Insight | Open innovation: Inmarsat’s accelerator journey to enable maritime digitalisation


Open innovation: Inmarsat’s accelerator journey to enable maritime digitalisation


May 2019 was an exciting month for Inmarsat and its Digital Incubation team, with the successful completion of our first accelerator – the Rainmaking Transport Start-up Engagement Programme Trade & Transport Impact with partners Wärtsilä and Cargotec group. As a direct result of this programme, we are collaborating with innovators ScanReach and Geollect to bring game-changing digital products to the maritime industry.

The Inmarsat community is overwhelmed with talented and expert individuals who work to deliver reliable satellite communications, creating value for our partners and end-users. But sometimes innovative ideas and niche knowledge or experience reside outside of our walls. As a large organisation, we also inherit structures and processes that may slow down experimentation (and we’re not unique in that aspect!)

This is why we’re championing open innovation. We’re reaching out to, identifying, co-researching and co-creating new digital products with external innovators to both better serve our existing customers and open up new markets.

We started working with Rainmaking four months ago to accelerate our outreach and not just talk to but actually collaborate with innovators. Rainmaking helped us frame the digital opportunities we wanted to support through our unique position as a communication and data enabler, being real-time vessel operations and management; efficient and sustainable cargo flow; and health and safety.

After scouting an impressive 600+ scale-ups and bringing it down to a high-quality pipeline of 50 companies, Rainmaking brought together Inmarsat, Wärtsilä and Cargotec to select the top 14 companies that we would meet during an intense three-day selection sprint in Hamburg. Members of the Digital Incubation team and business units across Inmarsat came prepared with questions and outlines of co-operation opportunities that we tested in stimulating one-on-one sessions to select our preferred partners.

The six-week pilot phase was an extraordinary demonstration of Inmarsat’s and our scale-up partners’ combined ability to achieve concrete results in a very condensed period of time. We proudly presented the outcomes during the final days of the programme in May, nonetheless our collaborations continue. As a result of the final outcome discussions, today we are actively working with:

  • ScanReach to validate opportunities associated with combining our maritime footprint together with our Fleet Data IoT solution technology and ScanReach’s mesh network technology to enable ship-to-shore connectivity for sensor data and crew safety applications across a whole ship; and
  • Geollect to investigate what opportunities there are in the marine insurance industry for Inmarsat data to complement Automated Identification Systems (AIS).

The real challenge of such a programme and of such collaborations is to find genuine win-win scenarios where the opportunities identified benefit both the partner and Inmarsat in an ongoing way. Another challenge is to find opportunities that are both highly innovative and also immediately commercial with real customers engaged from day one. We’re delighted to be partnering with both Scanreach and Geollect to meet these challenges and achieve that win-win for all.

Our open innovation programme continues as we look forward to the next milestone in our accelerator programme with partner Bluetech Accelerator at its boot camp in Lisbon on 24-27 June where we hope to find more opportunities that win for Inmarsat, for our new partners and for our wider ecosystem and customers!

About the author

Clara Wahnich is Inmarsat’s Digital Innovation Partnerships lead. She seeks, evaluates and works with innovators to create relationships, pilots and partnerships that expand digital applications and opportunities for Inmarsat’s customers.

Prior to joining the company in early 2019, Clara managed the Carbon Trust’s incubation activities, closely supporting cleantech startups to accelerate their commercial deployment, build their team and raise funding. Clara comes from a finance and banking background in the renewable energy and commodities sector and holds a Master’s in Management from City University, a French Diplôme des Grandes Ecoles and a German Diplom-Kauffrau.