Kingston – October 1, 2016: Mobile entrepreneurs around the Caribbean can apply for places in the region’s premier pre-accelerator programme as of today.

According to an announcement by PitchIT Caribbean, applications are now open for entrepreneurs from 14 Caribbean countries to take part in an intense training course designed to take them from idea to reality. Participants will be guided in the process from clarification of their mobile app idea and testing the concept to learning how to model a startup business and test its feasibility.

Commenting on the opportunity, project manager Bianca Welds said, “last year, we had over 150 participants in our mobile startup training programme. We have taken feedback from that first round and improved our training offering. We are very excited to be launching an even more high-value programme to the region’s entrepreneurs.”

Throughout the process, emphasis will be placed on real-world business-building, identifying key elements such as target markets and customers. The six-week training will be supported by virtual training sessions and face-to-face practical coaching workshops, led by PitchIT Caribbean’s local mHubs in Barbados, Dominica, St. Kitts and Nevis, and Trinidad and Tobago.

The pre-accelerator programme culminates with the PitchIT Caribbean Startup Challenge, scheduled for December in Trinidad and Tobago. Participants will have the opportunity to enter the challenge and compete against a field of the region’s top mobile application startups. The winners of the challenge move into the acceleration phase to help them develop their startup.

Applications for the training programme open today and close on October 14. Entrepreneurs are encouraged to sign up early to take advantage of this business development opportunity.

PitchIT Caribbean is a programme aimed at enhancing the mobile app development ecosystem across CARICOM. It is designed to accelerate mobile app entrepreneurs through the start-up life cycle, which runs from ideation to pitch,from pitch to market and from market to maturity.

It currently supports 4 Hubs, one each in Barbados, Dominica, St. Kitts and Nevis, and Trinidad & Tobago. PitchIT Caribbean is the central operation of the Caribbean Mobile Innovation Project, which is part of the Entrepreneurship Programme for Innovation in the Caribbean (EPIC), an initiative funded by the Government of Canada and executed by infoDev/World Bank Group, through a three-party Caribbean consortium, led by UWI Consulting Inc., working along with Mona School of Business and Management, and Mona Business Support Services.

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After having a similar session back in April, there was a lot of interest from the Corporations for a specific session on Infrastructure Projects, and CARIRI accepted the challenge to host this seminar

Achieving quality standards is one of the most important issues to consider when thinking about infrastructure projects and the management of quality is an important factor in determining the competitive edge of any business.  It is vital that the Regional Corporations recognize that a system needs to be in place to ensure that quality is present from the start.  This will certainly go a long way in the quest to get better value for monies spent.

In his opening remarks, Mr Liaquat Ali Shah, Chief Executive Officer of CARIRI spoke about the evolution of CARIRI from just a testing lab with one location to an innovation hub that now has three locations including the Centre for Enterprise Development which was created to accommodate the full gamut of activities along the enterprise creation spectrum from idea to market. It provides both accommodation and technical and business advisory support services to individuals and enterprises with innovative ideas/projects wishing to take these through the incubation (development) process to commercialization

Mr Shah spoke about the role of CARIRI in diversifying and creating opportunities for innovation and called on the various stakeholders to partner with CARIRI moving forward.  He went on to state that the Corporations were one such stakeholder and this is why CARIRI saw it fit to hold this session at this time.  He wanted to make the distinction between quality in construction and quality construction and saw this session as providing a foundation and a base for Corporations to enhance their performance.  As an accredited and certified institution, CARIRI is willing to work with the Corporations, Borough Councils and Local Government to ensure that quality is present in every area of infrastructure development. 

He wanted to remind the audience that CARIRI has never been accused of ‘cooking’ the results, and that CARIRI has established a record for confidentiality and quality in what they do.

The Minister of Rural Development and Local Government, the Honourable Franklin Khan delivered the feature address to the audience and started off by stating that the Government “recognised the increasingly significant role of Regional Corporations in the planning, overseeing and execution of construction work across the country.”  He noted that this has led to a policy shift which has led to decentralisation, empowerment and giving more responsibility to the Regional Corporations and Local Government.

He spoke about the creation of the Ministry of Rural Development and cited areas such as Matlot, Cedros, Icacos, and Brasso Seco as having dilapidated infrastructure since infrastructure projects needed to be justified.  He stated that there is a “deliberate decision that rural development can only take place with direct government intervention.”  The Government intends for rural communities to have the same level of amenities as its urban counterparts.

The Minister went on to state that “quality assurance must be applied at every step of the process from the tendering process to selection of contractors to the planning and execution of works to the detailed assessment before certification and completion.” He reminded the audience that the “role of government, whether central or local is charged with the responsibility of managing the resources of the country.  We as public officers are the stewards of the resources for the people of the country.”

He closed off by issuing a warning that sloppy work does not go unnoticed anymore. He pointed to social media where news travels quickly and the reputation of an Institution can be built or damaged accordingly.

Ms Lisa Ramoutar, Team Lead at the Industrial Materials Unit – Civil and Mr Gerald Herreira, Senior Civil Technician continued by giving presentations on Quality Assurance, Specifications and Properties of Construction Materials, Common Defects in Construction of Infrastructure Projects among others.  Both presenters were able to give many examples as they have a wealth of knowledge in the sector.

The session was well received by the Regional Corporations and Borough Councils who expressed interest in having more seminars like this in the future.

As a certified and accredited testing facility, CARIRI has been taking the lead in bringing these key quality issues to the forefront.  With over 40 years of experience, the Civil Engineering Unit is the most advanced ISO-certified civil/construction engineering testing laboratory in the Caribbean. CARIRI’s team of experienced professionals has provided testing and consultancy services to government ministries locally and within the region and to the construction.

For more information, please contact CARIRI at 299-0210 ext 5048 or via email at awilliams@cariri.com

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Mr Liaquat Ali Shah, CEO of CARIRI addressing the audience

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Minister of Rural Development and Local Government, the Honourable Franklin Khan speaking to representatives of the Regional Corporations and Borough Councils 

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Ms Lisa Ramoutar, Team Lead of the Industrial Materials Unit – Civil during her presentation

Date: Thursday 28th July 2016

Venue: CARIRI’s Centre for Enterprise Development (CED), Innovation Avenue, Freeport

The Caribbean Industrial Research Institute’s (CARIRI’s) Idea Advisory Service (IAS) in collaboration with the Danish Technological Institute recently hosted an information session entitled, “Developing a Culture of Innovation in SMEs” at CARIRI’s Centre for Enterprise Development, Innovation Avenue, Freeport. This is part of the Institutes thrust to build capacity for Innovation on a national scale, and thereby contribute more substantively to the achievement of Government's stated developmental goal of economic diversification. The session was well attended by over 100 persons from diverse SMEs, various Chambers throughout the country as well as key stakeholders and movers and shakers in the manufacturing and services sectors.

CARIRI’s Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Liaquat Ali Shah in his opening remarks welcomed everyone to CARIRI’s Centre for Enterprise Development which he described as a national innovation hub and a regional technology transfer centre which is the only one of its kind in the Caribbean.  He went on to say, “There is a widespread acceptance that we need to look towards diversification in our economy, based upon our non-energy sector and downstream energy based industries. But how much diversification is actually going on and what is the role of individual companies?”

Mr. Shah continued on saying, “One facet of diversification deals with innovation, which in today’s globalised and competitive environment has been termed as the most crucial element. The cry ‘differentiate or die’ echoes throughout the competitive world. It is against this background that we have been concentrating our efforts on Innovation Facilitation. Some of our programmes are the Idea Advisory Service, Business Hatchery, ICT Interventions and startup incubation. Our vision is that the Innovation Hub is at the core of a spider’s web and we network nationally, regionally and internationally to bring relevant resources as required which explains our partnership with the Danish Technological Institute (DTI).

He closed off stating, “Companies are not prioritizing innovation! It may be because they are making enough profits or because they do not understand or know how to make changes happen. Some may also feel it is too time consuming or too complicated. There are no shortages of brilliant ideas however there seems to be an issue with implementation or as in some cases they are risk averse”

Mrs. Melissa Birbal, Business Development Officer, CARIRI presented on CARIRI’s Idea Advisory Service which focuses on bringing innovative solutions to the market. Melissa impressed upon the audience, “Everyone has the ability to create innovative ideas regardless of your skill set or job level. Everyone encounters problems in their everyday lives either at work, school or home. Many persons have ideas but do not know how to move their ideas forward.” She went on to describe CARIRI’s IAS as, “a free initiative which encourages innovation and assists persons in taking their ideas to market.”  CARIRI’s staff has trained with the DTI who have been providing the service in Denmark for over 40 years and have tailored a model to meet the creative needs of the Caribbean.

Mrs. Birbal stressed that the IAS program allows inventors to have their ideas or inventions confidentially, independently and objectively assessed, anytime, all the time. The IAS team works closely with the Intellectual Property (IP) Office in assessing the novelty of the idea and advising which Intellectual Property tool will be most relevant in securing the idea. The IAS team works with the inventor to:

  • Identify and strengthen the benefits of your idea to the target market to determine exactly what makes your idea different to what already exists
  • Evaluate market demand and establish proof of business of the idea
  • Assist in the development of market research surveys to assess the market
  • Provide assistance in the development of a demonstration model or pretotypes through drawings or 3D printing

Once proof of business for the idea has been established there are two pathways to commercialization. The first is licensing where they can identify and network with potential licensees of your idea on your behalf and negotiate licensing agreements. Licensing enables inventors to exploit the expertise of an existing company in terms of market experience, distribution channels and manufacturing to commercialize your ideas. The second pathway is a business start up which is offered by CARIRI’s Business Hatchery.

Mrs. Sherese Chee Mook, Business Hatchery Coordinator, CARIRI expanded on the Business Hatchery in her presentation where she described the service as, “Building Better Businesses.” Based on 3 month programme duration, thus far the CARIRI Business Hatchery has completed 7 cohorts over an 18 month period which provided support to over 50 businesses. The CARIRI Business Hatchery constitutes a unique environment in which hi-tech entrepreneurs, world-class business people, academics, researchers, venture capitalists and people with ideas can meet, network and grow. It caters for all persons with a passion to succeed with their start ups and who want to pursue entrepreneurship.

The objectives are to prepare clients for active business, produce sustainable businesses and foster a community of entrepreneurs. Mrs. Chee Mook explained that Business Hatchery program is for, “Early stage entrepreneurs who want to set their business on a pathway to success and acquire fundamental tools to provide marketability.” The Business Hatchery is a robust 5 module curriculum that provides the following services:

  • Customer validation
  • Market research
  • Accounting and finance
  • Business model
  • Pitch development
  • One on one business coaching
  • Robust curriculum
  • Alumni;  Peer circles and mentors

A programme such as this Mrs. Chee Mooke estimates can run to over $15,000 however CARIRI offers their 13 week programme at only $3,000. The Business Hatchery start-ups have come from diverse backgrounds such as Food and Beverage, Beauty, Fashion, Environmental, Education, Entertainment and even Accounting Solutions. Some of the past participants have described the Business Hatchery as “the most down to earth learning experience in Trinidad and Tobago and having my head dunked in cold water.”

Mrs. Chee Mooke closed off by saying the Vision of the Business Hatchery is, “To be Trinidad and Tobago’s premier platform for business start-ups, in building a community of entrepreneurs who go on to discover and innovate sustainable solutions that improve lives, connect people and stimulate change.”

Participants also gained insights from Dr. Erik Hallgren, Senior Consultant in Innovation at the Danish Technological Institute (DTI) on “Developing a culture of innovation in SMEs” which encompasses the implementation of innovation check-ups in SMEs and implementation of training activities for innovation agents. Dr. Hallgren has over ten years experience in facilitation and development of innovation processes in SME’s, model building in research projects on service innovation and innovation support.

Dr. Hallgren outlined the Innovation Audit Programme which is intended to address the need to develop a culture of Innovation in private sector enterprises, particularly SMEs, based on the recognition that SMEs are particularly vulnerable to the rapidly changing dynamics of the international economic environment and, to remain competitive, these enterprises must keep their value proposition current, relevant and valuable to customers; which entails institutionalizing Innovation, an art that needs to be learned, practiced and experienced, as a continuous business activity. With depressed energy sector prices projected to continue over the medium term, the country has little choice but to harness and exploit its abundant creative potential.

Dr. Hallgren advised persons to go out there and expand your markets, because if you don’t you can guarantee that the foreign markets will come to you. He warned participants against becoming the 3 blind mice of business which are Kodak, typewriter and Motorola. This scenario can happen to anyone who does not ask the question, “How can I be better? How can I make my business better? Remember, Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” He went on to ask the question the audience, “Who could have predicted the internet? Open innovation and more so disruptive technologies are becoming the norm. The extinction of manual jobs is soon upon us.” Dr. Hallgren closed off his presentation with these parting words, “Let your ideas breathe, a lot of innovation is based on your mindset.”

The session also included a riveting panel discussion which featured Mr. Liaquat Ali Shah, Chief Executive Officer, CARIRI; Mr. Erik Hallgren, Senior Consultant in Innovation at the Danish Technological Institute (DTI) and Ms. Georgina Terry, Managing Director, BPD Associates Limited each giving their own perspective on “Mobilization of Innovation in SMEs.”

Ms. Terry gave important insights into the cultural struggles faced by companies who are trying to implement innovation and may be facing resistance from employees. She describes Trinidad and Tobago as extremely innovative and full of ideas as evidenced by steel pan, doubles etc. She advises that fear stops us from fully realizing our potential i.e. fear someone will steal your idea, fear you will fail. She also says that there are so many companies doing similar things but what sets you apart is your perseverance and your determination to succeed. Her advice to everyone was to have a clear vision in your mind, have a proper plan and take steps each day to move forward.

CARIRI and CED continues to remind the public about its diversity and innovation not only in scientific research but also entrepreneurial development for example the Business Hatchery program and the IAS (Idea Advisory Service) just to name a few. CARIRI is not only about general research rather it is about applied research.

For more information on our Idea Advisory Service and the CARIRI Business Hatchery you can contact them at:

CARIRI’s Centre for Enterprise Development,
Innovation Avenue, Freeport
Tel: (868) 299-0210 ext. 2661
Email:
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. / This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Dr. Erik Hallgren, Senior Consultant in Innovation at the Danish Technological Institute during his presentation 

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(L-R) Dr. Erik Hallgren, Senior Consultant in Innovation at the Danish Technological Institute (DTI), Ms. Georgina Terry, Managing Director, BPD Associates Ltd. Mr. Liaquat Ali Shah, Chief Executive Officer, CARIRI.

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Side shot of the audience 

On Wednesday 3rd August, 2016, CARIRI and the Engineering Institute of The University of the West Indies signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which will see greater collaboration between the two institutions.  The general intent of both parties is to cooperate in the areas of Research, Development and Innovation (RDI), Entrepreneurship Development and Commercialisation. 

The primary focus of the MOU will be on collaboration in the areas of design, manufacture, calibration and marketing of electronic/precision engineered products/instruments and the establishment of joint training and entrepreneurship development initiatives. 

Signing the MOU on behalf of the Engineering Institute was the Manager, Professor Clement Imbert. Representing CARIRI was Mr Liaquat Ali Shah, Chief Executive Officer.  While acknowledging the new challenges that lay before their respective organizations, both men were looking forward to the collaborative efforts that will see real benefit accruing to the institutions and, by extension, Trinidad and Tobago and the wider Caribbean region. 

Both CARIRI and the Engineering Institute have highly trained staff and modern, well equipped facilities which will see more ground breaking ideas and inventions coming to the forefront as the partnership takes effect.

CARIRI has established an Idea Advisory Service (IAS) over the last year, which is a free service offered to the general public. It provides an avenue for persons with innovative ideas to submit these ideas for screening, via a portal on the Institute's website, with a view to determining novelty and market validation, as well as proof of business. The IAS has been gaining traction over the last few months and the signing of this MOU with the Engineering Institute aligns with CARIRI’s ongoing, strategic thrust of facilitating Innovation, ie. Creativity Being Implemented, as a means of increasing substantively its contribution to economic diversification. 

For over 40 years, CARIRI’s modern laboratories with state-of-the-art equipment, together with its highly trained specialist professionals, technologists, technicians, consultants and researchers, have been helping local and Caribbean enterprises, encompassing large and MSMEs, to grow and develop while ensuring that the environment is adequately safeguarded.

CARIRI’s focus, as far as R&D is concerned, is primarily on applied research and, with the signing of this MOU, a new world of possibilities opens up to translate developmental work into commercial opportunities.  

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Signing of the MOU

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l-r: Chief Executive Officer of CARIRI, Mr Liaquat Ali Shah and Manager of the Engineering Institute of the University of the West Indies, Professor Clement Imbert