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The Minister’s Speech – i2i Awards Ceremony 2015

Posted: Wed 13 May 2015

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Wednesday May 13, 2015
Little Carib Theatre
idea 2 innovation 2015 Awards Ceremony
Senator Dr. the Honourable Bhoendradatt Tewarie

Innovation refers to the “ability to generate and adopt new knowledge and ideas that are of value in the marketplace” and can be vital in many regards. However you may choose to define it, many would agree that innovation is an important key to success in today’s competitive marketplace. Peter Drucker defines innovation as “change that creates a new dimension of performance”. While innovation is necessary for business growth, it can sometimes be a complex and lengthy process that involves creativity, commitment and a lot of hard work.

The importance of innovation can be demonstrated in many ways. For instance, innovation through ICT expansion represents opportunity for leapfrogging in international value chains. It can also lend itself to the further development of green economy and technology and smart specialisation. Innovation is also key to long-term productivity and is a prosperity driver. It requires public, private and academic interaction and must take top down and bottom up approaches and facilitates “smart” growth i.e. new value chain step, new unrelated businesses, and new channels.

The Ministry of Planning and Sustainable Development is in the final stages of drafting a National Innovation Policy, which will then move to public consultation. Two major studies i) a mapping exercise of the innovation ecosystem in Trinidad and Tobago and ii) a survey of 500 private sector firms of their readiness for innovation, have influenced the development of the National Innovation Policy.

As an advisory body to the Minister of Planning, the CCI is currently charged with the responsibility of significantly improving our country’s global competitiveness as well as fostering innovation as key drivers of a diversified knowledge based economy. As such, the CCI is stimulating innovation at the grassroots national level through its idea 2 innovation and Lumination programmes.

In 2012, the Ministry launched the “i2i” idea 2 innovation programme to give citizens an opportunity to submit their ideas for consideration for grant funding. This grant in the range of $75,000 to $200,000 was intended to reward business creativity by supporting individuals with ideas to move them to commercialisation through the first point of achieving proof of concept.

The programme represents an investment in the creativity, potential and ingenuity of citizens of Trinidad and Tobago to conceive new inventions and innovative projects in areas where research and innovation are critical success factors. This programme focuses participants on the seven clusters identified for diversification: Food Sustainability, Energy, Culture & Creative Industries, Maritime Industries, Tourism, Financial Services, and ICT. i2i is open to all types of innovative activities.

2015 represents the fourth iteration of i2i. In its time, over the course of the past four years, the programme has received 1694 applications with 186 innovative projects being awarded total grants in the sum of $18.5 million. These grants are facilitated through the Innovation Financing Facility – a fund established by the Government, for execution by the Council for Competitiveness and Innovation, to provide financial support for enterprises and initiatives that can make a difference in business creation.

In the three ongoing programmes to date, greater than 90% of awardees have stayed the duration of the one year programme to proof of concept and an average of just over 70% of the 2012 and 2013 Champions have been able to achieve proof of concept of their projects. This year, we are pleased to announce that we have received 330 applications, out of which we are awarding grants totalling $4,330,000 to 41 successful projects. As demonstrated by our Champions today, we have much to be proud of.

Of the award-winning projects, manufacturing, ICT and Services have been the top categories being awarded to date.

Category 2012 2013 2014 2015
Manufacturing 22% 26% 24% 24%
ICT 26% 23% 17% 37%
Services 10% 25% 25% 17%

Table 1 – Top 3 project categories
N.B. “Services” often includes educational, health or tourism-related services

The theme of this year’s programme is “Champions of i2i”, where we have showcased the awardees of our previous programmes. From the launch of the 2015 programme and as you have seen today, the i2i programme embarked on a Champions Tour, where we sought to bring together past and potential i2i Champions in a stimulating environment in order to facilitate creative networking. This direct interaction has proven to be an invaluable opportunity for budding entrepreneurs to learn how to bring their innovative business ideas to life. i2i has also conducted a series of Webinars over the challenge period to assist potential applicants with any queries they may have had.

The private sector has a big role to play in driving the national innovation agenda and can play a role with the current and past Champions by lending their support in the following areas:

  • Mentorship
  • Marketing
  • Building strategic partnerships
  • Business planning
  • Operational best practice
  • Financial support

The CCI works with a number of stakeholders for the successful execution of the programme. These include the Caribbean Industrial Research Institute (CARIRI), who provides technical guidance and monitoring and the National Entrepreneurship Development Company (NEDCO), who acts as the fund manager. All applications at the challenge phase are evaluated by a UTT Pre-Screening committee and those that pass the screening are assessed by an independent Evaluation Panel, who has the final word on the proposals selected and the value of the grant award.

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 this opportunity, have participated in the programme and have been successful in receiving an award. I congratulate you heartily but remember, your journey has only just begun.

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. The road to innovation is not without its obstacles and set-backs, but those who persevere are often rewarded for their insight and effort. 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, and that end point will be what you make it.

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