PIER71 launches Smart Port Challenge 2021 and announces seven start-up grant recipients

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging for the maritime industry, which has been affected by border restrictions. On the other hand, it has created demand for new products and services that enhance safety, presenting many opportunities for innovation. The fifth edition of the Smart Port Challenge (SPC) was officially launched in this climate on 18 Jun by Mr Chee Hong Tat, Senior Minister of State for Transport, at a virtual event.

This is the fourth year that PIER71, a joint collaboration between the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) and NUS Enterprise, is running the start-up competition aimed at boosting innovation in the maritime industry.

Through SPC, PIER71 creates a platform which brings together maritime corporates, venture capitalists, industry players and start-ups to create innovative solutions ready for market adoption to address real-world problems faced by the industry. Seventeen innovation opportunities have been co-created with 21 maritime corporates in the following areas:

  •  Smart Port;
  •  Smart Ship;
  • Crew Safety, Training and Wellbeing;
  • Smart Maritime Services and Logistics; and
  • Green Technology 

Open to tech start-ups around the world, SPC offers shortlisted finalists privileged access to PIER71’s network, a mentor-guided market validation and customer discovery programme, cash prizes of up to $10,000, eligibility for grant applications of up to $50,000, as well as continued entrepreneurial and technical support beyond SPC.

During the launch, Mr Chee announced three VC partners joining PIER71’s network. Maritime technology start-ups will be able to tap on $30 million of potential funding from individually-managed funds of IMC Ventures, Motion Ventures and MOL PLUS.

Other investment partners that PIER71 start-ups have access to include Bernhard Schulte INNOPORT, KSL Maritime Ventures, PSA unboxed and TNB Aura. SEEDS Capital, the investment arm of Enterprise Singapore, also provides joint investments with VC partners to maritime technology start-ups outside of PIER71.

This influx of investment interest in maritime start-ups has added to the vibrancy of the maritime innovation landscape in Singapore and was recognised in a recent report by Inmarsat Maritime.

A panel of stakeholders representing different parts of the ecosystem had a lively discussion around this topic and brought out the key factors driving this vibrancy. Mr Brian Koh, Director for Corporate Partnerships at NUS Enterprise, moderated this panel which included Mr Ng Yi Han (Director, Innovation, Technology and Talent Development at MPA), Mr Toh Keng Hoe (Business Development Director, Digital at Inmarsat Maritime), Mr Shaun Hon (General Partner at Motion Ventures) and Mr Keith Ng (CEO and Co-Founder at Performance Rotors, and SPC2019 finalist).

Riding on the launch of SPC 2021, PIER71 also announced the seven start-ups from last year’s SPC that have been awarded with MPA’s start-up grant for prototype development and test-bedding. They are BeeX, LEDR Technologies, Moaah, MRC Hosting (groundup.ai), mVizn, Vebits AI and Vulcan AI.

Over the next 12 months, these start-ups will collaborate with PIER71’s maritime corporate partners on pilot projects that focus on the use of autonomous robotics, vision analytics, virtual reality, artificial intelligence, among others.

Professor Freddy Boey, NUS Deputy President (Innovation & Enterprise), said, “PIER71 continues to attract start-ups and other key stakeholders that make the maritime innovation ecosystem as vibrant as it is today. As part of our larger effort in developing deep-tech and industry-relevant programmes, NUS sees this collaboration with MPA as an important driver in bridging innovation solutions with the wider industry needs. In the coming months, the PIER71 programme will be further enhanced with activities in the areas of technology commercialisation, internationalisation and talent development.”

Start-ups are invited to explore the innovation opportunities for SPC 2021 and submit their proposals by 10 Aug 2021. Details are available at https://pier71.sg/smart-port-challenge/smart-port-challenge-2021/innovation-opportunities.


By NUS Enterprise