8 innovation challenges to build the Port of the future in Marseille Fos

8 innovation challenges to build the Port of the future in Marseille Fos
23 November 2022 / Digital Economy, Eco-industries, Energy

The Smart Port Challenge, a competition that boosts the green transition

The 4th edition of the Smart Port Challenge is underway! This competition, which aims to foster green innovation, invites start-ups to find solutions to eight challenges that will help accelerate the sustainable and eco-friendly transformation of the port sector in Marseille Fos. The winners will benefit from financing and other support mechanisms to develop, test, and implement their solutions over a five-month period in cooperation with major companies and key economic partners. Applications are open until 31 December 2022.

The maritime sector is a powerful vector for Aix-Marseille’s economic attractiveness and the Smart Port Challenge offers it even greater international visibility. Provence Promotion is pleased to help showcase this innovative and high-impact initiative.

Since 2017, the Port of Marseille Fos, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Aix-Marseille-Provence, and Aix-Marseille University, supported by a coalition of partners (the Banque des Territoires, the Sud Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur Region, the Aix-Marseille-Provence Metropolis, the Bouches-du-Rhône Departmental Council, the City of Marseille, Euroméditerranée, the Union Maritime et Fluviale, EDF, Hammerson, Naval Group, Traxens, CMA CGM, and Digital Realty) have committed to working together to improve the economic and environmental performance of the Port of Marseille Fos ecosystem through the “French Smart Port In Med” agreement.

The Smart Port Challenge was born from this agreement and a dynamic partnership between public and private stakeholders. The goal of the Smart Port Challenge is to accelerate the development of the port of the future by encouraging innovative companies to take up challenges in the marine sector related to issues such as logistics, security, and energy. Each challenge has been defined by a major company, which will then partner with the winner to facilitate the implementation of a proof of concept (POC) in the Aix-Marseille territory.

Fostering co-innovation to co-construct the Mediterranean port of the future

By identifying tangible projects, the 2022 edition of the Smart Port Challenge offers start-ups the opportunity to collaborate with influential companies and decision-makers.

The competition is structured around joint projects that will be beneficial to both the local port ecosystem and to the environmental and energy transition of the entire Mediterranean Basin. The initiative not only stimulates creativity but also encourages the sharing of knowledge and expertise. The winning solutions from this competition will be tested in the port area in order to develop new practices, digital applications, technical tools, or industrial demonstrators.

The eight green and sustainable challenges for Smart Port Challenge #4

The eight challenges were designed to meet specific needs and sustainable development goals. They were revealed on Thursday 17 November at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry Aix-Marseille-Provence.

  • Air Liquide is focusing on hydrogen and mobility
    Challenge #1 > Design a standardized smartphone application or digital interface to exchange data between users of hydrogen vehicles and the manufacturers and providers of hydrogen to provide simplified refueling and mobility solutions.


  • ArcelorMittal wants to use Artificial Intelligence to enhance safety for its industrial employees
    Challenge #2 > The HF-ALERT SÉCURITÉ project is seeking to develop safety models for its steel manufacturing teams by using an AI-based tool that collects and analyzes data from cameras in the cast house and blast furnaces in Fos.


  • Bouygues ELAB innovation unit/Bouygues Energies & Services aims to optimize energy resources
    Challenge #3 > Create a digital twin that will use operational data from the Port of Marseille Fos to find solutions to improve the site’s industrial energy performance, flexibility, and efficiency.


  • CMA CGM aims to accelerate the decarbonization of road transport
    Challenge #4 > Develop a system that analyzes traffic and logistics flows and matches them to existing and planned electric and hydrogen stations in order to identify priority locations for infrastructure and accelerate the transition to a zero-emission vehicle fleet.


  • The Port of Marseille Fos wants waste management innovations using a circular ecology approach
    Challenge #5 > Improve waste management within the context of the site’s circular economy using a strategy of maximum waste recovery to limit environmental impacts. The challenge also hopes to define a roadmap for the 400 hectares of the port’s eastern basins.


  • Hammerson – Les Terrasses du Port and Veolia are developing a biodiversity project
    Challenge #6 > Design a replicable urban agricultural project for the shopping center’s roof terraces that will help with thermal optimization, carbon capture, and water recovery while producing food and increasing biodiversity.


  • RWE Renewables France wants to promote floating offshore wind energy with a digital tourism experience for the general public
    Challenge #7 > Create an innovative virtual tourism experience of a floating offshore wind farm that will be fun, dynamic, interactive, and educational and help people better understand the industry and its current projects.


  • Servaux aims to simplify procedures for shipping and navigation with a blockchain-protected platform for sharing official documents
    Challenge #8 > Develop a secure digital interface to manage regulatory documents connected to shipping that would increase the efficiency of fitting-out, maintenance, or auditing operations.


The winners of these eight challenges will be able to develop, test, and implement their solutions for a period of five months in locations made available by the challenge partners.

Enhancing the sustainable and smart development of the industrial-port ecosystem in Marseille-Fos

The Smart Port Challenge reflects the ambitious environmental goals of the Port of Marseille Fos and encourages cross-fertilization of technical expertise and digital skills.

Provence Promotion is promoting the Smart Port Challenge initiative to investors and start-ups during its economic development missions with the aim of attracting new expertise to the Aix-Marseille territory. This was recently the case in the United States and at the Smart City Expo World Congress in Barcelona.

Euranova and Searoutes, two companies that have been supported by Provence Promotion, have won a challenge in previous editions of the Smart Port Challenge.

As part of the first edition of the Smart Port Challenge in 2019, Searoutes, a start-up created in Germany, developed an AI solution in Marseille to reduce CO2 emissions and fuel consumption of freight ships by identifying the best routes in real-time. Launched in May 2020, this application programming interface (API) has been a huge success. In 2021, Searoutes raised €2.4 million in investment to develop a road transport version of its energy saving route calculator.

The Belgian start-up Euranova, a specialist in Big Data and Machine Learning, was also a Smart Challenge winner, having been recognized at the second edition for its video analysis system that made road and rail traffic more fluid in the port zone. Today, its operations in Marseille are growing. Its workforce has increased from 50 to 100 employees, which led to the company moving to larger offices in downtown Marseille in 2021.  

Any French or international company with less than 250 employees can participate in the Smart Port Challenge. It is important to emphasize that all intellectual and industrial property rights attached to the innovative solutions presented to meet the challenges remain the property of the candidates. Applications must be submitted by midnight on 31 December 2022.