Hub Blog


Culture and diversity are the essentials for Maritime 4.0 innovation

Maritime needs to play a central role in helping the UK to achieve its net zero ambitions and becoming better at innovating is going to be the key to success. It will mean a lot more than just reducing consumption of fossil fuels. Achieving this vision and will require the development of new green technologies to secure a greener, more sustainable future, not just locally but globally.

Helping to kickstart green innovation in maritime was why the Port of Tyne hosted Collaborative Innovation: for Open Innovation Thought-Leaders. Our goal in cresting this event was to inspire delegates with stories of how organisations from diverse industries have succeeded in working together to solve shared challenges. In addition to us being a logistics and clean energy industry hub, the Port also sees its future as a catalyst for green economic growth – across the North East region and wider ports sector. Maritime’s shift towards the digital economy and Maritime 4.0 requires getting organised to transform and taking some novel approaches.

Decarbonisation and Net Zero projects were key targets for innovation among delegates, who reported feeling excited and optimistic about their organisation’s own innovation plans. Here are some of the key insights to be understood before any organisation can embark upon a successful innovation programme.

Innovation needs the right culture 

The reason some organisations are better at innovating than others is not necessarily because the people inside them are more innovative. They might be but being innovative is not an innate skill. It can come from anywhere, provided the right cultural framework is in place, with sponsorship from the very top, in the C-Suite. This will ensure that the people inside embrace the prospect of innovating and start to think and work differently. Otherwise, any programme will be regarded as ‘all talk and no action’.

Whilst getting top-level buy in is a deal ‘make or breaker’, on its own that’s not enough either. According to Lloyds Register, it is culture in the broadest sense that is inhibiting innovation in maritime. They have created a cultural framework that addresses three aspects of culture – corporate, market and people - to ensure their innovation programmes are sustainably successful in the long term. The corporate culture engages the whole organisation and needs to be led by the CEO as the ultimate investor to prioritise innovation. Equally important are having a market culture within the wider industry, with suppliers and customers that want to co-create and ideate by establishing mutual partnerships. Finally, there needs to be a people culture of innovation inside the organisations, to ensure that employees with the right mind-sets to become co-creators and who can innovate - the ‘intrapreneurs’ - get proper recognition and a supportive infrastructure to sustain their projects. All three cultural elements need to be in place for the maritime industry to move forwards.

Innovation comes from anywhere

The government’s targets for clean energy and net zero by 2030 are closely tied to the nuclear industry as an enabler of a future hydrogen economy. Innovation is the answer to achieving this. One of the key stakeholders in this drive, the National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL), have succeeded in embedding innovation into their organisation and those they partner with using a two phased approach that taps into this belief. They employ a ‘bottom up’ approach that is very exploratory, hinged around an online platform with an open call for people to submit their ideas. Anyone from inside their business can submit an idea and if successful, it is funded. The amounts can range from £1,000 for initial viability investigations, to £20,000 and upwards to bring an idea to fruition. The intention is to develop a balanced portfolio of projects.

Further opportunities to innovate are created by posting challenges to answering top down technical and process innovation problems. Open to colleagues and external audiences, these challenges are set by the NNL and used as a mechanism to ideate, because challenge led innovation is a key driver of disruptive innovation within the nuclear sector.

The model is working, NNL have investigated well over 150 applications and now have 45 proof of concepts co-funded through the Game Changers challenge led innovation programme, run together with Sellafield. Successes include a range of projects adapted from driverless cars, mobile technologies and the space industry. They have even found a solution for minimising contact within fume cupboards, using a design inspired by a puppeteer. Diversity of thinking, creativity and creativity of process are the essential ingredients.

Once the foundations of culture and diversity are in place, any organisation with the right intention has the building blocks to innovate, create new business models and bring forth new, disruptive ideas that challenge the norms. We are already seeing this in the offshore wind industry, which has been through phenomenal levels of innovation in recent years.

Historically there has been some aversion to taking the risks needed to innovate in maritime, but the appetite for change is there. Forums like the Maritime Innovation Hub provide an open, collaborative infrastructure and the means to engage many stakeholders around a shared interest in developing Maritime 4.0 and the Port is very proud to help facilitate this transformation.

Thank you to all the speakers at the Port of Tyne’s Open Innovation Jam 2021 who gave their time freely to share important insights that we can all benefit from.

  • Luis Benito - Innovation and Co-Creation Director at Lloyd's Register
  • Tony Quinn - Test and Validation Director at Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult
  • Tom White - Ecosystem Director – Maritime & Ports at Connected Places Catapult
  • Tim Whitworth - Technology Commercialisation Manager at National Nuclear Laboratory
  • Paul Knight - Technology Commercialisation Manager at National Nuclear Laboratory
  • Frank Allison - CEO of FIS360
  • Paul Butler - CEO of North East Automotive Alliance

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