Seaport Economic Council “Grand Challenge” Aims to Support Collaborative Projects That Use Connected Internet of Things Technologies to Address Maritime Challenges

The Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, in partnership with the Baker-Polito Administration’s Seaport Economic Council (SEC), has opened applications for the “Grand Challenge,” a new program aimed at supporting projects which catalyze the development of innovative technologies in support of the marine economy in Massachusetts. The Grand Challenge will support projects that apply technology and business solutions to the marine economy to reach the economic development potential of our ocean and coastal resources.

In February, the Seaport Economic Council announced the new initiative at a council meeting, chaired by Lt. Governor Karyn Polito, and allocated up to $500,000 to connect entrepreneurs and new technology to seaport communities. The Internet of Things (IoT) represents technology and business innovations that can enhance the economic potential of our ocean and coastal resources that contribute to the prosperity of the Commonwealth, and provide potential solutions to today’s environmental challenges.

“We are thrilled to see the Seaport Economic Council partner with the MassTech Collaborative to better connect our communities with cutting-edge innovation, and give entrepreneurs the opportunity to develop new technologies directly with partners in the marine economy,” said Governor Charlie Baker.  “Massachusetts continues to be a vital testing ground for new technologies, and we are excited for our coastal communities to reap the benefits.”

“The Seaport Economic Council is a vital resource for our coastal communities and we are proud of the work it has done since 2015,” said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito. “The Council has invested $28 million in critical infrastructure, economic development and climate resiliency projects in 36 coastal communities to support the unique challenges of our cities and towns with significant marine assets. The Grand Challenge will help connect entrepreneurs and technology companies with non-profits, research institutions and municipalities to develop transformative solutions.”

The SEC Grand Challenge seeks collaborators from diverse sectors to work together to build proposals which incorporate the deployment of new and novel IoT-based technology or business solutions to address important opportunities within the marine economy across Massachusetts’ 78 coastal communities. The IoT refers to systems that enable equipment, devices, sensors, or applications to communicate seamlessly with one another to become part of a connected whole which can transmit data through the cloud, transforming it into useful information for people, businesses, and institutions.

“The IoT revolution has been driven by the explosion of innovative technologies, including low-cost sensors, improved data analytics platforms, and the availability of wireless connections,” stated Pat Larkin, Director of the Innovation Institute at MassTech, the division which will manage the Grand Challenge on behalf of the SEC. “The IoT offers our communities and other marine economy stakeholders the opportunity for real innovations in the ways they address  very real economic and environmental challenges.”

In addition to the focus on the new or novel use of IoT-based technology, key criteria of the inaugural SEC Grand Challenge include:

  • Emphasis on the collaboration between the public and private sectors. Local municipalities, public authorities, or nonprofit research & other community-based institutions qualify as lead applicants.
  • Inclusion of an entrepreneur or commercial partner that offers a new and novel technology solution or business approach with growth potential in a marine economy marketplace.
  • Broad scope of interest and potential solutions targeting a range of disciplines, including fisheries & aquaculture, maritime monitoring, security, shipping, marine biotechnology, offshore renewable energy, and others.
  • Up to $250,000 may be available for high-value or high-impact awards. However, the goal of the SEC and MassTech is to make multiple awards as part of the Grand Challenge and applicants are encouraged to only apply for those capital resources necessary. All Grand Challenge applicants, and in particular those seeking maximum awards, are also encouraged to include either cash or in-kind contributions as demonstration of the applicant’s commitment to success and validation from outside parties.

Interested applicants can download program details via MassTech’s website at: http://masstech.org/seaport-economic-council-grand-challenge-solicitation.

“As a public economic development agency, MassTech has a long tradition of supporting the Commonwealth’s Innovation Economy,” said Deputy Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Carolyn Kirk, vice-chairwoman of the Seaport Economic Council. “They are a good partner to lead this effort on behalf of the SEC, as they know the technology and economic development landscape, and can help the Commonwealth identify projects which will address the economic and environmental challenges faced by our blue economy.”