Established in 1970 with technical and financial assistance from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the Caribbean Industrial Research Institute (CARIRI), which is a State-owned entity, has developed a reputation in the region as a multifaceted Institution providing services in the areas of Laboratory and Field Testing, Consulting, Research and Development, Training and Innovation.
Since its establishment, CARIRI has evolved over the years into a widely recognized Centre of Excellence, leading and serving, both the local and regional public and private sectors, through innovation and technology. In this regard, it is considered in many quarters as a valuable Caribbean asset.
Housing state-of-the-art equipment, complemented by experienced and knowledgeable staff, CARIRI is highly capable of serving a wide range of industries; which includes the petrochemical, biotechnology, environmental, manufacturing, agri-business, tourism and ICT sectors, among others.
The Centre for Enterprise Development (CED) is a flagship development of CARIRI aimed at facilitating Research, Development and Innovation capacity building and fostering business creation and expansion through the Incubation process. It is what can be deemed a central node in the Innovation Ecosystem since it provides the space, both virtual and physical, for thoughts, ideas and inventions to be transformed into products and services. It 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.
The CED houses a Business Hatchery which hosts a series of workshops for budding and growing entrepreneurs over a duration of three (3) months. The Business Hatchery works with early stage entrepreneurs helping them to further develop their project initiatives, which entails, in a number of instances, advancing from proof of concept to proof of business over the three months. Cycle #8 is carded to commence on the 14th January, 2017.
After the Business Hatchery, graduates can choose to branch off on their own or go into the next phase of CARIRI’s support network in the form of a Business Incubator which caters for both in-house (providing a space for business owners to conduct their work from a set location) and virtual tenants. The Business Incubator takes place over a 12-month period and clients, referred to as “Incubatees”, have access to technical and business support supplied from a pool of highly qualified consultants and specialist mentors in relevant fields of expertise. Through a comprehensive support base, clients can access a network of national, regional and international experts and skilled human resources.
CARIRI also houses a mobile applications lab, referred to as mCentre. mCentre is the only mobile applications development and testing laboratory and accelerator in the region which incubates high potential mobile app projects. The lab provides world class business and technical training to individuals in mobile application development, and entrepreneurship, across all platforms, viz. Android, iOS, Blackberry and Windows. Always looking for new and exciting ways to promote app development, CARIRI’s mCentre is involved in the Caribbean Mobile Innovation Project (CMIP), which is a regional mobile app development programme designed to promote this sector within the Caribbean region. The CMIP provides hands-on training, skills-building and mentorship to developers from across the region, as well as access to investors. There are currently hubs in six Caribbean countries which ensure start-ups across the region benefit fully from the Programme.
Also housed in the CED compound is the Microsoft Innovation Centre (MIC). CARIRI and Microsoft Trinidad and Tobago have partnered to establish the MIC in Trinidad, with the potential to establish links throughout the Caribbean. This facility was established with the primary objective of contributing to the diversification of the country’s economy through the development of a local software industry, thereby fostering new business creation and strengthening existing SMEs in specific industry verticals.
CARIRI also has a 3D Printing Laboratory at the CED. The 3D Lab serves to promote, and facilitate access to, rapid prototyping technology and 3D modeling services. The Lab affords the opportunity to demonstrate the innovative capabilities of the machinery and software.
A Technology Incubator is also housed at the CED. This consists of partitioned bays that house food processing equipment for demonstration of different process lines. Each process line can be licensed to suitable investors under a Technology Package. The Technology Package includes, but is not limited to, product formulation, plant layout, equipment specifications, potential equipment suppliers, packaging specifications, profitability analysis, etc. At present, some of the lines catered for at the facility are: Oyster Mushrooms, Cassava based breakfast cereal (Cassola), Garlic and Soy.
One of the newest additions to the CED's activity base is the Idea Advisory Service (IAS). The IAS is a Programme implemented by CARIRI with technical support from the Danish Technological Institute (DTI). It is modeled along the lines of the DTI's Inventor Advisory Service (IAS). DTI has been providing this service in Denmark in excess of forty years. Many great ideas are not commercialized because of a disconnect between the idea, what the market wants and how the product or service is evaluated by the market. The Idea Advisory Service seeks to close this gap by working with ideators/inventors to establish novelty and market validation, as well as proof of business. Once proof of business has been established, there are two available pathways to commercialization, i.e. via business start-up or licensing. Under the IAS, CARIRI is committed to assisting the potential entrepreneurs in pursuing either of the pathways.
CARIRI has been able to establish the link with DTI through its membership in the World Association of Industrial and Technological Research Organizations (WAITRO) which is headquartered in Malaysia. CARIRI is a founding member of WAITRO and its Chief Executive Officer currently holds the position of Second Vice President of the Association. Membership in WAITRO affords CARIRI access to the technical know-how, experience and breakthrough research of over 160 Research and Technology Organisations (RTOs) from over 70 countries.
As a follow up to the establishment of the IAS, CARIRI, recognizing the critical need to contribute to fostering Innovation capacity building in the private sector, as an integral part of its Innovation Facilitation thrust, is in the process of implementing an Innovation Gap Analysis Programme (IGAP). The Programme, which entails reaching out to companies to assist them in developing/implementing innovative project initiatives, is being effected with additional support from the DTI. In this regard, select members of CARIRI's staff are being trained to go out into companies; ascertain the status of innovation activity; undertake gap analyses; identify and shortlist interventions, in collaboration with the company's senior management personnel; and assist the companies in implementing the identified innovation interventions in their organizations. Thus far, research conducted has shown that a sizeable number of companies are interested in accessing the service, with some of them having plans to implement innovative project activity. This notwithstanding, a number of companies are constrained in so doing, in terms of resource accessibility and mobilization; and this is where CARIRI is seeking to bridge the gap.
Overall, CARIRI has been affording priority to enhancing its contribution to economic diversification and, through its close involvement with the private sector, can be a model for public-private partnership. By focusing its efforts on Innovation Facilitation, CARIRI is leading the way in effecting technological advancement and economic transformation and thus fulfilling the role of a central node in the Innovation Ecosystem; a role that will redound to the benefit of the citizens and businesses of Trinidad and Tobago and, by extension, the entire Caribbean region.
It is a growing challenge to meet human needs by providing a source of clean and affordable water. This has become quite evident over the last few years and is a problem that needs to be solved as soon as possible. The increasing demand for clean water, population growth, climate change and water quality deterioration are some of the factors that contribute to the pressures for improved wastewater management.
Wastewater can often mean different things to different people. It generally comprises of a mixture of domestic wastewater from baths, sinks, washing machines, toilets and from industry. Additionally it will often contain rainwater runoff (storm water) from roads, roofs and other impermeable surfaces. Generally it is water that has been adversely affected in quality by anthropogenic or human influence and can encompass a wide range of potential contaminants and concentrations.
As concerned citizens, we cannot allow wastewater to be disposed of in any precarious manner that may be dangerous to human health or pose potentially damaging effects on the environment. Despite the fact that the environment is amazing in its ability to heal itself, there is still a limit to what it can do and how much it can tolerate and transform.
As Trinbagonians, we often enjoy bathing in clean beaches and pristine rivers with our family. It brings a feeling of family togetherness and happiness. In order for this to happen, it is important to have our wastewater treated before being released into the environment. This includes a combination of proper collection, treatment, discharge of wastewater and proper disposal of the resulting sludge. This will provide the possibility of clean water to be returned to the environment and so allow water to be used for various purposes including fisheries and family outings to the rivers and beaches. To assist with this, The Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) is responsible for the collection, transmission and disposal of wastewater in Trinidad and Tobago. It achieves this objective mainly through the Public Sewerage Systems in Port of Spain, San Fernando, Arima, Point Fortin and Scarborough Tobago.
It may often be questioned by many citizens why a lot of emphasis must be placed on treatment. We don’t like to encounter the scent of raw sewage as we enter our beautiful beaches or even the sight of oil spills covering our beautiful shores. Without proper treatment, the untreated wastewater can create many problems for public health, water resources, wildlife and ecosystem. Besides, being an eye-sore, it can also negatively impact the social and economic well-being of societies.
It has been documented that poor disposal practices can result in high Coliform counts in the coastal environment which can lead to health problems such as dysentery and typhoid fever. It can also affect the livelihood of the community, cause eutrophication (algal blooms) in bays and harbors that may result in death of many fish and aquatic organisms and even damage our coral reefs. In fact, untreated wastewater may cause significant damage to coral reefs which may strongly affect the employment opportunities for many individuals particularly related to coral reef fishing and tourism. This in turn may heavily impact the economy, especially in Tobago since it is highly reliant on tourism as it main form of economic gain. The coral reef is highly valuable and offers many services related to fisheries, tourism and shoreline protection. It was valued to contribute about $100 - $130 million to the national economy in Tobago (WRI 2006). Coral reef associated fisheries as a livelihood has also been estimated to contribute between US$18-$33 million per year. It must be noted that these were estimated as significant economic contributions to Tobago’s GDP which was $286 million in 2006. Hence this deterioration of the aquatic environment together with indiscriminate release of untreated wastewater has indeed become a serious issue.
At present, only 20% of domestic wastewater produced in Trinidad and Tobago is collected and from that only 5% of total domestic wastewater is treated and disposed of (WRI 2014). It was noted that in the Caribbean (although Trinidad and Tobago had the highest population access to centralized wastewater systems) only 30% of the population is sewered and serviced by the wastewater authority while 70% of the population is serviced by septic tanks, soakaways and pit latrines.
Based on the recent findings, many people have often questioned whether wastewater treatment is sufficient in Trinidad and Tobago. In 2004, the results of a survey (GIWA Regional Assessment for the Caribbean Small Island subsystem) indicated that wastewater treatment is often absent or insufficient in many Caribbean countries, including Trinidad and Tobago. Despite the fact that numerous efforts were made to reduce problems associated with wastewater, they have continued to escalate over the past few years.
Factors such as population growth, growth of the industrial sector and the inability of the Caribbean Governments to secure the expansion of sanitary sewerage system are most probably to blame for these problems. Inadequate funding seems to be a major hurdle for most Governments as they are unable to improve and expand the existing sanitary sewerage system. Despite the high cost, the great Mahatma Gandhi once stated that “Sanitation is more important that political independence and there is a need for champions of sanitation”. One of his major goals was always to suggest strategies to improve wastewater management in India and try to reduce the volume of untreated waste entering the rivers courses and coastal waters.
Over the years, the degradation of the aquatic environment as well as the discharge of untreated water has indeed become a serious concern nationally, regionally and internationally. While water is a valuable resource and brings several benefits, untreated wastewater can have serious impacts on public health, water resources, wild life and ecosystems in general. These factors can negatively impact both the social and economic aspect of society.
Globally treated wastewater offers many golden opportunities. While inadequate treatment and lack of recycling and resource approaches can also lead to lost opportunities, reuse and recycling of treated wastewater have proven to be beneficial. These include many applications such as irrigation of areas including public parks, playgrounds, ornamental landscape and golf courses. It can also be used for fire protection, air conditioning and even as boiler feed water or for toilet and urinal flushing in commercial and industrial buildings.
To address the challenges of wastewater, Trinidad and Tobago has developed policies, legislative tools and regulatory linkages to ensure that wastewater management is undertaken in a sustainable manner. Among them include the Water Pollution Rules 2001, Trade Effluent Standard, Water and Sewerage Act, National Environmental Policy, Specification for the Effluent from Industrial Processes Discharged into the Environment TTS 547:1998, Specification for the Liquid Effluent from Domestic Wastewater Treatment Plants into the Environment TTS 417: 1993 and Waterworks and Water Conservation Act Chapter 54:41 and Pesticides and Toxic Chemical Act: Act No. 4/1986. These rules in Trinidad and Tobago are enforced by a regulatory body namely the Environmental Management Authority.
As part of the regulatory requirements, companies in Trinidad and Tobago have been asked to voluntarily agree to discharge effluent in conformance with the Permissible Levels of the Water Pollution Rules. It can be quite an expensive, tedious, and sometimes a frustrating task to accomplish at times. Luckily there are providers such as the Caribbean Industrial Research Institute (CARIRI) that can assist easily with these tasks and make the quality of life better.
With population explosion and growing industrial expansion, wastewater continues to enter our coastal and near shore environments untreated causing catastrophic and sometimes irreversible damage to our beautiful and fragile ecosystems. As concerned citizens, we need to ask ourselves if we are doing enough to protect our beautiful environment. After all “we do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.”
Over the past seven years handling the Water Pollution Permit (WPP) and concerns with pollutant concentration, CARIRI found that there was a need for interpretation of results and recommendations/solutions requested by clients. And this need prompted CARIRI to expand its services in the field of Effluent with the establishment of the Effluent Management Solutions (EMS) Unit.