March 25, 2021

Mitsubishi Corporation invests in Finnish autonomous navigation technology development company Groke Technologies

Mitsubishi Corporation has invested into Groke Technologies, a Finnish company developing autonomous navigation technology. The two companies plan to gradually develop a situation recognition system and an operation support system that will reduce crew stress and improve safety in operational monitoring, and roll out them to Japanese domestic vessels. Mitsubishi Corporation is focusing on next-generation technology for ships, and in addition to this autonomous navigation technology, the company is also promoting the spread of next-generation coastal vessels by investing in e5 Laboratory, which develops and disseminates electric propulsion ships. The technologies of “autonomous operation” and “electrification” are considered to have high affinity, and the synergy effect of both businesses is also considered.

Groke Technologies was founded in 2019 by 4 people from the ship intelligence team in Rolls-Royce who were pioneers in the development of autonomous navigation technology. CEO is Juha Rokka, VP is Iiro Lindborg. The company today employs 19 employees.

Mitsubishi Corporation and Groke Technologies are now jointly conducting technology development with Finland and Japan as the main offices, and are comparing and verifying multiple solutions that can be provided to customers. Mr. Lindborg, vice president of customer solutions, says, “Detection of surrounding vessels and dangerous objects is a challenging task for any vessel, regardless of the type of vessel, therefore we are creating an awareness system that will monitor the surroundings along with the watchkeepers. We aim to provide accurate information even in the most challenging environment and to provide value that can contribute to safe operations.”.

In addition to the extensive knowledge of autonomous shipping related technologies, the company has strong cross-industry connections and strengths in IT through collaboration with digital and artificial intelligence companies in not only Finland and Japan, but also around the world.

“Japan has a strong maritime cluster that has been cultivated over many years, and we are fully aware of the potential for Japan to become an innovation leader in autonomous navigation technology. Through our strong collaboration with Mitsubishi Corporation, we want to provide a situation recognition system as our first product. We are also looking forward to opportunities for cooperation with other companies, and we hope to contribute to the creation of a safer and more pleasant working environment by supporting the joint development and commercialization of cutting-edge technologies and smooth implementation to Japanese domestic vessels.”  Mr. Rokka says.

In the maritime industry, implementation and development of new technologies in the digital and environmental fields are becoming more important than ever. Under these circumstances, trading companies are increasingly playing a role in connecting advanced technologies both at home and abroad and in supporting technological development through business investment.  With this investment, Mitsubishi Corporation covered “autonomous operation” and “electrification” which are attracting attention as next-generation technologies for ships. As for electrification, they are participating in the “e5 projcect” which promotes the development and popularization of zero-emission electric propulsion ships, and last year “e5 Lab”, a joint venture with Asahi Tanker, Exenoyamizu, Mitsui O.S.K. Lines for the planning, development, popularization activities of EV ships and management of intellectual property rights was set up. The project aims to solve environmental problems, the declining birthrate and aging population, and the shortage of coastal sailors, and to achieve sustainable coastal shipping and social infrastructure reform. This year, Idemitsu Kosan Co., Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance Co., and TEPCO Energy Partners joined forces to form a total of 7 companies in the “e5 Consortium”. They are aiming to realize EV ship including the infrastructure improvement for the electrification of the ship.