Out of 16 participating start-ups, three have emerged winners to enjoy project opportunities and grants with the government and maritime sector.

At the grand final of the Smart Port Challenge (SPC) held on 17 Nov in Singapore to fuel innovation in the maritime sector, three promising start-ups were named winners by Chee Hong Tat, Senior Minister of State for Transport and Foreign Affairs, Singapore.

The grand final 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.

CEO of BeeX, Grace Chia, explains her autonomous maritime system to Singapore’s Senior Minister of State Chee Hong Tat at PIER71’s Smart Port Challenge 2020.

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.

The goal of PIER71 

The SPC is a core program under a collaboration called Port Innovation Ecosystem Reimagined @ BLOCK71 (PIER71) between the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) and NUS Enterprise, the entrepreneurial arm of the National University of Singapore (NUS). 

The fourth edition of the SPC received 187 applications from start-ups around the world and was conducted online for the first time due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of these applications seek to automate processes and reduce reliance on manpower through solutions such as robots for hull cleaning or virtual walkthroughs of vessels for ship inspections, which are particularly beneficial in light of the current global health crisis.

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 program.

Focusing on areas such as AI, data analytics, IoT 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.

According to Chee, what gives Singapore a competitive edge is not capital but new ways to unlock value from its businesses. “We must ensure that innovation thrives and flourishes 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. Through SPC, we support technology start-ups to co-create solutions with the industry, which can be exported world-wide.” 

Said Prof Freddy Boey, NUS Deputy President (Innovation and Enterprise): “PIER71 is a collaborative effort that brings vital parts of the ecosystem together to fast-track technology solutions industry-wide. 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.”

The top winning team BeeX’s CEO Grace Chia said: “PIER71 has been an extremely comprehensive acceleration program, 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.”

Winners of the 2019 SPC were awarded the MPA grant earlier this year and several have made headway with their prototypes. Two Singapore-based start-ups have also secured additional funding. Edufied (parent company of Marified) raised seed funding valued at nearly US$4 million, while Performance Rotors secured funding from Dutch multinational Royal Vopak, a global tank storage company.

Both firms have plans to expand their operations overseas.