Interview: Chris Clott, Founder of New York Maritime Innovation Center

Dr. Christopher Clott
Dr. Christopher Clott

Published Aug 11, 2019 7:12 PM by David Hume

Dr. Chris Clott, co-founder and director of the recently created New York Maritime Innovation Center (NYMIC), talks about how they support startups in the maritime industry.

The NYMIC was founded by Clott, Professor of Marine Transportation & Logistics at SUNY Maritime College, in 2018. It is an independent non-profit entity that convenes, connects and catalyzes the maritime transportation industry by pairing startups with mentors, potential investors and customers. NYMIC’s mission is to foster technology innovation and startups in the maritime technology industry, what they refer to as “Maritech.”  NYMIC has a strong entrepreneurial focus and hopes to bridge the divide between the tech, logistics, finance, and maritime communities and connect startups to maritime interests across the world. In this interview Chris responds to questions about the beginnings of NYMIC, where it’s going, and how startups can get involved.

What is unique about the New York region from a maritime perspective that led to the creation of NYMIC? 

The New York City Metropolitan area is one of the major maritime centers in the world. It is the third largest port in the U.S. and has all manner of shipping services serving the worldwide interests of the industry, from liner shipping, tankers, and bulk carriers, to cruise ships and ferries. Land-based maritime operations include ocean transportation intermediaries, beneficial cargo owners, insurance providers, inland carriers and brokerage freight forwarding services. New York City is one of the most important financial centers in the world and provides much of the banking and private equity capital that finances the maritime industry’s ships, port infrastructure and cargo.

We want to build a maritime technology ecosystem that leverages these unique aspects of New York to help startups succeed in the maritime industry. Through our access to New York tech talent, shipping companies, and the State University of New York research facilities we are ready and willing to help startups innovate in this space and solidify New York City’s role as one of the maritime capitals of the world.

It sounds like developing partnerships and connecting stakeholders are a huge part of NYMIC, can you elaborate on how you work with industry and startups?

There are three ways we work with our stakeholders and partners to support startups in the maritime space. We:

• Collaborate with other “blue tech” and technology organizations within the U.S. and abroad to create a network to identify real solutions to industry pain points.

• Deliver on a broad education mission of NYMIC to convene periodic events – meetups, early stage startup showcases, hackathons, etc. – to further evolve the maritime ecosystem in New York City. 

• Catalyze early stage companies by providing expert mentorship and vetting of ideas. We will continue working with startups and teams formed through educational events and in due time connect them with existing maritime tech accelerators and angel investors in New York and worldwide to develop Minimum Viable Products.  

What sectors in the Blue Economy are you most excited to see NYMIC engage in? 

There are many interesting sectors in the blue economy where NYMIC might be able to spur innovative thinking. The continued development of digital solutions that increase visibility and connect the supply chain are of particular interest for example. The promise of blockchain solutions is just getting started.

Non-digital solutions that optimize transportation in all sectors of the maritime industry including intermodal transportation and port optimization are areas for potential development. In addition, cybersecurity issues present an area for startup innovations that can be utilized by both small and mid-sized firms; we’re excited to work with industry on finding the right solutions to keep their assets safe.

Last, but certainly not least, sustainability solutions to pressing environmental concerns are of tremendous interest. These would include solutions to help shipping companies reach compliance with IMO regulations.

As NYMIC develops, how do you see it impacting the maritime community in the New York region or beyond?

NYMIC can provide a knowledge base and prepare established firms for new developments. An investment in NYMIC could result in discovering new ideas that lead to new revenue streams or revolutionize current ones. In particular, we will seek to highlight cross-industry innovations that are often unseen by those strictly in the maritime field. NYMIC will be useful to the following groups of stakeholders:

• Technology companies (startup and/or established), that are willing to connect with potential partners/investors/clients, and that need support with resources, information, and business plan advice. 
• Investors looking for opportunities and connections with promising startups with a growth profile.
• Potential clients (Ship operators/Port & Terminals/Charterers/Insurance/Logistics, etc.) willing to explore new technologies but don’t have the time and resources to research solutions.
• Industry associations, including Classification Societies.
• Maritime associations and Government Agencies such as the U.S. Coast Guard, Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Maritime Administration, Federal Maritime Commission, etc.
• Individual members who wish to be connected to maritime industry developments.

Lastly, we will be developing the groundwork for a Maritime Technology Accelerator over the next six months that can provide the support and infrastructure needed to get startups off the ground and get to minimum viable product. We are looking for foundational sponsors who would be interested in working more closely with startups and helping us move this idea forward.

There seems to be lots of blue tech startups out there. Do you have any suggestions for how they can best work with NYMIC as you grow and build-out the organization?

NYMIC seeks to collaborate with blue tech and maritime tech startups worldwide. We are open to all ideas for helping to move the maritime industry forward. Groups in New York that are interested in learning more about NYMIC can attend some of our regular meet-ups, or keep an eye-out for future special events like the Maritime Hackathon we helped organize this past March. For those further afield, we’re always interested in connecting and learning more about how we might be able to work together, drop us a line at [email protected]

NYMIC is just getting started and working hard to galvanize the blue tech community in New York, kudos to Chris and the team for getting it off the ground. That’s it for this installment of Blue Tech Voices, check back soon to learn more about the other leaders supporting the Blue Economy through technology innovation. 

Christopher Clott, Ph.D. is a Professor of Marine Transportation and Logistics at SUNY Maritime College and the Founder of the New York Maritime Innovation Center. Clott previously worked in the ocean shipping industry and has been involved in supply chain education activities at schools such as SUNY Maritime, California Maritime Academy,  Elmhurst College and the Indian Institute of Management for over 25 years.

Source: The Liquid Grid

The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.