Members from the IAPH Innovation Group published the IAPH factsheet guide ‘The mindset shift towards innovation‘, offering ten recommendations to all port leadership teams on how to integrate innovation in practice.
#1 The port sector needs to embrace innovation as part of its own transformation: Ports face multiple challenges, in a constantly-changing economic context, and must adapt to both new international and national regulatory requirements, strong international competition, accelerated digitalization and major climate and environmental challenges. An innovation strategy makes it possible for ports to adapt and reinvent themselves in what has now become a highly competitive and uncertain environment.
#2 Innovation can be applied to products and services, processes, organizational structures and the business models at ports; with technology enabling innovation rather than being a solution in itself: The focus has to be on the product, the service, the process or the business model and technology should become a driver for innovation. Not all innovation is technology-based.
#3 For an innovation approach to be fully integrated into the port’s organization, the Chief Innovation Officer should report directly to the top management with cross functional access to all other departments: Other industries ahead of ports have learned this lesson. The innovation function should collaborate throughout all levels of the organization. This includes top management and the board to assure that innovation is aligned with corporate strategy and obtains the right funding.
#4 An innovation ecosystem can only be achieved through a cooperative approach, with coordination mechanisms to facilitate interactions between different agents in the system: Open innovation fosters the participation, not only of the port itself, but also of the different agents of the port community, as well as of the innovation ecosystem linked to the port. This includes the creation of wellappointed committees or open working groups, both formal and informal, in which all the agents involved in the innovation processes may participate.
#5 Avoid identifying the innovation tool first and manage expectations: Port innovation programs that ultimately fail to deliver are those which try to identify the tool for innovation such as hackathons first before figuring out what a port intends to achieve, which organizational and financial models should be put in place, and the ecosystem it should embed in a port community to ensure that innovation prospers and multiplies.
#6 Selecting the right innovation tool depends on resources available, the ability to translate an innovation into a working proof of concept or pilot and committing to full implementation based on achievable success criteria: This will vary according to the port’s resource availability, but may start from a Proof-of-Concept (PoC) request to resolve a business problem, a hackathon to attract new talents and early start-ups or well-funded fully developed pilot projects with the correct mentoring and support.
#7 The role of an innovation hub is to orchestrate facilities and tools to enable innovators to access and receive adequate support for their open innovation journey: These can potentially include (i) research and development and innovation centers to identify, investigate and explore new concepts and emerging technologies (ii) incubators and accelerators to nurture and develop, test and refine innovations (iii) testing facilities to create, prototype, validate and test innovations in real-life contexts (iv) training centers which are required for capacity building.
#8 Funding is a crucial element for the innovation ecosystem: Long-term budget planning at an organizational level is needed: Funding sources may be available from government public tender notices, specific national or regional funds such as from the World Bank, the European Union, local innovation agencies, and private investment firms that have funds focused on different stages of start-up growth (seed, scale up, growth).
#9 The timing of ports to commit and invest in a start-ups is an essential success factor: Ports often struggle to engage with the best startups due to the time constraints, delays and shortage of funds to support startups in latter rounds of investment. Ports need to streamline their innovation process. By meeting and supporting promising start-ups at their earliest stages, ports can improve the quality of starups that they attract.
#10 Ports should consider establishing Corporate Venture Capital (CVC) arms to support innovation: Establishing a CVC arm in ports is one of the innovation mechanisms that can generate revenue streams (in the long term) and can also increase the appeal of collaborating with the port. It can attract promising earlystage start-ups that are looking for value creation from their investors.