PIER71 marks five years of nurturing world-class innovation in MarineTech

PIER71™ (Port Innovation Ecosystem Reimagined at BLOCK71), founded by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) and NUS (through NUS Enterprise), celebrated its fifth anniversary at the inaugural PIER71™ Great Circle 2023 event on 21 November 2023 at Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre.

The event is inspired by the principles of great-circle navigation, which determines the shortest route between two points on the globe. This symbolism reflects the guiding ethos of PIER71™, steering start-ups on the most direct course towards maritime innovation.

NUS Deputy President (Innovation and Enterprise), Professor Chen Tsuhan, said, “PIER71™ has transformed the global maritime landscape through experiential initiatives like the Smart Port Challenge (SPC). Its Accelerate and Ascend programmes continue to strengthen start-ups in market validation and scaling up for sustainable growth. As a founding partner, NUS champions innovation and entrepreneurship at the university and beyond. We support PIER71™ in leveraging NUS’ entrepreneurial programmes, including the Graduate Research Innovation Programme (GRIP) and NUS Overseas Colleges (NOC), as well as the global BLOCK71 network, extending valuable resources and growth opportunities to maritime talents and start-ups. This collaborative effort with MPA not only fosters innovation in enterprises, but also leaves a lasting impact on the maritime industry.”


Five years of nurturing MarineTech start-ups

Since its establishment in 2018, PIER71™ has played a crucial role in nurturing the growth of nearly 110 MarineTech start-ups with the support of 62 corporate partners. The MPA’s Maritime Innovation and Technology (MINT) Fund has been instrumental in fostering innovation, backing over 50 start-up projects, and successfully deploying 26 solutions within the industry. These ventures have collectively secured over S$65 million in investments from venture capital (VC) partners, enabling them to embark on ambitious expansion plans.

The impact of PIER71™ extends globally, with five foreign MarineTech start-ups choosing to establish their presence in Singapore. Additionally, the success stories include four start-ups, three of which originated in Singapore and were later acquired by corporates. Last year’s SPC champion, GotSurge, is the most recent testament to this achievement.

In 2023, PIER71™ was expanded to bridge high-potential start-ups to overseas markets, engage with government stakeholders, and connect with prospective maritime customers through the PIER71™ Ascend programme, an exclusive 12-month scale-up initiative within PIER71™. The Great Circle event also celebrated the graduation of four female-led start-ups from Ascend’s first cohort, underscoring a commitment to diversity and inclusivity in the maritime industry. These start-ups are poised to collaborate closely with PIER71™ to refine their growth strategies across 14 overseas markets where they currently operate.

Mr Teo Eng Dih, Chief Executive, MPA, said, “Technology and innovation will play a pivotal role as the global shipping community and Maritime Singapore accelerate digitalisation and decarbonisation efforts. The PIER71™ programme partnership among MPA, NUS, and industry collaborators has helped to nurture Singapore’s maritime innovation ecosystem, incorporating clean alternative fuels and green maritime technologies. As we commemorate the 5th anniversary of PIER71™, we will also strengthen PIER71™’s international linkages, expand the search for innovative solutions beyond our shores, and leverage the Port of Singapore as a Living Lab to pilot new ideas.”


Accelerating technology-driven solutions for the maritime industry

Another highlight of the PIER71™ Great Circle 2023 event was the Grand Finals of the seventh SPC — an innovation competition aimed at identifying the best ideas and solutions from international tech start-ups to address challenges posed by Singapore-based maritime corporates.

This year, 17 finalists were selected from an impressive pool of 150 applications from over 32 countries. More than 40 per cent of the submissions for SPC 2023 were dedicated to maritime decarbonisation, reflecting the industry's heightened focus and urgency to transform, reduce emissions, and propel the green energy transition within the sector. The proposed solutions spanned maritime clean fuels operations, carbon-value chains, electrification, and green maritime supply chains.

MeasureAI, which took home the top prize, was founded in March 2023 after being incubated at NUS GRIP Run 7. Their winning innovation is a versatile gas-sensing platform with organic coatings for multi-gas sensors, enabling real-time detection and quantification of various gases, specifically addressing safety issues related to toxic marine fuel leaks, like ammonia. 

Mr Gokula Krishnan Ramachandran, CEO and Founder of MeasureAI, said, “We are highly motivated by the outcome of Smart Port Challenge 2023 and want to sustain the energy and momentum. Our key focus will be to address the concerns of the maritime industry, such as characterising our sensing platform to identify toxic gas leakages onboard ships, enhancing device durability under harsh marine conditions, and creating wearable monitoring straps for seafarer safety.”

In his closing remarks, Mr Brian Koh, Director of Ecosystem Development, NUS Enterprise, said, “Reflecting on the inaugural Smart Port Challenge in 2017, which started with a small, mainly Singapore-based cohort, we have cumulatively received over 1,000 MarineTech proposals from 46 countries, including newcomers like Uruguay, Jamaica, and Sri Lanka this year. This illustrates the expanding global interest in addressing challenges within the maritime industry. Notably, start-up solutions have evolved to a higher technological readiness level, better-researched approaches and demonstrating increased maturity in addressing industry challenges.”


By NUS Enterprise