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The Minister’s Speech – Launch of i2i 2014

Posted: Thu 1 May 2014

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Thursday May 1, 2014
Hilton Trinidad Senator
Dr. the Honourable Bhoendradatt Tewarie
Idea 2 Innovation 2014 Launch

minister-1The idea 2 innovation programme (i2i) is today commencing its third year.  This is by no means an easy feat, and for all of the hard work that has gone into making the i2i an institution of hope and opportunity I thank and congratulate the staff of the Ministry of Planning and Sustainable Development and the Council for Competitiveness and Innovation (CCI), as well as the Caribbean Industrial Research Institute (CARIRI) and the National entrepreneurship Development Company (NEDCO).  I also thank all of people with ideas who have worked to become successes under this programme, and I encourage them to continue to become ambassadors for future entrepreneurs and innovators. You are winners simply because you are willing to use your minds and to draw on your imagination.

The i2i is aims to facilitate in a direct way the sustainable development and participation of citizens in impactful innovative actions.  This in turn will engage citizens in not only thinking about innovation but taking innovative ideas to the marketplace where we can compete with our ideas, inventions and creations 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 reiterate my deepest gratitude and congratulations to the members of the Board of the CCI, the Executive Director, the i2i project team and the dedicated staff who work to make this happen.

It is also through collaborative efforts and sharing that we have gotten to this point.  The other agencies who have played a crucial role are the Caribbean Industrial Research Institute (CARIRI) and the National Entrepreneurship Development Company Limited (NEDCO) whom I have already mentioned but I would like to take a moment to ask all representatives to identify themselves.

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 seen the opportunity and have participated in the programme.  I would like to officially congratulate you on all of your accomplishments to date.

minister-2In 2012, approximately 400 entries were submitted to the programme with 50 of them being selected.  In 2013, there were 471 submissions with 53 receiving 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, to provide finance for enterprises and initiatives that will contribute measurably to the sustainable development of Trinidad and Tobago.

The numbers here are quite encouraging thus far because this means that there are approximately 103 innovations existing with the potential to materialize into strong businesses.  If we do some simple mathematics and say these businesses employ at least 2 people then the potential benefits can spread to 206 individuals.  This can also trickle down to their families, communities and so on and has the potential to snowball positively. Technological innovation has made our time the time of small and medium enterprises.  It is possible today for 3 to 4 people to create an international business, so we are living in the age of born globals and the micro multinational.

In Trinidad and Tobago today we have about 1800 small businesses employing nearly 200,000 persons and contributing nearly 25% of the GDP.  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. In 2013, 2200 new businesses were registered in Trinidad and Tobago.

By creating a base 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.

Sustainable development cannot exist without entrepreneurship and innovation.  Entrepreneurs are a vital link in the transformation of low income traditional economies to modern economies.  This is accomplished through:

  • The creation of new businesses, although mostly small to medium with massive potential for growth.
  • The absorption of surplus labour or the combination of talent from diverse sectors.  In many cases of the i2i we see individuals from a number of different fields working together to develop ideas that are cross cutting.
  • They provide innovative applications to the production process that many final goods producing firms can access.  Innovation does not always mean developing something totally new.  Processes and systems can be enhanced through the work of innovators.
  • They have the potential to raise both productivity and employment across sectors.
  • 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 countries it is not impossible for Trinidad and Tobago.

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 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 harbors and bays.
  • Information Communication Technology (ICT): Endless opportunity.  We brought Frans Johansson to work through a collaboration exercise of about fifty companies.
  • Financial services: beginning to take off.  Will contribute to job creation as well as enhanced GDP.

The categories which gained the most grants in the 2013 competition were Manufacturing and Manufacturing-related, Services related, 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.

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

I have always called for the private sector to play a significant role in enhancing the innovative output of Trinidad and Tobago.  I again make this call by encouraging support through the following:

  • 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.
  • 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 Economic Development Board and the Council for Competitiveness and Innovation have been working with the private sector to get their views on how we can enhance competitiveness and innovation in Trinidad and Tobago.

Through an Secretariat established in this Ministry, we are also working on behalf of Trinidad and Tobago to host the VIII Americas Competitiveness Forum on October 8-10, 2014 right here in Port of Spain.  We will be the first English speaking Caribbean nation to do so.

The Americas Competitiveness Forum is the premier medium in the western hemisphere bringing together government, business leaders and academics to discuss innovative methods to achieve economic competitiveness and promote innovation in the Caribbean and the Americas. It arose from the recognition of the need to promote trade, entrepreneurialism, highlight the importance of investments in Research & Development as a key tool for competitiveness inter alia. It is also meant to address the fact that the Latin American and Caribbean region lags behind the rest of the Americas in terms of income equality and the level of investment that occurs in Research and Development (R&D).  Registration is now open and you can do so via www.competitivenessforum.org.

The VIII ACF distinguishes itself from other international gatherings by promoting novel approaches to economic competitiveness and enabling private and public representatives to take advantage of creative opportunities to explore new models and expand their business.

The theme of this year’s ACF is ‘The Human Imagination at Work: Driving Competitiveness, Powering Imagination’.  This can also be applied to the core focus of the idea to innovation programme, which is aimed at challenging citizens to utilize their imaginative capacity, innovative ability, imagination and critical thinking skills to develop products, solutions, ideas that can enhance our world.  A local vision leading to global impact.

As small as we may think of ourselves, somewhere in the world there is a need for our ideas, we just have to seek it.

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