Photo: Port of Antwerp

Plug and Play to launch 1st maritime platform in Antwerp

Innovation platform, Plug and Play, together with founding partners Euronav, CMB, Port of Antwerp, City of Antwerp, and DXC Technology, has announced the launch of their first maritime program in Antwerp, Belgium.

As explained, the purpose of the program is to connect international startups with the founding partners to pilot their technologies and drive the future of maritime as world-class leaders of R&D and innovation.

Plug and Play Maritime aims to strengthen an innovative startup ecosystem centered around the seafaring sector, that brings new technologies and entrepreneurs to the region and enables technological and business development. Plug and Play Maritime will be situated at the pre-campus of Maritime Campus Antwerp.

The launch event, which will mark the start of the first program batch, is planned for June 2021. 

“The launching of our first maritime platform in Antwerp represents the beginning of a new ‘voyage’ for us at Plug and Play. We are eager to support our founding partners and the existing local innovation community through our global ecosystem, by means of impactful startup-corporate collaboration,” Saeed Amidi, Founder and CEO of Plug and Play, commented.

Image Courtesy: Port of Antwerp

“With Plug and Play, the City of Antwerp and Port of Antwerp strengthen their position as innovation leaders in the international maritime business. The city wants to be part of the European top of scale-up cities by 2025. We take a lot of initiatives in our growth clusters: digital and circular economy. The City and the Port work closely together in the digital innovation hub The Beacon,” Claude Marinower, Vice-Mayor for Economy, Industry and Innovation, City of Antwerp, said.

“With Plug and Play this collaboration gets a new dimension. We are confident that thanks to this new initiative, Plug and Play Maritime, we will be able to accelerate our joined ambitions.”

Open innovation enables tech that will shape the future of maritime 

Antwerp, home to the second largest port in Europe, is a hub for the maritime industry with a longstanding tradition. With its headquarters in Silicon Valley, Plug and Play’s expansion into this sector will provide an opportunity for the five founding partners to increase their innovation activities with access to a network of over 30,000 global startups.

Initial technology areas for scouting will include clean fuels and energy, big data and Internet of Things, future logistics, efficient shipping, autonomous vessels, sensors, and more. By providing innovation-as-a-service, this platform will also play a strategic role for the partners in pioneering a sustainable maritime industry of the future throughout Belgium and around the world.

Further offerings for startups, partners, and the growing ecosystem include business development, dealflows, workshops, weekly mentorship sessions, networking between partners, investment opportunities, and a series of monthly events including, Selection Days, Innovation Days, and EXPO Days.

“The fundamental idea of the Maritime Campus Antwerp is to create scale and combine forces among those maritime players and stakeholders that want to tackle the huge innovation challenges for the maritime industry in the decades to come. The Plug and Play Maritime platform will contribute to the Maritime Campus Antwerp ecosystem by bringing the best startups and early scale-ups from all over the world to Antwerp to accelerate the introduction of maritime tech for our corporate partners,” Bart Huybrechts, Managing Director, Maritime Campus Antwerp, noted.

The basis of Plug and Play Maritime will be the 12-week open innovation program, run twice a year. Each program welcomes 20+ selected international startups that are addressing the specific technological needs of the founding partners. The startups and business units of the partners will work together on pilots and proof of concepts, leading towards production-ready implementations. The goal is to have at least one joint project completed for each startup, to be showcased at EXPO Day, the final event at the end of each program. 

“Innovation can play a key role in making the future and prosperity of the port of Antwerp sustainable. The ecosystem represented by the Antwerp port platform is an ideal testbed for technology on a large scale. With Plug and Play Maritime we can live up to this ambition and play a pioneering role as a port of the future. In this way we seek to be a source of inspiration and to set an example for other ports,” Annick De Ridder, Vice Mayor of the Port of Antwerp, pointed out.

“The Plug and Play platform will enable us to leverage our R&D capabilities and set up structural collaborations with start-ups and the wider ecosystem to drive mutual growth and benefits. We must invest in new technologies to further digitalise our Industry but also to make shipping cleaner and more efficient,” Hugo De Stoop, CEO of Euronav, stressed.

Founding partners provide expertise and a vision of sustainable innovation 

The consortium of founding partners consists of a distinctive blend of expertise and functions within the maritime sector, which will provide high value for startups looking to bring their technologies directly to key stakeholders in the industry.

“As one of the leading ports in the world, Antwerp aspires to be the ‘port of the future’. We use innovation as a lever to turn today’s major challenges such as energy transition, digitalisation, and mobility into solutions. Through collaboration and implementing technologies such as big data, IoT, smart shipping, and future logistics, we are making our port smarter and more efficient,” Jacques Vandermeiren, CEO, Port of Antwerp, said.

“I believe that Plug and Play Maritime is an important milestone in bringing our port to the next international level,” he concluded.