10 years ago, when the word “startup” was dropped in any of my meetings with any board in a maritime company, glassy eyes was my only impact. Today I see early-stage startups in our sector raising North of €20mln to scale their business. These businesses are working every day to increase the sustainability of the maritime sector digitally (e.g. PortXchange, DockTech, eYard and Teqplay) or to make climate impact by curtailing or even avoiding emissions with hard tech (e.g. SkySails, Fleet Cleaner and zepp.solutions).
This is a clear sign that entrepreneurship in our sector is maturing, and this is crucial. The biggest innovation challenge for the maritime sector is rapidly catching up with us: reducing the climate impact of shipping. And no, this is not about incrementally reducing emissions with 50% by 2050, but with 100% by 2040 at the latest. On top of that, it is also not just about reducing CO2 emissions, but about reducing the climate impact of the operations in a broad sense: to stop (untreated) ballast water dumping, disposal of hull cleaning residuals, beaching of redundant ships and many other, lesser-known activities that are currently harming our environment.
To achieve this challenge, corporations will need all the brainpower and speed of execution that they can get; they will need to hit the accelerator on R&D and investments to find smart solutions. We all know though, that the smart R&D people within corporations will not be able to provide all the answers, let alone convert them into commercially viable solutions for the company or for their clients. So, the support of startups and scaleups will be desperately needed. We also know that for many corporates, working with startups is a special skill that they need to master, just like the startups need to master working with corporates.
So here we go, three of my lessons from corporate-startup collaboration in the last years.
As mentioned, all this is the result of increasing interest with corporates for startup/scaleup technology. Let’s hope this grows even faster in the coming years, because that is what we need for our sector to make significant progress on the ambition of the Paris agreement to limit global warming to 1.5% Celsius.
Note: there is a big variety in startup products and services. A digital product is different compared to a new technical hardware solution that needs many years of development and testing. This obviously has an impact on the observations mentioned in this article.
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