MOL Plus, Maersk Growth and IMC Ventures will maintain the investment pace next year while exploring ways to further transform the industry.

Corporate investors in the logistics sector are optimistic about the investment climate in 2024, and say they are particularly looking to back startups in areas such as automation, sustainability and supply chain optimisation. More forecasts for 2024 Transport in 2024: investors eye pick-up in startup deals after a stalled year Energy in 2024: Plenty of funding rounds but few exits, say energy investors Automation and AI Automation will be a focus for investment for logistics companies because of labour shortages in the sector, says Takuya Sakamoto (pictured left), chief executive of MOL Plus, the strategic investment subsidiary of Japanese shipping company Mitsui OSK Lines. The logistics sector is still recovering from post-Covid labour shortages. The world road transport organisation IRU, for example, is forecasting that there will be a 7m shortfall in truck drivers by 2028, a situation that will continue to worsen as few young people come into the sector. Such pressures will cause logistics companies to consider automated alternatives, says Sakamoto. “Innovative technologies will be considered seriously after the issues become more apparent.” The is also a continuing shift to digitalise the supply chain, with artificial intelligence coming in to play a pivotal role, says Jonas Linnebjerg (pictured right), head of Maersk Growth, the external innovation arm of the Danish shipping firm, AP Moller-Maersk. “[This adoption] also has the benefit of enhancing customer experience by providing faster, more personalised and transparent services,” says Linnebjerg, who is also leading its consulting unit, Maersk Management Consulting. Sustainability The increased pressure from global regulations, emissions targets and related taxes have created a strong push to decarbonising supply chains, says Axel Tan (pictured left), head of IMC Ventures, the corporate venturing unit of US shipping company IMC Group. The increased focus on decarbonisation has led IMC Ventures to broaden the scope of the opportunities it will consider, adds Tan. In April 2023 IMC collaborated with software provider Microsoft and shipping groups Hafnia, DNV and Wilhelmsen to launch a venture studio called Studio 30 50 to develop startups that can reduce emissions in the maritime industry. “Our partnership with Studio 30 50 aims to build an ecosystem to identify and accelerate such ideas,” adds Tan. Sustainability is also on the radar for MOL Plus. Sakamoto says shipboard carbon dioxide recovery, marine business – including offshore renewable energy and water mobility – as well as circular economy are of particular interest given their alignment with Mitsui OSK Lines’ value. “The first two [focus areas]…

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Edison Fu

Edison Fu is a reporter and Asia liaison at Global Corporate Venturing.