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Smartport Marseille Fos
Experimentation – Lab Innovation

Building the port of the future through open innovation

The Smartport Challenge concludes on July 4 with Smartport Day, open to the public, in Marseille. How have large companies and startups been collaborating? Jonathan Blaise, project manager in thecamp’s Lab, answers a few questions!

Hey Jonathan! Can you explain what the Smartport Challenge is?

Marseille Fos is the busiest port in France, and the second-busiest in the Mediterranean. But the world is changing, the port needs to evolve, just as other industries do. The Port of Marseille Fos, the Marseille-Provence Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCIMP) and Aix-Marseille University are working together to create a “smart port”: a port that’s more fluid, greener, more virtuous and more innovative.

The Smartport Challenge is a way to boost that evolution, by bringing together players from this ecosystem and by matching large companies with new opportunities offered by startups. 

For the challenge, seven large companies operating in the port ecosystem each formulated a problem they’re facing, and selected a startup to work with. Over the next four months, the teams collaborated – along with a third-party “referent” to coordinate each team – to come up with the solutions that will be presented at the Smartport Day in Marseille on July 4. You can check out an infographic of the process here (in French).

The CCIMP is a founding partner of thecamp, and the Port of Marseille Fos is one of our experimentation partners, so it was a natural fit for thecamp to be a part of the challenge!


What role has thecamp played in the Smartport Challenge?

As the open innovation partner, we brought our methodological expertise. We knew the program had to get the teams into the field as early as possible in the process, and to go as far as creating prototypes by the conclusion of the challenge. We worked with the organizers to design a structure for the program that would encourage collaboration and concrete results. The approach we chose is based on design thinking, an innovation process centered around users, not technologies.

Then thecamp guided the participants throughout the four-month experimentation phase. That included bringing together all the teams for three separate sprint days at thecamp, where the teams had hands-on workshops, working both all together and within each challenge team. And we made sure that while the participants were working on their projects, they were also learning to use methods for creativity and innovation that they can apply again and again. You can learn more from our infographic (in French).

Throughout the challenge, the experts in the Innovation Bar we set up were available to help the teams in a variety of areas, including Nathalie Dumas from FlyingRhino (market access expertise), and Netsystem (data protection regulation expertise), as well as experts from thecamp.

This work guiding complex ecosystems through open innovation is something we do every day at thecamp, for a lot of different projets. For example, right now, we’re working with the CCIMP on 4helix+, a similar projet focused on a sustainable maritime economy that received EU funding.


thecamp worked closely on the GPMM’s question about how to calculating CO2 emissions for shipping routes. What kind of solution has been developed?

Shippers need to be able to make choices based not just on cost, but also environmental impact. The GPMM needed a solution to provide shippers with this information. In addition to the company and the startup teaming up for each question, there was also a third-party “referent” to help the teams move forward; thecamp was the referent for this one.

GPMM ended up working with a startup called Searoutes to develop an application that’s kind of like Google Maps for shipping routes, but with automatic estimates of CO2 emissions included. Plus, it looks not just at maritime shipping but also at other modes of transportation, such as trains, so shippers can get a complete picture of the options. 

With this tool, shippers can easily compare carbon footprints (without looking manually at each possible route!). And most importantly, they can choose routes that reduce emissions overall – for a greener port!


Smartport Day is Thursday, July 4, at J1 in Marseille. The event open to the public, with free admission. Register here to attend!