By Christa Sys, Thierry Vanelslander and Franziska Kupfer
For the maritime and port community, co-innovation is a new discipline. It is a form of collaborative creativity that should be initiated by maritime supply chain actors to enable innovation. BNP Paribas Fortis (BNPPF) and the University of Antwerp teamed up and gathered a large amount of actors of the maritime sector at an event focusing on co-innovation, the most important challenge for the port industry in the decades ahead.
The results of an international study by the BNP Paribas Fortis chair indicate that innovation is mainly driven by economic goals. Goals linked to environmental concerns, on the other hand, appear to play only a minor role in the port and maritime sector. In companies that have a strong culture of innovation, it appears that the goal of reducing C02 emissions is in fact set rather incidentally. Social consequences, too, are given little weight in decision-making processes.
What is clear, however, is that all innovation initiatives are successful in their compliance with social and labour-related regulations. Moreover, from this research done in the framework of the BNPPF chair, it became clear that innovation is a tool that can improve the competitive advantage of port-related stakeholders. Therefore, innovation can strengthen future growth in the port sector and meet the main (transversal) challenges linked to smooth integrated maritime supply chains.
The intention is to build new knowledge together, create content based on port users’ behavior and generate new opportunities for cooperation along supply chains. In particular, the Chair’s research indicated that digital innovation will be key in the future: sharing not only knowledge, but also information and data, preferably through platforms, cloud-based or other. Making all transport actors meet on such platforms still has some way to go, although apps and other instruments can strongly facilitate access.
Data is the new oil
An underlying condition to successful innovation is, however, access to well qualified and competent staff, researchers and education. Sharing data and knowledge jointly creates value. A good example of co-innovation is the data-sharing initiative between MarineTraffic, the Department Transport and Regional Economics and the Centre for Maritime and Air Transport Management (C-MAT). Historical data including voyage and event´s information generated by MarineTraffic is for example used as input for master dissertations, research projects and assignments at the department and C-MAT.
Students studying at C-MAT come from transport-related companies and organisations (shipping companies, port authorities, terminal operators, airlines, airports etc.) with the aim to advance their careers in the maritime or air transport sector. Working with the MarineTraffic data, students from the C-MAT full-year programme or specialisation courses can therefore acquire in-depth maritime knowledge which is based on accurate (maritime and port) data.
As the maritime sector is rich in terms of data but poor in terms of extracting value out of it, the cooperation between MarineTraffic, supplying data and young researchers/students analysing the data, will result in key competitive advantages for the maritime and port sector dealing with very complex global maritime supply chains.