreneurship education opportunities, including market validation and customer discovery programmes tailored for the maritime industry. Following pitching and short-listing sessions, the judges revealed the winning start-up teams, who are developing innovative technologies to support the maritime sector.

“Singapore is a choice location for maritime innovation and development. Not only are we strong in research and development, but we are also home to the world’s busiest transhipment port,” said Guest-of-Honour Mr Chee Hong Tat, Senior Minister of State for Finance and Transport.

“We also have a leading International Maritime Centre, home to over 150 of the world’s largest international shipping groups, and more than 5,000 maritime organisations, spanning functions such as shipping, maritime law, maritime finance, and maritime technology. These provide an excellent environment for start-ups to work with maritime companies, to tackle practical problem statements, and pilot and test-bed proposed solutions using the Port of Singapore as a Living Lab,” he added.

Partnering for success

To further support marine tech innovation, MPA and the Singapore Shipping Association (SSA) also signed a partnership agreement during the SPC 2022 Grand Finals. This agreement will allow future PIER71 start-ups to engage with SSA’s member companies, so that the start-ups can validate their solutions, gain test-bedding support and leverage on networking opportunities with the maritime industry.

Such engagement is critical for start-ups to gain traction, scale up operations and bring their solutions to the market. This year’s cohort of SPC start-up teams have already benefitted from gaining access to the SPC ecosystem. Through participating in SPC 2022, start-up teams received 14 Letters of Intent, enabling them to embark upon pilot projects with industry. This MPA-SSA partnership agreement will provide PIER71 start-ups access to a wider network of maritime industry partners. 

“Strong collaboration is essential to supporting digital and decarbonisation transformation efforts in the maritime industry,” Mr Kenneth Lim, Assistant Chief Executive (Industry and Transformation), MPA, said. “The partnership with SSA will strengthen SPC’s ability to accelerate the scalability and adoption of future-ready solutions and create efficient and sustainable supply chains as a dynamic international maritime centre.”

Smart Port Challenge 2022 winners

One such company focusing on developing solutions for efficient supply chain management is the SPC winning team, GotSurge. Co-founded by NUS alumni, Mr Shamir Rahim, this start-up is developing a one-stop digital logistics platform, where customers and suppliers benefit from end-to-end visibility of all deliveries from a single dashboard. This will result in greater efficiencies, reduced costs of up to 30 per cent and an improved customer experience. As the grand prize winner, GotSurge took home $10,000 in prize money. The first- and second-place runner ups, receiving $5,000 and $3,000 respectively, were Green COP, an NUS Graduate Research Innovation Programme start-up, and Seadronix.

“The Smart Port Challenge has connected GotSurge to potential partners and clients. In fact, the validation we received by participating in SPC allowed us to secure our first investor,” Mr Eric Chean, Managing Director of GotSurge, said.

“With their financial support, together with the SPC prize money, we shall be accelerating the development of our suite of apps to efficiently manage the fast-moving nature of goods in the marine supplies sector. We are now finalising the execution plan of our “Green Marine Supplies” supply-chain, including setting up a consolidation centre. This should be up and running by the first half of 2023,” he added.

NUS Enterprise will also continue to support the SPC start-ups along their entrepreneurial journeys, as they grow their companies and bring their products to the market.

“Beyond Smart Port Challenge, start-ups that continue to maintain an active engagement within the PIER71 ecosystem have the advantage of gaining further exposure and industry traction. It is through this tightly knit community of innovative thinkers that synergies can be discovered and become the driving force for transformation and new ideas. NUS provides a pivotal platform to incubate and nurture promising start-ups through our corporate partnerships and global networking, allowing them to uncover new opportunities,” concluded Mr Brian Koh, Director (Corporate Partnerships), NUS Enterprise.

Read the SPC 2022 press release here and find out more about the 17 finalists here.


By NUS Enterprise