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The Minister’s Remarks – Launch of i2i 2013

Posted: Wed 29 May 2013

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The Medium-Term Policy Framework 2011-2014- Innovation for Lasting Prosperity – recognises the key role that innovation plays as a driver of economic growth and prosperity. Emphasis has been placed on Government development agenda to apply innovation in all facets of our development and in particular the productive sectors.

Minister’s Speech for launchDeveloped countries continue to dominate the INSEAD Global Innovation Index (GII), which utilises two sub-indices, the Innovation Input Sub-Index and the Innovation Output Sub-Index, each built around pillars. Five input pillars capture elements of the national economy that enable innovative activities: (1) Institutions, (2) Human capital and research, (3) Infrastructure, (4) Market sophistication, and (5) Business sophistication. Two output pillars capture actual evidence of innovation outputs: (6) Knowledge and technology outputs and (7) Creative outputs. In 2012 Trinidad and Tobago placed 81st out of 142 countries, thus our approach to the infusion of innovation in development requires that we address these seven critical aspects of Innovation.

Innovation is a necessity for greater economic and social inclusiveness and the lasting prosperity of our country and our citizens. In the existing dynamic global environment, Trinidad and Tobago must engineer a major policy shift and craft a strategy for economic transformation to ensure survival, growth and sustainability. This policy shift must be driven by the fact that our petroleum resources are finite which makes any continued overdependence on our hydrocarbon resources imprudent. Moreover, production structures, outside the energy sector are limited and characterized by low levels of productivity, innovation and international competitiveness. While we have fared fairly well economically, we lag behind many developing countries in productivity and innovation.

Trinidad and Tobago’s ranking on the Global Innovation Index (72 of 125 countries) and Global Competitiveness Index (84 of 139 countries) is poor.

According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index (GCI), Trinidad and Tobago’s 2012 ranking was 84 out of 144 countries. The GCI is comprised of 12 pillars of competitiveness, of which “Institutions” is one of them. In 2012, Trinidad and Tobago’s ranking in Pillar 1 of the GCI, “Institutions” was 91 out of 144 economies. Institutions have a strong bearing on competitiveness and growth (World Economic Forum, 2012). It influences investment decisions and the organization of production. Additionally, it entails government attitude towards markets and the efficiency of its operations are critical: excessive bureaucracy and red tape, corruption, dishonesty in dealing with public contracts, lack of transparency and inability to provide appropriate services to the business sector impose significant economic costs to business and slow the process of economic development.

The GCI also measures the “Technological Readiness” of countries, where Trinidad and Tobago ranked 60th (out of 144 countries in 2012). The Technological Readiness pillar measures the agility with which an economy adopts existing technologies to enhance the productivity of its industries, with specific emphasis on its capacity to fully leverage ICT in daily activities and production processes for increased efficiency and enabling innovation for competitiveness (World Economic Forum, 2012).

In today’s globalized world, technology is increasingly essential for firms to compete and prosper. Countries have come to the realization that an integrated Information and Communication Technology (ICT) sector will enhance the competitiveness and creativity of their economies. Moreover, developing countries, inclusive of Trinidad and Tobago, are facing increased competition in this Information Age.

In order to promote and foster innovation, we must invest in our people ….unleash their creativity, hone their talents and build their technical capacities. Human imagination is the key to long-term economic and social progress.

The Economic Development Board and the Council for Competitiveness and Innovation have been charged with the core mandate of developing a national policy on innovation and system which include the interrelationships of the various institutions, including research and development, intellectual property, funding, training and entrepreneurial development, curriculum reform.

In May 2012, the Ministry launched the “i2i” idea 2 innovation Competition to give citizens an opportunity to submit their ideas for consideration for grant funding. This grant of up to $200,000 was intended to reward business creativity that would firstly present potential to serve the national community by having positive impact on the social and economic development of Trinidad and Tobago as well as the potential for commercial viability. The key institution involved in the execution of the project is the Council for Competitiveness and Innovation (CCI).

The idea 2 innovation Competition represents an investment in the creativity, potential and ingenuity of citizens of Trinidad and Tobago to conceive new inventions and innovative projects in broad range areas such as Primary Agriculture and agro-processing activities, Bio-technology, Creative Industries, Information and Communications Technology (ICT), Alternative/Remedial Energy/Energy Efficiency, Environment (Clean Technologies, Eco-related Activities), Bio-waste and Other Waste (including Recycling Activities) and Tourism – areas where research and innovation are critical success factors. This competition complements other initiatives to fuel the diversification thrust by inspiring innovative and enterprising perspectives.

Discussions about innovation are often made difficult because people are unclear about the exact meanings of some key terms. In particular, there is confusion about the difference between creativity, innovation and invention. According to the “Oslo Manual”, 3rd edition, 2005, an innovation is the implementation of a new or significantly improved product (good or service), or process, a new marketing method, or a new organizational method in business practices, workplace organization or external relations.  An invention, however, is the creation of something that has never been made before and is recognized as the product of some unique insight. Creativity is the capability or act of conceiving something original or unusual.

If you have a brainstorm meeting and dream up dozens of new ideas then you have displayed creativity but there is no innovation until something gets implemented. Somebody has to take a risk and deliver something for a creative idea to be turned into an innovation. An invention might be a product or device or method that has never existed before. So every invention is an innovation. But every innovation is not an invention. The main difference between creativity and innovation is the focus. Creativity is about unleashing the potential of the mind to conceive new ideas. Those concepts could manifest themselves in any number of ways, but most often, they become something we can see, hear, smell, touch, or taste. However, creative ideas can also be thought experiments within one person’s mind. Creativity is subjective, making it hard to measure, as our creative friends assert.

Innovation, on the other hand, is completely measurable. Innovation is about introducing change into relatively stable systems. It’s also concerned with the work required to make an idea viable. By identifying an unrecognized and unmet need, an organization can use innovation to apply its creative resources to design an appropriate solution and reap a return on its investment. Theodore Levitt puts it best: “What is often lacking is not creativity in the idea-creating sense but innovation in the action-producing sense, i.e. putting ideas to work.”

We tend to think of an innovation as a new product but you can innovate with a new process, method, business model, partnership, route to market or marketing method. Peter Drucker once said, ‘Every organization must prepare for the abandonment of everything it does.’ So do not restrict your vision of innovation to products. Some of the most powerful innovations you can make are in business methods and customer services. If we look at companies like Dell, eBay and Amazon we see that their great innovations were with their business models rather than in new products.

Innovations can be incremental or radical. Every improvement that you make in products or services can be seen as an incremental innovation. Most businesses and most managers are good at incremental innovation. They see problems in the current set-up and they fix them. Radical innovations involve finding an entirely new way to do things. As such they are often risky and difficult to implement. Many larger organizations and most managers are poor at radical innovation. We need to develop creativity and turn it quickly into innovation.

We must actively become involved in changing our culture to stimulate and reward creativity. This would mean supporting the thrust of the Ministry of Education to infuse new ways of learning that will bring out the most creative elements in our children and reward this creativity instead of only learning to pass examinations. We must find the balance between the creative potential and learning the fundamentals. This must be nurtured not only at the pre-primary and secondary levels, but through our tertiary and technical vocational institutions.

The Ministry of Science and Technology and the Ministry of Tertiary Education and Skills Training have been promoting the importance of industry-based learning, developing potentially commercial ideas as part of the coursework. Institutions like the University of Trinidad and Tobago have been partnering with the private sector to develop new ideas for their businesses to become more competitive. This practice must become the norm if we want innovation and innovative ideas to permeate our business sectors.

Because creativity and innovation are often confused, it has long been assumed that innovation cannot be forced within an organization. It’s either there, or it isn’t. The introduction of a common language for innovation — design thinking — enables organizations to better measure milestones in their innovative efforts.

Design thinking provides a consistent approach to defining challenges. It helps organizations identify problems before they even begin the brainstorming sessions most associated with creativity. Now, organizations can actually see what they were missing when previous ideas didn’t reach market sustainability.

Leaders are critical to the success of any group’s long-term innovation strategy. It’s their job to ensure that innovation is consistently pursued and their employees don’t settle into business as usual. They set the tone for what is, and is not, possible in the business through their attention and action.

Organizations serious about fostering innovation have to wrestle with two main issues: risk-taking and failure aversion. All innovation involves risk, and all risks include the possibility of failure. Failure should never be seen as a black mark; it is a learning experience. Leaders and their organizations cannot be afraid of failure — or they will never incorporate the innovation they need to truly meet customers’ needs.

Of course, the very term “innovation” connotes something new and different. Still, paying attention to organizations that are consistently innovative in their industries is always a good practice. Creativity is important in today’s business world, but it’s really only the beginning. Organizations need to foster creativity. Driving business results by running ideas through an innovation process puts those ideas to work.

As a nation, we must collectively focus on effecting this transformation by radically changing our approach to economic development and as to what constitutes the drivers of growth. Our National Vision which states that through creativity, innovation and collaboration, we shall prosper together, speaks pointedly to what we must focus on and who we must be as a people.

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