Blog: 5 top tips for entrepreneurs looking to enter the maritime market

This is a sponsored article by Safetytech Accelerator, sponsors of the Start-up of the Year Award at the Maritime UK Awards 2023

Safetytech Accelerator is a non-profit technology accelerator with a mission to drive the adoption of emerging digital technologies in safety critical industries, in particular to address the complex challenges faced by the maritime sector. This year we are the proud sponsors of the Maritime UK Startup of the Year Award.

We work at the front line of innovation with dozens of maritime companies looking for technologies to solve their safety challenges.  We also work with startups to pilot their technologies in real-world scenarios. Our work has given us an insider’s view into both the demand and supply of tech into the sector. 

Here are 5 recommendations for entrepreneurs in the maritime market, or aspiring to enter this specifc market. These are also useful references for maritime transformation leaders in collaborations with early stage tech providers, whether through technology accelerators or their in-house teams.

The main competitor is the status quo. Know your customer and their pain points in detail. Maritime has its own particular requirements - technical, procedural, regulatory, commercial. But what exactly is the pain point, and how is it handled now? Who is the buyer? Can tech make a big difference? The list of questions is long.

A good illustrative example is predictive analytics for equipment such as pumps. Solutions are available, yet many operators would let non-critical ones fail and then replace them. Should tech firms go after high-stake critical equipment instead?

Understand the client value of a solution. Would they buy it and at what price? This is where we see some of the most spectacular misalignments. Aspects like status quo, class requirements, insurance and training play a role in establishing value. But it’s a two-sided market: the tech sector may choose not to invest in solving problems if returns are unclear, and the maritime sector could be losing out on possible efficiency, sustainability and safety gains.

One of the most interesting cases we encountered was an operator using the low probability of accidents occurring to ballpark how much they’d pay for a solution to prevent it, making it  unprofitable for solution providers. Only by including other factors (e.g. reputational damage) could the pricing align with the market.

With enough in-depth understanding, tech companies with solutions for other sectors can apply their tech to the maritime market. With billions going into tech development, the upside of cross-fertilisation is very high. However it is essential to understand your target market well: the opportunities available for your technology, as well as what might block it.

We engaged with a tech firm with high-fidelity physics-based predictive failure models for high-rpm shafts in aeronautics wanting to target the maritime market. However they discovered that their tech could not work with a far larger and much slower ship’s propeller shaft without significant additional research and development.

Human factors plays a significant role in the adoption of technology in maritime. This is because maritime is still fairly traditional, and human-resource intensive. But it’s not the whole story.  Integrating human factors early in the product design is often a good bet. 

We saw how Safetytech Accelerator Waypoint alumni Scoutbase gained many advantages from integrating human factors in their wellbeing measurement tech solution as a results of client and mentors feedback.

Don’t just pilot your solution, focus on the right pilot and use it to build evidence of value for the client. It is said that most pilots don’t progress to commercial deployment. It helps to target a particular use case which is  feasible and meaningful to the client, and defining success criteria upfront. Frank discussions on ROI and practicalities and cost of deployment increase chances of follow-ons dramatically.

By Dr. Maurizio Pilu, Managing Director at Safetytech Accelerator