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Minister’s Remarks at the i2i Awards Ceremony 2013

Posted: Tue 1 Oct 2013

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Speech given by Senator Dr. the Honourable Bhoendradatt Tewarie, The Honourable Minister of Planning and Sustainable Development at the i2i Award Ceremony – 1st October, 2013 – Hyatt Regency Ballroom

Minister’s Speech at AwardsThe idea 2 innovation programme, now in its second year, is targeted at enhancing and directly facilitating the development and participation of citizens in impactful innovative actions.

This in turn will facilitate engagement of other citizens in thinking about innovation and prompt whoever is so inclined to take innovative ideas to the marketplace. There, Trinidad and Tobago citizens with their ideas, inventions and creations have options depending on their drive and ambition, to compete on a global scale. The Ministry of Planning and Sustainable Development, through the Council for Competitiveness and Innovation is proud to be facilitating this programme.  I extend my deepest gratitude and congratulations to the Chairman Mr. Richard Lewis, all members of the Board of the CCI, the Executive Director and the dedicated staff who toil to make this happen.

Our vision for our people is “Prosperity for All”

The way – Our vision of Prosperity for All shall be achieved is articulated in the Medium Term Framework in this way: “through creativity, collaboration an innovation, we shall prosper together” it is no accident that it is through collaborative efforts and sharing that we have gotten to this point.  The other agencies which have played a crucial role are the Caribbean Industrial Research Institute (CARIRI) and the National Entrepreneurship Development Company (NEDCO). We thank each of these institutions for their cooperation and unstinting support.

I would like to take a moment to ask all representatives of CARIRI and NEDCO to stand and identify themselves and the members of the Committee which managed the selection process. Please Stand. Thank you all very much.

I would also like to add that as much as the Ministry of Planning and Sustainable Development, the CCI, CARIRI and NEDCO are facilitating this programme, the true drivers at the helm are the innovators who have seized opportunity, have participated in the programme and have won victories today. “Nothing ventured, nothing gained” it is said. I congratulate you heartly but remember, your journey has only just begun.

Minister’s Speech at Awards2In 2012 approximately 400 entries were submitted to the programme with 50 entries being selected.  This year I am told that there were 471 submissions and 53 have been awarded grants from the Government of Trinidad and Tobago, ranging from $75,000 to $200,000 to take their ideas to proof of concept, in one year.  These grants are part of a $10 million Innovation Financing Facility established by the Government, for execution by the Council for Competitiveness and Innovation to provide finance for enterprises and initiatives that can make a difference in Business creation.

The numbers here are quite encouraging thus far because this means that there are approximately 103 innovations which have emerged over two years with the potential to materialize into strong businesses.  If we do some simple arithmetic and say these businesses might employ 2 additional people then the potential benefits can spread to involve 309 individuals.  Then there is also the trickle-down effect on others as well as the ripple effect.

There are about 18000 small and medium sized enterprises in Trinidad and Tobago employing nearly 200,000 persons and contributing nearly 25% of the GDP. We have about 30,000 businesses in the country so that gives you an idea of value. This compares favourably to India, where in 2012 it was estimated that SMEs contributed nearly 22% of their GDP.  The goal is to rival nations such as Germany, the United States, Japan and South Korea where SMEs presently exceed a 50% contribution to the GDP of these nations.

By creating a means through the i2i where individuals can create SMEs, small businesses, even cottage industries we will not be too far from achieving a target of 50% plus GDP contribution from a strong, thriving entrepreneurial sector in Trinidad and Tobago. We need to stimulate entrepreneurial initiative. Our future depends on this. And we need to appreciate that it is well worth our while to start small, that small can grow to medium and big, and that in today’s world a new initiative, idea, product, service or company can be born global without any real ties to geographical location or market. Creation of small and medium enterprises and support for entrepreneurship are a vital part of the diversification agenda.

Entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation are vital to the process of development, through these, traditionally low income economies,  can become modern more prosperous economies. But where is the power of entrepreneurship and innovation felt:

  • In the creation of new businesses with potential for significant growth
  • In bringing people together.  For instance in many cases of the i2i we see individuals from a number of different fields working together to develop ideas that are cross cutting.
  • When innovative applications are applied to the production process that many final goods producing firms can access.   Processes and systems can be enhanced through the work of innovators.  In other words improvement, enhancement and convenience are important.  Not every innovation has to be a new creation.
  • When entrepreneurship and innovation release the potential to raise both productivity and employment across sectors and to improve skills and technological sophistication as well.

In countries such as China and India, the rapid rise of small, private innovative entrepreneurs has been an important contributor to rapid growth and declining poverty according the United Nations World Institute for Economic Development Research.  If this works in these large countries, how much more is this necessary in Trinidad and Tobago where our challenge is to defy market size, to think beyond tradition and to design new market connections and patterns. I respect this, our challenge is to defy market size, to think beyond tradition, even if we might draw upon it, and to design new market connections and patterns in differently open world.

The i2i contributes to the diversification thrust of the Government.

We are presently embarking on economic diversification through seven sectors:

  • Energy is one of them: there is a great deal of innovation in this sector from local companies, especially in the services sector.
  • Tourism: this needs more imaginative capacity. A lot more can be done.  Resources need to be harnessed and deployed.  Products need to be created and marketed.  Services require greater sophistication, precision and dependability.
  • Food sustainability: the opportunities in this area are as boundless as human imaginative capacity.
  • Culture and the creative industries: this is a labour intensive, skills intensive, imagination intensive, talent intensive set of industries that can flourish.
  • Maritime industries: again endless potential.  Location, location, location.  Panama Canal, Brazil, China, India.  Energy industry base.  East/west trade routes.  Sheltered harbours and bays. Everything from port- Panama ship to yachting.
  • Information Communication Technology (ICT): Endless opportunity.  We brought Frans Johansson to work through a collaboration exercise with about fifty companies recently. He is the author of the Medici Effect and The Click Moment.
  • Financial services: beginning to take off.  Will contribute to job creation as well as enhanced GDP as it is already doing. We need like Naipaul’s both title says “ A million mutinies now”. What kind of mutinies? Mutinies of the mind. Mutinies of the mind that get as off the treadmill of self-serving institutions wedded to incremental growth and on to leap frogging initiatives into a new world of opportunity.

The categories which gained the most grants in the 2013 competition were manufacturing and Manufacturing-related ideas, Services related ideas, Information Communication Technology, Creative Industries, primary agriculture and agro processing activities and bio-technology.  Some of the entries also fell within the realms of alternative/remedial energy/energy efficiency, environment (clean technologies and eco-related activities), bio-waste and other waste (including recycling activities) and tourism.

You will agree, this is a fair mix of sectors that with the right approach and attitude will lead to the right growth.

There are roles for the private sector to play in enhancing the innovative output of Trinidad and Tobago.

  • Skills development and training.
  • Organizing similar programmes or offering to take up this one and running with it.
  • Venture capitalist investments or angel investments into the projects.
  • Mentorship support.
  • Being leaders of innovators themselves, so as to motivate and inspire and to create jump off platforms.
  • Developing sources of finance with favourable rates that can be accessed.
  • Directly investing in projects that have high market potential whether within or outside of their firms.

The Chairman of the Economic Development Board Mr. Richard Young has been discussing with me two very important initiatives supportive of financing and stimulation of entrepreneurship.  He has also been engaging stakeholders.  I am hopeful for these initiatives.

To those of you, who were not successful in this year’s programme, do not be discouraged.  Continue to build on your dreams and believe in your projects.  Somewhere in the world there is a need for your idea, you just have to seek it.

Always you should work on improving your idea.  Do not gripe and complain.  No one owes you a living and you are not entitled to anything.  You have to make your way, find your way. In a Band in the River, a character in Naipaul’s fictional work says: “the world is as it is: those who are nothing, who ALLOW themselves to be nothing, have no place in it.

To this year’s finalists, let me reiterate that this is just the beginning.  We have a long road ahead, but there is an end point, that end point will be what you make it.

To those who won last year and are now experiencing the beginnings of success. I also say a warm and enthusiastic congratulations.

Thank you all.

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