Bluetech: Meet António Carvalho, program director

António Carvalho started his work in innovation when he joined Portugal Ventures – he is now leading Bluetech, the first Blue Economy accelerator backed by the Portuguese Ministry of the Sea.

With a background on Corporate Finance & Management, António first came in contact with innovation projects when he joined Portugal Ventures in 2012. Joining this ambitious project that aimed to launch a Startups ecosystem in Portugal that barely existed at that time, is still something he is proud of.

When he joined Beta-i, back in 2017, he took on the challenge of launching The Journey, an open-innovation program tackling the challenges of tourism, as he believed that innovating is the only way the main Tourism and Travel players can be consistently on the lead of the industry.

I’m one of those who believes Portugal can do way more to take advantage of its vast maritime border, so when the opportunity to launch a program in this field arrived, I just couldn’t say no.

When he was challenged to direct Bluetech program, he took the challenge head-on, as he believes there’s so much Portugal can do with its coast. Bluetech accelerator is an initiative of the Portuguese Ministry of the Sea and Fundação Luso-Americana para o Desenvolvimento (FLAD). They aligned the Portuguese Ocean Industry strategy with the interests of the six corporate partners. Which resulted in the definition of the challenges affecting Ports & Shipping 4.0 – which is the program’s first vertical. These challenges go from for Ports activity, Shipping operations and the Digital areas that connect both.

“After the needs assessment meetings with the corporate partners, four main challenges were defined: Process Optimization in Port Hinterland, which includes the concept of extended gateways, data analytics for complete vessel situational awareness and security profiling illicit activity at sea, etc; Cargo and Fleet Performance Management, which includes use of data to upgrade efficiency, use of digital twins, and product innovation; Future Shipping connectivity, which includes enabling ports to be connected and linked and creating new marketplaces; and Environmental Sustainability, challenging to reduce the environmental footprint of ports and vessels.”

Keeping these challenges in mind, the maritime industry is poised for change, and “Bluetech Accelerator can really change the industry by leveraging ocean science and R&D services for generating innovation and entrepreneurship. We can use ports as acceleration platforms for developing ocean advanced industries, integrated into global value chains, thus transforming the value matrix of Portugal’s ocean economy – and ultimately have an impact on the Portuguese economy.”

António believes that an open innovation program like this it the right way to kickstart this change, as it brings added value to all the intervenients:  “The corporate partners are able to tap into the global source of innovation in their specific sector and test new disruptive solutions in collaboration with startups and other program partners. We’re actually seeing a budding capacity between the corporate partners themselves, using the program’s key moments to discuss the major innovation trends of the industry. As for startups, they get access to a group of experienced industry players, typically hard to reach, and the potential to test a solution with them and eventually get a partner that can give them easy access to the market and jumpstart their growth.”

It’s a huge opportunity for business – Ocean amounts for 97% of Portugal’s territory but only 3,1% of the gross value added

Startups, “who are looking forward to validating their product, experiment their product or solution with a big player of the industry and make it resonate with clients, it’s a huge opportunity – not only the program that allows them to strike a deal with a big client, that may get them access to a larger market, but the industry itself, as Venture Capital funds are investing heavily in Ports, Shipping and Logistics Digital startups – shipping and logistics startups focused on digital technology have risen $3.3 billion from January 2012 to September 2017.”

Portugal’s strategic guidelines will play into this investment boom, with a focus on strengthening traditional ocean economic activities (fishing, aquaculture and maritime transport), empowering emerging economic activities (like deep sea mining, biotechnology and ocean energy) and  maximising Atlantic geostrategic centrality of the Portuguese Maritime space, in particular its deep and ultra-deep environments.

It’s a huge opportunity for business – Ocean amounts for 97% of Portugal’s territory but only 3,1% of the gross value added”, concludes António.

Keep following our blog for more updates on Bluetech, and subscribe to our newsletter.

How innovation is driving the revolution in Ports and Shipping

How innovation is driving the revolution in Ports and Shipping

Often seen as a stagnated industry, the ports and shipping industry is now waking up to the challenges they face, and the new opportunities based on technology that is in their reach. Their importance in the geo-spatial economy is now as important as it was in the Silk Route Map.

Why is the ports revolution happening now?

  • Pollution: It is, unsurprisingly, the biggest motivator towards the necessity to innovate in this area. Although it has been banned in every other industry, the shipping industry is still allowed dangerous low-grade, high-sulfur fuels (cheaper than low-sulfur fuels) – it produces 13% of the world’s sulfur emissions and 15% of nitrogen oxides.
  • Regulation: Health is the main concern behind the International Maritime Organization’s decision to slash the permitted sulfur content in ships’ fuel from 3.5 to 0.5 percent. It is estimated that shipping’s cheap fuels cause around 400,000 premature deaths a year through heart and lung diseases and asthma in 14 million children, and the use of cleaner fuels could reduce these number by half.
  • Ocean protection: The world has awakened to the destruction of our oceans and maritime life, and its implications in the economy.
  • Maritime accidents: the need for using technology to reduce and extinguish maritime accidents that result in the loss of money, life and maritime species.

Three big innovation trends emerging

Autonomous shipping

The biggest impact of tech in shipping will have to do with the automation of shipping and autonomous ships. 78% of maritime professionals expect the first autonomous ships in the next 10 years and 56% believe that autonomous ships will be commonly deployed in merchant shipping in the next 11 to 20 years.

Autonomous shipping would bring great benefits to the industry: they could serve isolated islands, inhospitable routes navigated and remote areas accessed, much of it with diminished risk to seafarers. And since 80% of maritime accidents are the result of human error, autonomous shipping would be a safer solution than crewed shipping.

Ports of the future

It’s safe to say that the ports industry is no longer a stagnated one. Ports are becoming hubs connecting sea and land and striving for efficiency, supporting customers, promoting frictionless trade and enabling highly efficient processes for cargo movement. The goal is clear: to maximize efficiency and support international supply chains.

“Modern ports have become multimodal distribution megahubs which link sea, river, canal, road, rail and air transport routes, vital for international trade and linchpins for the global economy.”

Digital & Robotics

Digitization in its many forms will be a key asset of the revolution happening in ports and shipping. Data, information and how it’s handled will be at the core of the way ports operate in the future.

Not only robotics will take physical tasks away from humans (directing them towards more safe and high skilled jobs), they will also embark on tasks that cannot be undertaken by humans (deep-sea exploring, for example).

Complex systems of Internet of Things (IoT) sensors to collect data around tidal streams, wind strength and visibility, will help reduce vessel waiting times and automatically guide crewless ships. The availability of such data-driven analytics increases operational efficiency by improving tactical decisions. Further uses of such technology include providing shippers with greater visibility into market and pricing trends and helping minimize the dramatic boom-and-bust cycles that have traditionally plagued the industry.

The importance of the Blue Economy

The revolution in ports and shipping is closely connected to the desire to drive the blue economy. The blue economy represents the exploitation of ocean resources and preservation of the marine environment for economic growth. According to the Foresight Future of the Sea Report, the gross value added of the blue economy is projected to double to $3 trillion by 2030. This value is linked to industries such as trade, tourism, aquaculture and renewable energy.

The benefits of this growth are important to sea connected countries: the creation of jobs, reducing poverty and building resilience against environmental challenges, like natural disasters and climate change.

Stay update on more Blue Economy news –  subscribe to our newsletter.