The International Association of Harbour and Ports (IAPH) has been working the past years on closing the gap of port competitiveness in terms of both physical and digital infrastructure, between the various stages that can be found worldwide overt port’s development. And therefore, considering innovation as a transversal key for business improvement.
It is commonly accepted that ports are evolving to promote and support their region and community, beyond cargo handling and concessions management. Innovation is gathering increasing attention to enable operational efficiency and to adopt new business models for additional revenue streams.
This article, acting a fact sheet, provides a guideline to ports to deliver innovation, based on meaningful port examples, highlighting the benefits the innovation scheme and framework can offer in their organizations.
From considering innovation at the heart of the organization transformation, where it applies even to organizational structures and processes. Establishing widespread mechanisms among the organization and collaboration means with the port stakeholders. Sharing resources and physical spaces for testing and piloting. To not forgetting funding as a fundamental point for start-ups to obtain a degree of permanence in time, but taking into account the alignment of their vital course with current port management and execution processes.
“An innovation ecosystem can only be achieved through a cooperative approach, with coordination mechanisms to facilitate interactions between different agents in the system.”
The main inputs and contributions are:
- Competitiveness or current economic models’ challenges can only be addressed through innovation, but furthermore, based on an innovation strategy that is aligned with corporate objectives. Additionally, innovation should be considered as a thorough transformation within the organization.
- Ports should focus in exploring new opportunities out of the reach of nowadays business lines.
- The port context, with multiple agents and stakeholders public and private, is the perfect scene to work on open collaborative innovation. And hereafter, tackle common purposes such us quality of service or sustainability.
- Technology should not be seen a solution, but a catalyst that fosters innovation, since innovation can be build up on products, processes, organizational structures and business models. And in this last one, technology has a minor role.
- The development of an innovative ecosystem in the port community needs to rely on collaboration, participation and inclusion, but far more important, on coordinated mechanisms and a management framework that captures, handles and executes innovation. To that end, ports are constituting innovation committees or informal/formal working groups, which can result in more profiting collaborations.
- Innovation, as per its nature, is a transversal cross-functional concept. And it’s the Chief Innovation Officer (CINO) responsibility to establish processes to allow the organization to contribute.
- For this approach to be successful and fully embedded in the organization, two pillars are highlighted: a culture of innovation should be implemented, and innovation should be reported directly to top management for two reasons, (1) to spread it within organization’s departments and (2) to obtain the right budget allocation.
- Actions to adopt innovation can vary from developing PoC or pilot projects, in which availability of resources and pre-agreement of financing and risks are the key to success; to port incubator or accelerating programs, which require suitable support; and lastly to grant physical and digital spaces for research, prototyping or testing. Nevertheless, ports should always focus on the underlying objective, on what they intent to achieve.
- Human capital stands out as an important point. It is common to combine innovation efforts with specialized training centres for the organization and the port community, where new required capabilities can be acquired.
- Finally, it should be born in mind that start-ups pace of life usually do not match ports’ management mechanisms and this could lead to missed opportunities for ports or conflict points for start-ups’ survival. However, funding is crucial, and if ports lack financing tools it is recommended to study alternatives or even establish Corporate Venture Capital (CVC).
“It is more appropriate to highlight the cross-functional and transversal nature of innovation if it has a direct dependence on senior management.”