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Open innovation in the maritime sector

Collaborate when you can, compete when you must. That has been a common mantra in the highly competitive maritime industry given its conservative attitude towards information sharing. Maritime 21 and Induct Software are working together to change that by transforming the Norwegian shipping community into a more open innovation sector.

One of the recent ways in which the Norwegian maritime industry has been successful in sharing ideas has been through the creation of clusters, or Norwegian Centres of Expertise (NCE), and specialised ARENA programmes through the help of Innovation Norway.

Knut Eilert Røsvik, Rolls-Royce Marine vice president offshore propulsion, touted the benefits of innovation through networks citing its experiences with the maritime cluster in the region of Møre on the west coast of Norway during Maritime Innovation Day in Oslo this October. Based in Ålesund, the cluster NCE Maritime consists of 15 designs companies, 18 ship owning companies, 14 shipyards and 159 equipment suppliers employing 21,000 people and generating NOK 51.5 billion in revenues.

In his address, Røsvik described how Rolls-Royce Marine was able to invite a ship owner and a shipyard in this cluster to incorporate untested equipment in a new anchor handling vessel. A two-page contract was all that was necessary to get Aker Yards in Søviknes and Olympic Shipping to install prototypes of Rolls-Royce’s special dynamic positioning system DP2 and Rim Drive tunnel thruster on Olympic Octopus.

“(NCE Maritime) is probably the world’s largest maritime full-scale laboratory in the world,” said Røsvik. “A close cooperation between the user and the product designer is key.”

Open Networks
The next step will be getting the industry to break the barrier further and go online with their ideas and problems in an open innovation platform, similar to what has already been achieved in the health and public sector. Induct Software, a Norwegian software company, has created the open network maritim21.induct.no for the R&D strategy Maritime 21 to facilitate the dialogue. 


The network was launched during Maritime Innovation Day to scores of industry players, who participated in a one-day workshop. The site is open to all and focuses on the seven core areas in Maritime 21’s research focus: maritime knowledge hub and infrastructure, maritime policy and regulations, innovation and maritime business development, energy efficiency, LNG-fuel, demanding maritime operations, and Arctic transport and operations.

Induct has used a similar open platform for Harvard Medical School’s Center for Primary Care in Boston for which it created a proposal submission site (cimitconnect.induct.no) and a similar site between Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research and CIMIT in Boston (astar.induct.no). They can also be used for presentation of research for review panellists.

In Norway, Induct was able to create an open web portal for Oslo University Hospital called idepoliklinkken.no that functions like a web-based suggestion box for patients, employees, and the industry. Among some of the ideas that came about as a result of the project were an automated heating system for the hospital’s helipad that ended up saving millions of kroner per year and the removal of door thresholds to make employees workdays 1.5 hours more effective.

A similar concept has also been used in the petroleum industry by Norwegian oil company Statoil, which has set up its own portals: goodideas.statoil.com and innovate.statoil.com. The latter, started in January 2011, is geared towards attracting new ideas from companies, research institutes, academia and the public to develop new and innovative technologies. Anyone can submit an idea, but the site also features a number of specific challenges seeking dedicated solutions, the first of which was sub-basalt imaging.

Getting Maritime Onboard
The challenge will be getting the maritime industry to adopt this alternative way of sharing ideas and solving challenges.  The concern in using the open innovation approach is that users are cautious about opening up until they see they get more out than what they contribute, according to Joachim Bakke, technical manager at BW Ventures.

“Innovation has been seen as best suited within the individual companies, and the openness may be seen as giving away business secrets,” said Bakke. “The maritime industry has not been the first to embrace new technology or methods of working, but opening up may actually prove to be a competitive advantage for those who can.”

Erik Dyrkoren, Maritime 21 programme manager, said it launched the portal for open innovation together with Induct Software to stimulate increased cooperation between research and innovation. It has so far received positive feedback on a test run it did under the workshops at Maritime Innovation Day and is now working on a broader launch.

“We will work on making the ideas registered by the participants on Maritime Day more concrete,” said Dyrkoren. “We will put in place resources to get this to happen. This entails keeping up the enthusiasm even after the participants have left the room. This portal gives us that possibility.”

“Induct Software contributed to increasing the value of the conference significantly,” he added. “We now have good ideas and input from participants to work with and can activate participants to continue the good dialogue online.”

Alf Martin Johansen, Induct Software founder and chairman, said part of the portal’s strength is that Maritime 21 has made a strong effort to stake out key areas for research and innovation in its sector. These have been incorporated so that everything done in the portal is related to these priority areas. Moreover, all the ideas in the portal follow a simple defined process. In this way, concept originators and decision makers have full control of what happens to their idea later on and can decide who should see it at any point in time.

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