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PSA launches S$20m programme to groom logistics startups

PSA unboXed will invest in and nurture pre-seed startups with innovative solutions to boost port productivity

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On Monday, the Singapore-based port group unveiled PSA unboXed, its new corporate venture arm with an initial fund size of S$20 million - becoming the latest company here to commit to innovation during a time businesses are increasingly urged to review the "disruption" coming to their industries.

Singapore

INNOVATION doesn't come from thinking inside the box - and PSA International knows this.

On Monday, the Singapore-based port group unveiled PSA unboXed, its new corporate venture arm with an initial fund size of S$20 million - becoming the latest company here to commit to innovation during a time businesses are increasingly urged to review the "disruption" coming to their industries.

Through a nine-month incubation programme, PSA unboXed will invest in and nurture pre-seed startups with innovative solutions - in Internet of Things, data analytics and robotics - to boost port productivity.

Startups will each receive up to S$50,000 in seed funding, and access incubator facilities at PSA's Pasir Panjang Terminal Building 3 and testbeds in the form of "live port environments" at PSA Singapore Terminals.

Tan Chong Meng, group chief executive of PSA International, said: "Being the world's largest port group based on equity-weighted throughout ... gives PSA the unique platform to instigate and support game changers in our industry. Startups don't have to go far to reach the world."

Startups will benefit also from mentorship by "experienced members" of the PSA management who have expertise in fields such as engineering, IT, and commercial and business processes, as well as external mentors from PSA's partner venture capital firms, such as Stream Global.

A PSA unboXed spokesman said: "PSA unboXed will have full autonomy to engage the startup community. We understand the need to move swiftly for startups and have in place an approval process to ensure that decisions can be taken quickly."

He added that PSA unboXed aims to foster a culture of innovation and entrepreneurial spirit within PSA. But for that to happen, there needs to be a "massive cultural transformation effort" leveraging design thinking, new organisation structures and metrics, said Frederic Giron, a vice-president and research director at Forrester.

Asked about take-up rate, Mr Giron said: "This is an interesting question, as most of the startup activity we have seen in Singapore has been in the business-to-consumer space (eg, financial services, e-commerce)."

But Mr Giron expects activity to soon spread to the business-to-business (B2B) space, of which PSA unboXed is one "great" example. He noted: "There are massive opportunities to improve operational agility and customer experience by applying digital technologies on B2B processes."

Peter Goh, managing director and Asean lead for products at Accenture, agreed, adding that by supporting potential game-changing innovations through PSA unboXed, concepts can be taken to market and industrialised. "These might not only transform the industry but may also benefit the wider global trade ecosystem."

PSA unboXed is a name play on the word "box", the casual industry term for the container, said the spokesman, while "unboXed" signifies the group's intent to move beyond the box into the adjacent spaces of cargo, trade, finance and the like. He added: "The 'X' in unboXed is to punch the point that the ideas we adopt will need to have the 'x factor'."