Exploring one of the marine leisure industry’s largest shows!
METSTRADE 2022 did not disappoint! Back on track post-Covid, this year’s show was busy. Catching up with old friends and making new ones, we met some fantastic people and saw some pretty impressive new products around every corner! The show is a massive platform for innovation, market development and networking. However, there is a “BUT”… find out more below!
The “But”… and our take aways.
How far has the industry come since last year?
METSTRADE’s 2022 core theme was sustainable innovation. Exciting companies like SEA.AI, Greenboats, Torqeedo, Propel, Silent Yachts and Ampaire, among others, led discussions around innovation and how to achieve an eco-friendly future.
Interestingly, this conversation focused almost exclusively on electric propulsion. Following in ‘the wake’ of the electric car revolution, electric propulsion is moving mainstream, with some really nice products coming through from outboards to full in-board systems. It seems to have become the holy grail solution for “clean marine”, even though real challenge is developing enough charging at every port to make it viable; a huge task, that could take a decade to achieve.
So meanwhile, what about everything else? Aside from the excellent discussions (see more below), we saw very few examples of serious new sustainable innovation on the show floor. Where’s the solutions for a circular economy of boat building, or ideas to transform impacts from negative to positive?
In general it feels like there are still companies just looking to stay afloat or believe that their way has “worked so far… so why would it not continue to work…”. Surely this industry driven by a love for being out in nature, can do better?
For example, in the sports tech/outdoor sports market, the green movement is booming, as brands are beginning to respond to (and drive) consumer demand for more environmentally friendly goods. This has grown the industry’s market share and made outdoor Sports one of the fastest-growing industries in 2023.
So, why has one boomed more than the other?
We understand the problem. Firstly Leisure Marine is a much smaller niche industry compared to outdoor sports as a whole. There’s just a lot less resource available to deal with the difficult stuff. And it is difficult stuff, with products that are often higher-value items with a higher degree of technicality and system interoperability. However, there are plenty of links between the leisure marine industry and outdoor sports.
And secondly, perhaps one of the Marine Industry’s key strengths – passion driven mindset – is also its greatest weakness. Most people are in it for life, sustained by a love of boats that they probably gained in childhood. The engineering talent and output is therefore incredible. But when you look from the outside you can see how insular it is.
Compared to other industries, relatively few business or technical leaders have grown up in other industries before importing their knowledge into Marine. And even fewer companies will look outside to collaborate or learn new design and innovation methods. For example, you can probably count on one hand the companies who truly understand the value of Industrial Design and how to use it (and one of them, Spinlock is run by an industrial designer).
This means most people are understandably heads down, focused on paying the bills, only looking up as far as their competitors or other marine companies for direction. It’s not surprising then that disruption is coming from start-ups run by people from outside the industry.
Whilst a full move away from fossil fuels to electric would be a massive step in the right direction, integrating sustainable design practices into every new product would result in as much financial and environmental benefit as the electric propulsion systems alone.
To do this, we believe the focus must be:
- Innovation Process: More value must be given to outside creative thinkers to help the industry solve some of its system and process changes.
- Collaboration: Finally, all companies must share a belief that cross-pollination will lead to commercial success. It is possible, as other industries have proven.
- Vision: A key goal for leaders must be to explore and form a greater cross-industry vision, to rally entire supply chains and systems towards the right goals.
Simply put, when we’ve already got marinas stuffed to gills with barely used boats, where’s the soul-searching about where all this is going in 10, 20 or 50 years from now? What are we building all this stuff for exactly? It’s time to turn the words into action!
Talks that impressed us?
Cory Combs – Ampaire | Meet Cory Combs – Co-founder of Ampaire and pioneer in aviation electric propulsion
Friedrich J. Deimann – Greenboats | Wood and Natural Fibres in Advanced Marine Composites
Christoph Balin – SEA.AI | E-LAB: The electric revolution
Edwin Edelenbos – FWD Innovations | Superyacht Talks
Michael Köhler – Silent Yachts | E-LAB: The electric revolution