In 2007, the SMTF was formed jointly by the Västra Götaland region and the maritime technology industry in the West of Sweden. The aim was to strengthen the industry’s global competitiveness by offering an arena for project innovation and development, as well as initiating and supporting cooperation within the network, with other organisations and companies in the marine and maritime business and the academic sector. Furthermore, the SMTF aimed to identify companies’ need for people with relevant skills and competences and initiate vocational training plans to meet the needs of these companies.
The SMTF works with three sectors within the maritime field: shipping, ship equipment and service providers, the leisure boat industry and offshore energy production.
The SMTF was financed by membership fees and a mix of public funds, both national and European.
It attracted members from all parts of Sweden and in 2013 formal cooperation was established with the Skåne region. Skåne has an important maritime technology industry with its companies’ products and brands having a dominant global market share.
SMTF is home to the open innovation and collaboration platform SARGASSO, addressing maritime challenges and market opportunities. SARGASSO offers significant member value to SMTF’s members as all the project proposals landing on the platform is distributed to members first hand. The proposals are then sent out to our wider network that extends to other industries such as heavy industry and production, IT and the packaging sector to name a few.
The purpose of SARGASSO is three folded; offer member value - incorporate new technology and expertise to the maritime industry – promote the maritime industry to other industries for cross-industrial cooperation.
Those interested in cooperation are welcome to sign up on the SMTF-webpage to receive SARGASSO-proposals. All sectors are welcome – we like diversity!
The SMTF has also initiated and participated in several projects, all of them aiming at either making shipping operations more sustainable or increasing innovation capacity. Examples of such projects are:
- GreenPilot, converting a Swedish pilot boat to run on biomethanol, demonstrating how smaller vessels can be converted to operate on a clean renewable fuel. GreenPilot has received much global attention. Seminars on the project have attracted participants from countries as far away as Taiwan, China, India, Canada and Singapore.
A severe problem for the technology industry is the availability of skilled and competent people. The recruitment situation for enterprises at the moment is quite difficult. The SMTF has taken part in defining and implementing four vocational training schemes.
In cooperation with the Skåne region, special efforts have been put into the Vanguard Initiative regional cooperation platform, aiming at new growth through smart specialisation. The companies in Skåne found this platform and its methodology interesting and participate actively.
Besides their involvement in innovation projects, the companies have expressed a strong wish to network. The SMTF arranges regular breakfast meetings, preferably hosted by a member company. Each meeting has a particular theme, and an expert (from the network or external) gives a short presentation. Within the network, competitors have also established collaborations with one another.
Another request from the companies is to increase the exposure and decrease the costs when participating in international trade shows. Whenever there is interest from the companies, the SMTF hosts a Swedish Pavilion where the companies can participate at cost.
Most European cluster organisations have the same challenge, to find long-term financing. With year-by-year financing, a disproportionately large part of the time is used for securing financing, and even worse, it is difficult to recruit people when you can offer only one-year employment contracts. The cluster organisations very often employ only a few people, which makes it difficult to develop all the projects the industry is really asking for. It is very challenging to set up a new establishment and to develop cooperation with another region. It requires a huge effort that is not available.
The Skåne region is well aware of these problems and has established a five-year financing plan for the clusters as well as incentives for the clusters to collaborate with each other.
The SMTF was also approached by RISE (Research Institutes of Sweden, fully owned by the Swedish state). They suggested a cooperation which resulted in a long-term solution, where the SMTF continues as a network within RISE. The SMTF still works as a cluster organisation whose activities are decided by an industry board. RISE has offices all over Sweden, so the establishment of any new SMTF office will go smoothly.