Guest blog: Accelerating digital innovation to improve safety in shipping

The Lloyd's Register Safety Accelerator is seeking applications from startups to help drive innovation into the shipping industry, writes Maurizio Pilu from Lloyd’s Register


While reported fatalities are decreasing year on year, shipping is still one of the most dangerous industries in which to work. The European Maritime Safety Agency estimated there were 16,539 casualties and 600 fatalities between 2011 and 2016.

Digital innovation and use of data has a role to play in reducing occupational hazards and improving safety in the industry, and industry is making efforts to innovate. Drones, for instance,  are already being trialled to reduce the need for personnel to work at height to inspect an asset’s condition. Artificial intelligence is being used to develop predictive models of safety risks based on past occurrences of accidents, and wearable technologies are now being developed for fatigue detection. 

However, we are a long way from using the full potential of adopting digital technologies to improve safety in shipping. 

In March of this year, Lloyd’s Register (LR), in partnership with Lloyd’s List, conducted a global online survey of marine professionals to explore barriers to digital innovation within the industry. 

Nearly half of respondents (47%) said that having a measurable return on investment was the biggest barrier they faced in adopting digital technology. Without a clear business model, companies are hesitant to invest time and resources into exploring new, unproven technologies. 

The second largest hurdle when it comes to adopting digital technologies, reported by 40% of respondents, is the cost of piloting a new solution. While pilots are generally lower cost than buying the full solution, and provide the opportunity to uncover and remove unexpected blockers, the time to find a provider, agree a partnership, launch the trial and measure outcomes can still be an intensive process, especially when the benefits are not clear at the outset.

If demand for this type of innovation for safety is either low or not well articulated by the industry, it isn’t surprising then that technology entrepreneurs find it hard to drive innovation into the industry, as it happens in other sectors, despite its significant market size.  

To tackle some of these barriers, LR and the Lloyd’s Register Foundation have launched the Lloyd’s Register Safety Accelerator, a new initiative to accelerate the adoption of digital technology for safety-critical industries. It brings together startups and industry to collaborate and test innovative digital solutions to the some of the world’s toughest safety challenges. The accelerator is being delivered in partnership with Silicon Valley-based global innovation platform, Plug and Play, and aims to reach key entrepreneurial ecosystems and communities across the world.

Working with LR’s clients and the industry, the Safety Accelerator identifies significant, hard-to-solve safety challenges from across the industry that are ripe for digital innovation, and articulates them into a format startups across the globe can understand and respond to with cutting-edge solutions.  

In quarterly Dragon’s Den-style pitch days, the most promising and innovative solutions and teams are selected to partner with LR and industry commercial challenge partners to develop and trial their ideas over a three-month period. With trial funding provided by the Safety Accelerator to the startup tech company, the process de-risks innovation for industry partners and generates compelling businesses cases, while helping startups gain valuable references and valued customers.

Beyond specific opportunities to pilot cutting edge technology to industry-wide safety problems, the Safety Accelerator is also helping create a “safetytech” community of startups, leveraging LR’s domain expertise and Plug and Play’s global innovation network.

The Safety Accelerator has just opened its first round of challenges, themed around Human Safety Onboard, with industry challenge partners including Kotug, the Dutch tugboat operations and towage provider. The programme is now seeking applications from startups who propose new ways to create safer work environments, particularly in marine and offshore. More information about how to apply can be found here

If you have a safety challenge in your operations that you would like to explore solving with the Lloyd’s Register Safety Accelerator, get in touch with the team to discuss how you can get involved. 

Maurizio Pilu is Vice-President - Digital Innovation at Lloyd’s Register.