Start-ups invited to enter competition to win £75,000 grant

Belfast Harbour apprentices Ryan Ball (left) and Jack Quiery (right) join Robyn Wilson from Techstart and Mark Gibson from BT to launch a new competition to win £75,000 for designing an innovative new technology solution for use in the port. Picture: Kelvin Boyes

START-UPS in the north will have the chance to win a £75,000 proof of concept grant as part of a new competition launched by Techstart Ventures and Belfast Harbour, with support from BT.

Innovative thinkers are invited to submit ideas for new technology solutions to assist lone workers at Belfast Harbour or for new Internet of Things (IoT) solutions that can deliver value to the port.

The winner will receive £75,000 of grant funding from Techstart, with Belfast Harbour providing an environment to develop, refine and test their innovations. The winners will also get a package of support from BT including access to its 5G network.

The initiative is being launched as part of Belfast Harbour’s key strategic ambition to stimulate innovation and support its employees, customers and visitors through innovative digital solutions.

Trevor Anderson from Belfast Harbour said: “Our 2035 vision set out our goals to become a smart port and to support the development of the local economy through partnerships that encourage R&D, introduce new skills and support innovative businesses.

“We are seeking to engage with SMEs in the local knowledge economy to deliver world-class solutions for the operation and control of the Port’s activities. We are inviting applications with a particular focus on the areas of lone working and industrial IoT as we feel that these areas offer real scope to employ innovative concepts.”

Robyn Wilson from Techstart, said: “Starting a business is hard. We have found that building early versions of product with the close involvement of a first customer can really help. We think that this initiative has the potential to play a role in the creation of a new and exciting business with high growth potential. We are delighted that Belfast Harbour and BT share this vision.”

Mark Gibson, business development director at BT in Northern Ireland, said: “We are excited to be working with TechStart and Belfast Harbour to offer this unique opportunity to a Northern Ireland start-up by providing the winner with access to our 5G network as well as our business expertise.

“Innovation is part of BT’s DNA, last year we invested £662m R&D and over the last decade we’ve been one of the largest investors in innovation in the UK. We also look forward to providing the winner with expert support on their journey to launch their new business.”

Areas of innovation on the lone worker side might include solutions related to worker biometrics, checking in/out, tracking movement or improving safety in dangerous situations. Industrial IoT solutions linked to the cranes and material handling equipment used by port employees might focus on usage stats and productivity, maintenance, asset tracking and health and safety qualifications.

Anyone interested in applying is invited to register for an information session at 12.30 on September 23 at Applications can be made at

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