“Being innovative requires an appetite for experimentation and risk-taking. In other words, we must be prepared to accept some failure,” said Singapore’s Minister of State for Transport and Foreign Affairs during the grand final of the Smart Port Challenge (SPC) 2020 held Tuesday in the city state.
He noted that while the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a lot of hardship and disruption, it also presents opportunities to identify gaps that require new solutions.
“As the world’s largest transhipment port, Singapore is a good location for solution-providers to test bed new ideas. Solutions that work well in a busy hub port like Singapore could be adapted for other ports globally,” he said.
He further stressed: “We need to support first-movers – individuals and companies who are willing to take risks and pioneer innovative solutions. And help those who fail initially to try again, when they come up with new proposals.”
SPC 2020 was the 4th edition of the annual technology challenge organised by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) and NUS Enterprise, the entrepreneurial arm of the National University of Singapore (NUS).
The SPC a key initiative by the Port Innovation Ecosystem Reimagined @ BLOCK71 (PIER71) to bridge opportunities in the maritime sector with innovative solutions that can be reimagined to accelerate digital transformation within the industry.
Preparing for a post-COVID world
This year, COVID-19 has been a major disruption to the world, whose impact on global supply chains will likely extend beyond the pandemic. Throughout the crisis, Singapore has kept its port open to allow the flow of essential goods to continue.
“We are now preparing ourselves for changes in global supply chains in a post-COVID world, and how the Port of Singapore can retain our connectivity and remain relevant in such an environment,” Chee said.
This year’s SPC specifically sought to bring forth innovative solutions aimed at helping Singapore’s maritime industry cope with the new dynamics in the recovery post-COVID.
The SPC 2020 received 187 applications from start-ups around the world and was conducted online for the first time. Many of these applications seek to automate processes and reduce reliance on manpower through solutions such as robots for hull cleaning, and virtual walkthrough of vessels for ship inspections, which is particularly beneficial in light of COVID-19. From the pool of highly qualified proposals received, 16 were selected, putting their teams into PIER71 Accelerate, a six-week market validation and customer discovery programme.
Focusing on areas such as artificial intelligence, data analytics, Internet of Things and robotics, all 16 finalists will be eligible to apply to MPA for a grant of up to S$50,000 to embark on pilot projects with maritime companies.
The grand final last Tuesday saw eight shortlisted start-ups pitching their proposal to a panel of judges.
The first, second and third place winners were BeeX, FUELSAVE and Vulcan AI. Judged on their proposed solution, business model, market opportunity, impact to the maritime industry and overall team capability, they each walked away with cash prizes of S$10,000 S$5,000 and S$3,000 respectively.
Grace Chia, CEO of BeeX , which bagged the top prize said: “PIER71 has been an extremely comprehensive acceleration programme, helping us refine our value propositions to maritime corporates. We are thankful for the mentorship, networking opportunities and guidance. The win is a great encouragement to our team, and we look forward to working with the ecosystem to improve underwater inspections.”
New ways to unlock value from businesses
Meanwhile, Chee pointed out that what gives Singapore the competitive edge is not capital but new ways to unlock value from our businesses.
“We must ensure that innovation thrives and flourish in Maritime Singapore. This calls for a collaborative approach. Government agencies such as MPA, academia, industry, and solution-providers must come together to translate innovative ideas into real-world solutions,” he said. “Through SPC, we support technology start-ups to co-create solutions with the industry, which can be exported world-wide.”
Professor Freddy Boey, NUS deputy president for innovation and enterprise echoed the same sentiment “Our vision for this partnership with MPA is to raise the competitive edge of start-ups by injecting deep tech developed in Singapore, starting with those from NUS, to strengthen their offering to the industry, and to broaden their reach beyond Singapore.”