Singapore’s Opportunities for Maritime Innovation

Posted on: 12/10/2022

In summer 2022, representatives from Innovate UK KTN's Maritime & Ports Innovation Network met with key organisations at the heart of Singapore’s maritime innovation ecosystem.

Innovate UK KTN has a long standing and fruitful relationship with the Singapore Science Innovation Network (SIN) of the British High Commission. In recent years Missions to the “Little Red Dot” have seen valuable collaborative agreements and projects for Singaporean / UK organisations in advanced manufacturing and materials, agrifood tech, mobility and land transport, cybersecurity satellite applications, and health and life sciences. With a buoyant international drive on innovation in the maritime sector, this summer was an opportune time to examine how Singapore is mobilising its mighty innovation ecosystem and where there might be synergies with the UK’s World Leading maritime activity.

We met with representatives from the following key organisations at the heart of Singapore’s maritime innovation ecosystem:

  • Maritime & Port Authority of Singapore
  • Singapore Maritime Institute
  • Agency for Science, Technology & Research (A*STAR)
  • Technology Centre for Offshore and Marine Singapore

They offered us a unique insight into their plans to drive innovation in maritime and the opportunities this presents to UK and other nations on similar pathways to improve productivity, develop autonomy, improve safety and reduce emissions.

MPA – Maritime & Port Authority

The MPA was enacted in 1996 and serves as the Authority, Regulator, Planner and National Representative for Maritime activity and the Port of Singapore. Among many functions, the MPA promotes R&D, operates the Vessel Traffic Information System and publishes the Sea Transport Industry Transformation Map (ITM).

Maritime Transformation Programme (MTP)

A key vehicle to implement the Sea Transport ITM is the Maritime Transformation Programme. It seeks to leverage the National Research Foundation (NRF) Research, Innovation and Enterprise Funds (RIE Funds) to grow maritime R&D capabilities and transform the sector. The MTF will focus on five main areas (thrusts).

  1. Efficient and intelligent world class next generation port
  2. Strategic sea space and maritime traffic management
  3. Smart fleet operations and autonomous vessels
  4. Effective maritime safety and security
  5. Sustainable maritime environment and energy

The MPA hosts a ‘Circle of Innovators’ in maritime and sponsors the four Centres of Excellence (CofE), commissioned by the SMI:

  1. C4NGP – Modelling and Simulation for Next Generation Ports
  2. MESD – Maritime Energy & Sustainable Development
  3. CEMS – Maritime Safety
  4. CEAOPS – Autonomy & Digital Mete Ocean

Opportunities for innovation activity

Future Fuel – exploring how to electrify local shipping and workboats; develop renewable fuel / hydrogen for longer duration and international shipping and to enable continued fossil fuel use, on board carbon capture with a view to making fuel on board (CC & HVU).

Enhanced Vessel Operations – exploring technical approaches including use of air lubrication to improve streamlining and reduce drag of vessel; using weather routing to avoid inclement weather or utilise ocean currents or wind currents; use of anti fouling approaches to reduce drag in the water of the vessel hulls and future design & smart ship system design.

Digital Port – projects in digitised cargo clearance, harmonising digital solutions used in the multi users of the port.

The MPA have launched a Maritime Innovation Challenge programme called “Pier 71 Smart Port Challenge”. UK can participate in the Pier 71 Challenge from 2022 onwards.

SMI – Singapore Maritime Institute

The SMI was established in 2011 as a JV between the MPA and A*STAR supported by the Singapore Economic Development Board.

The SMI charts the maritime research strategy and promotes greater industry and academia R&D collaborations. They are partners with the 6 major academic bodies in Singapore. They manage the CofE’s and their own SMI Fund. This provides funding for technology R&D and policy research through competitive thematic grant calls.

Opportunities for innovation activity

The SMI have developed a R&D roadmap in collaboration with industry to define R&D challenges and drive support. They provide direct funding for researchers and industry partners, where required.

They are currently expanding their ambitions for international collaboration, with a current joint Singapore’s and Norwegian grant call.

The SMI is entering a new 5 year programme 2022—7 worth 80M SGP$ plus up to 100M SGP$ top up from the National Research Company funds over the next 5 years. The 1st tranche is focused on decarbonising, the 2nd tranche will be looking at operations and the 3rd tranche is next generation automated, smart & green.

New programmes

  • Maritime AI – new venture being developed late 2022, working with A*STAR on exploiting High Power Computing and Artificial Intelligence
  • Cyber security – a 5 year programme with iTrust to provide a physical and virtual test bed for shipboard cyber security systems
  • Future ships

Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR)

They are a catalyst, enabler and convenor of significant research initiatives among the research community in Singapore and beyond.

Opportunities for innovation activity

We met with their I2R team and discussed their work in 5G. Over the past two years they have been focused on:

  • Smart Construction
  • Advanced manufacturing
  • Maritime

Maritime R&D funding:
A*STAR offers funding in a number of key areas related to 5G R&D projects in maritime including:

  • management & orchestration
  • distributed AI
  • distributed computing
  • network slicing
  • cybersecurity
  • AI enabled RAN
  • High link reliability wireless

One area of specific interest is in solutions for remote pilotage and autonomous operations.

Technology Centre for Offshore and Marine Singapore (TCOMS) at NUS

A recently opened national R&D centre dedicated to the Marine & Offshore and Maritime sectors, TCOMS integrates research and industry expertise to co-develop innovative future ocean systems and solutions that are safe, resilient and sustainable.

TCOMS is developing cyber-physical modelling and simulation capability, featuring the integration of physical modelling, numerical modelling, smart-sensing, and real time data analytics. An anchor research facility of TCOMS is the next-generation Deepwater Ocean Basin (DOB). It features a 60*48*12 m deep wave tank with a moving floor and a 11m diameter 50 m deep basin. The wave tank can generate multi direction waves and has beach simulation addendums.

Opportunities for innovation activity

Their key focus areas where they are developing capability include:

  • mete oceans,
  • marine & offshore systems,
  • marine robotics,
  • smart vessels,
  • coastal protection & nearshore solutions (combined infrastructure).

They were particularly keen to engage with the UK to exploit their marine and offshore systems capabilities. They have extensive capability in modelling and data integration to build a digital twin of the asset to provide assurance of performance & location, health of vessel; options for offshore wind turbine erection modelling.

Concluding remarks

As has always been the case, we found the Singaporeans welcoming, informative, well resourced, ambitious and keen to engage with the wider world. Singapore has made a number of technological advances and invested in state-of-the-art facilities and programmes to establish the Port as an advanced Living Lab.

We expect to see significant advances in the next five years particularly around decarbonising and autonomy which mirror the UK’s plans for development. Singapore offers great potential for collaboration at a project and programme level and we welcome the opportunity of returning in the near future.


By Mark Wray of the Clean Energy & Infrastructure Team.

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