Developing a business model to kickstart a hydrogen infrastructure in the maritime sector

A couple of weeks ago the Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences organized a hackathon together with THRUST.

The aim of the hackaton was to accelerate the adoption of clean technologies and innovations for the maritime industry and to stimulate the transition towards a fossil-fuel free and more circular shipping industry. As large-scale adoption of clean fuels for transportation can only be achieved with appropriate infrastructure, the challenge was to create viable solutions that generate 100% emission free hydrogen that can be used as fuel for waterborne transportation.

THRUST introduced the idea of a fossil-fuel free floating power station as an important element towards fossil-fuel free waterborne transportation – in Rotterdam waters and beyond. The University selected students with a variety of relevant backgrounds like finance, accountancy, business development.  

Seven teams of students got the task to develop an idea and a complete business case to support it. With support of the THRUST team, students worked on their business cases with high interest and enthusiasm for three days.

The hackathon was a competition and business models would be judged on creativity, system thinking, a notion of ROI (Return On Investment), possibility of scaling and the social and ecological impact of their solution. All ideas were pitched to an expert jury on the final day.

Day 1 Inspiration &  Ideation

The shipping industry has a large environmental footprint which has caused a lot of discussion about how it can be decarbonized to become more sustainable. Especially cities require additional attention and are in need to reduce pollutant and noise emissions. The concept of a fossil-fuel free, floating power station (or Energy Hub) was presented by THRUST, the idea of which came up during another project. The main advantage of the idea would be to have a clean and healthy atmosphere in the cities that use transportation over water and to encourage the transition to a fossil-fuel free world. The concept was presented and demonstrated in a Prototype System so the students could get an understanding of the concept. To see the demonstration of the prototype system click here.

Day 2 Deep dive and Business modelling

After a comprehensive presentation of the concept, students started to work on their business ideas. Teams came up with new concepts and with the guidance and assistance of the THRUST team ideas were further developed, covering technical, financial and social aspects.

Ideas ranged from application in cities, on short inland shipping routes to open ocean platforms for a variety of vessels from small boats to large container ships. 

Day 3 Presentations

On the last day students had fully developed their concepts and presented these to the ‘expert panel’. The panel examined and evaluated the concepts and particularly the viability and feasibility of each business case.

The concepts were judged on the following main criteria:

  • Creativity: The level that the student group was able to deliver a creative presentation of an innovative business model related to the zero emission energy hub.
  • Systemic Solution: The level that the student group was able to come up with an upstream solution to the problem.
  • Return on Investment (ROI): The level that the student group was able to provide a calculation on the return on investment over the upcoming years.
  • Scalability: The level that the student group was able to provide a clear path on how to evolve the business and the positive environmental impact over the couple of years.
  • Sustainability: The level that the student group was able to outline the ecological and social impacts of their business model and make effort to minimize them as much as possible.  

The students managed in only three days to present a variety of complete business case. Following long discussions, the Expert Panel finally agreed to award the team EplusC for their concept: Floating Hydrogen “Oasis” Platform able to supply nearby passenger boats with hydrogen – idea inspired by initiatives of Rotterdam and Singapore and can be placed close to ports.

The winning team was awarded by THRUST with the book “The Lean StartUp” which can help the winning students to create their own start up and develop it into a successful business.

THRUST will take the ideas and aim to take some concrete steps soon to make the construction of an Energy Hub in Rotterdam a reality.

Keep an eye on our website for new developments!


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