The Intelligence Hunt: nurturing a future workforce for shipping

Frances Marcellin 10 December 2019 (Last Updated December 16th, 2019 14:54)

Run by the SeaFocus Executive maritime business platform, the Intelligence Hunt is an annual event that invites students from around Europe to work alongside professional mentors to create solutions for real-life business cases. SeaFocus owner Ulla Keino explains how Intelligence Hunt is delivering new innovations.

The Intelligence Hunt: nurturing a future workforce for shipping
The Intelligence Hunt is an annual event that invites students from around Europe to work alongside professional mentors to create solutions for real-life business cases. Credit: SeaFocus

As the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) pushes towards the goal of reducing emissions and achieving targets, such as 40% reduction of carbon intensity from shipping by 2030, shipping companies are looking for ways to remove the silos and innovate towards more effective and sustainable solutions.

Intelligence Hunt, run by SeaFocus, an executive maritime business platform aims to find “out-of-the-box” solutions to the problems shipping companies face by connecting student teams with a case problem submitted by a shipping company.

The last event was held in June in Oslo, Norway, and saw up to 40 students and industry (in the form of eight company representatives) join together to solve some of the most problematic issues the companies are facing. On this occasion the winning team, “Hermes”, had found a solution to Wärtsilä’s need to improve route selection by gathering carbon footprint data for each.

The next edition of the event will run in January 2020 at NaviGate2020 at the Turku Fair and Congress Center, Finland. Here, ten teams find solutions to problems from ports, shipping companies, shipyards and other maritime stakeholders. Companies include Stevena, Meyer Turku and Sweco. There is also a new version of the event which draws on the experience of young professionals in the industry.

Mentors at Intelligence say that one of the biggest challenges young professionals face trying to enter the industry is trust. Intelligence Hunt provides a space for trust in younger generations to grow and flourish. Ulla Keino spoke to Ship Technology Global so we could find out more.

Frances Marcellin: SeaFocus has organised Intelligence Hunt since 2017. How important is Intelligence Hunt to the industry in terms of delivering new innovations?

Ulla Keino: We are not so much for innovations than putting together reasonable new solutions. Companies do not have time enough to always find the resources needed for developing the business. Students act as consultants, steered by the mentor, SeaFocus and the companies. Intelligence Hunt teaches to look at the case from different aspects: technology, commercials, innovation and even legal. You really learn to think out of the box.

FM: Why are young people seen as ideal for providing solutions?

UK: For young people, it is easier to think about something new as they don’t work in the same ‘box’ for many years, so they look at the problem from a different perspective, thus they can bring fresh ideas that will help companies to be more innovative.

FM: How do you explain what the process will be like to the students and companies involved?

UK: We tell the students and the companies that these projects are like simulating consulting work and also work in big companies, as the students normally don’t know each other in advance and work virtually.

FM: Can you give me a brief overview of the process?

UK: Optimally we sell the cases to the companies first and get the names of the committed companies and the theme heading to the students, when the enrolling starts. Sometimes we cannot get the cases in advance so the students, in such a case, have to enrol ‘blind’. We decide who to put in which team, and to which case, based on the student’s own description of his or her interests and skills and education.

Kicking off the project happens first with the mentor and the case company and the student teams. In the middle, there is mid-term reporting and the final report will be sent to the company to be studied before the executive summary is delivered to the jury.

The jury will study the executive summaries and has criteria published in advance. Stage presentation is the last criteria which is evaluated in the finals. The work takes normally three months and the finals is like a hackathon of a three-month assignment.

FM: Has it evolved in any way since you started organising it a couple of years ago?

UK: When we started, we first did not even steer the teams’ work, but let them act fully alone until the finals. Next edition we took a strong [project management office] role and the results were even better than in the first one.

FM: Is it true that you’re taking on professionals now too?

UK: In the last two editions, we have also decided to expand the Intelligence Hunt not only to cover students but also the more matured professionals. When seen in this role, as for most a hobby, they are exposed to the market with their competence and can gain something for themselves, something with a value for their own professional development. In some editions, we have had one team /case company and in some two. This edition has two cases with two competing teams.

FM: How often is the event held?

UK: The competition has been organised twice a year, the last one was held in Oslo in the spring of 2019 in conjunction with Nor-Shipping. After this, there is Intelligence Hunt 6, Navigate 2020 version, with finals on 22 January. We will have a project phase 1 with semi-finals autumn 2020, and then the shortlisted five will travel to Transport Logistic, in Messe München, in 2021, where we will have our 90 minutes of finals on the stage.

FM: How often is a solution employed by the company?

UK: We have had some cases, where two weeks after the finals the company has been able to put the solution to commercial portfolio of their service offering. Typically, companies have taken the solution and implemented it further by giving one of the team members a Master Thesis around the mentioned solution.  The student has then been employed by the company.

FM: Can you tell me how the mentoring aspect plays out and how it impacts the project?

UK: Mentors play an important role in the project as they give a chance for students to hear an opinion of the person not involved in their team’s work. This helps the team to understand whether they are clear enough with their solution, before it’s time to present in the finals. Mentors also help understanding sometimes, even the most complicated assignments, and steer the team to a right direction, so students can focus to the innovation part of the work. The mentors are like role models, real examples of brilliant careers in shipping.