Leading scrubber supplier Yara Marine Technologies is taking its first steps to diversify into a greener maritime strategy with the launch of a start-up accelerator scheme next week.

The accelerator will be part of a shift by the Norwegian company, which has delivered more than 300 marine scrubbers, to move into sustainable shipping technologies beyond selling exhaust gas cleaning systems.

Yara Marine manager for marine strategy and business development, Thomas Eik Gabestad, told TradeWinds the Yara Marine X accelerator programme will be the first public step in the company’s shift to broaden its product portfolio.

Tapping new ideas

The aim is “to attract the start-up community and see whether there is an area where we can tap new ideas, products and services”, he said of the accelerator competition that would boost Yara Marine's new mission to make vessels greener.

Last month, Yara Marine’s chief operating officer Ina Reksten revealed the company was planning to expand beyond scrubbers when she said its top priority was now “a new mission, to provide technologies to enable a greener maritime industry”.

Gabestad said scrubbers will remain a large part of the company’s business now and in the future.

“But we see that the retrofit market for scrubbers will decline over the next years and that will trigger a shift in how we do our business,” he said.

“We need to also include other technologies that support the business fundamentals of the scrubbers.”

The company will continue to service scrubber customers with a focus remaining to reduce emissions from ships.

Yara Marine will initiate internal research and development projects as well as investigate strategic acquisition opportunities on top of the accelerator scheme, which it intends to run on a yearly basis.

Make a pitch

Next week it will begin sending out invitations to the global start-up community to pitch ideas. The aim is to select about 10 final candidates to go before a jury of internal and external judges who will select one or two winners towards the end of October. Winners will be awarded a financial prize and a six-month customised accelerator project with Yara Marine.

Gabestad said the company is looking for start-ups that have not been picked up by venture capitalists or are part of an existing accelerator, but that can show they have a team with some substance to bring a product to market.

He added that Yara Marine would be able to provide access to funds, engineering capacity and customers with which start-ups can pilot products — and it wanted the possibility to invest in the start-up if it sees a good opportunity.

Reksten earlier indicated that Yara Marine was seeking “close to core” technologies to improve fuel efficiencies and cut emissions that could have a technical overlap with its scrubber products and parent chemicals group Yara International.

Synergies with its parent would include exploring technology to enable the use of ammonia as fuel. Ammonia is one of Yara International’s biggest products.

Gabestad admitted it would be hard to come up with totally new technologies for ships. “It’s difficult today to come up with an idea nobody else has thought about, but many problems can be solved in different ways.

“You can have land-based technologies that could have a market in the maritime industry,” he said, or find advanced ways of combining systems. “A scrubber is part of the ecosystem to be able to show a shipowner total emissions control,” he added.

Reksten confirmed the approach.

“There is still a significant scrubber market out there, but we want to serve customers on a broader basis,” she said.