Northern Ireland start-ups will have the chance to win a £75,000 proof of concept grant as part of a new competition launched today by Techstart Ventures and Belfast Harbour, with support from BT.
Innovative thinkers are invited to submit ideas for new technology solutions to assist lone workers at Belfast Harbour or for new Internet of Things (IoT) solutions that can deliver value to Belfast Harbour.
The winner will receive £75,000 of grant funding from Techstart, with Belfast Harbour providing an environment to develop, refine and test their innovations. The winners will also get a package of support from BT including access to its 5G network.
The initiative is being launched as part of Belfast Harbour’s key strategic ambition to stimulate innovation and support its employees, customers and visitors through innovative digital solutions.
Trevor Anderson from Belfast Harbour said: “Our 2035 vision set out our goals to become a smart port and to support the development of the local economy through partnerships that encourage R&D, introduce new skills and support innovative businesses."
“As such, Belfast Harbour is seeking to engage with SMEs in the local knowledge economy to deliver world-class solutions for the operation and control of the Port’s activities. We are inviting applications with a particular focus on the areas of lone working and industrial IoT as we feel that these areas offer real scope to employ innovative concepts.”
Robyn Wilson from Techstart, said: “Starting a business is hard. We have found that building early versions of product with the close involvement of a first customer can really help. We think that this initiative has the potential to play a role in the creation of a new and exciting business with high growth potential. We are delighted that Belfast Harbour and BT share this vision.”
Mark Gibson, Business Development Director at BT in Northern Ireland, said: “We are excited to be working with TechStart and Belfast Harbour to offer this unique opportunity to a Northern Ireland start-up by providing the winner with access to our 5G network as well as our business expertise.
“At BT, we’re committed to supporting the development of businesses across Northern Ireland. Our 5G network, delivered by EE as part of BT Group, was the first operator to launch a 5G network in the UK, with Belfast one of six cities chosen for phase one of the roll out.
“Our 5G network can deliver massive benefits to business and industry and will provide the winner with ultra-fast speeds and the reliability needed to launch their new innovative concept - as well as improving operational efficiency and productivity, fast knowledge transfer and higher employee satisfaction and engagement.
“Innovation is part of BT’s DNA, last year we invested £662m R&D and over the last decade we’ve been one of the largest investors in innovation in the UK. We also look forward to providing the winner with expert support on their journey to launch their new business.”
The ideal applicant for the scheme will be a pre-commercial start-up team or individual with ideas for a solution that has potential to be incorporated in the Port, which can deal with diverse communication environments and who has a working understanding of lone working or Industrial IoT solutions currently on the market.
Areas of innovation on the lone worker side might include solutions related to worker biometrics, checking in/out, tracking movement or improving safety in dangerous situations. Industrial IoT solutions linked to the cranes and material handling equipment used by port employees might focus on usage stats and productivity, maintenance, asset tracking and health and safety qualifications.
Anyone interested in applying is invited to register for an information session at 12:30 on 23rd September at https://techstart75kgrantcompetiton.eventbrite.co.uk
Applications can be made at https://www.techstartgrants.com/75k-competition