Global shipping giant opens Manchester tech incubator space

Andy Burnham (centre) at Zebox launch

One of the biggest shipping companies in the world, French headquartered CMA CGM, has officially opened Zebox, a new incubator space in Manchester, one of a network of six similar hubs where start-ups will collaborate on business ideas linked to sustainability.

Following the official launch attended and endorsed by Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, the managing director of the Portland Street venture, Martin Bremner, told the choice of Manchester was its commitment to sustainability and the already burgeoning tech ecosystem in the city.

Martin Bremner

“There’s an acute need for innovation in the maritime sector and the 20 corporate partners involved in Zebox believe start-ups can play a part in developing new ideas, while the businesses will benefit from having a major blue chip client,” he said.

The first cohort in Manchester consists of 10 start-ups working in the fields of AI, machine learning, quantum computing and decarbonisation.

Described as a “global start-up accelerator”, the Zebox concept was founded in 2018 by Rodolphe Saadé, chairman and chief executive of the CMA CGM Group, who’s name emblazons shipping containers around the world.

Start-ups who want to be based in the space will be tasked with accelerating decarbonisation through using technology in the logistics and supply chain industry, especially artificial intelligence.

Andy Burnham, who said he was familiar with CMA CMG from his time during his short-lived journalistic career as a reporter on Container Management magazine, said: “This is a great fit, this city region is not going cold on net zero. We are Europe’s fastest growing tech hub. We have a real strength in all of the capabilities Zebox will draw on; AI, cyber, and the capabilities within our universities.”

It joins Zebox’s headquarters in Marseille, France, and hubs in the Caribbean (Guadeloupe), Ivory Coast, USA and Asia Pacific region (Singapore). Globally, the initiative has already worked with over 250 startups and 20 corporate leaders, and has facilitated more than 340 collaborations.

Those 20 international companies include BNP Paribas, which has set fintech challenges, and BNSF Railway, Bureau Veritas, CEVA Logistics, INFOSYS, Synergy Marine Groupe, PSA and Port of Virginia.

The choice of Manchester for the first location was as a result of active support from MIDAS, Manchester’s Inward Investment Agency, Joe Manning, their managing director said,  “This investment from Zebox is an invaluable addition to our lively business scene. With brilliant businesses such as these adding to our city-region’s strengths in sustainability, logistics and tech, we’re demonstrating our collaborative cross-sector strengths that have a real impact on the UK economy and beyond.”


Main picture: L-R John Blessington, UK managing director at CMA CGM; Severine Gregoire, managing director of Start-up Hubs at CMA CGM, Andy Burnham; Gwen Salley, chief executive at Zebox; Martin Bremner, managing director at Zebox UK.