Is it new? Does it work to solve a new or existing problem? Can it be sold?

Have you noticed a group of people huddled together smiling at a camera hanging on a stick? You may have witnessed the phenomenon that is the selfie stick.  If you have travelled within the last couple of years, especially to Europe, you would have seen these selfie sticks in almost every traveller’s hands, which could be quite bothersome for the locals (and some tourists as well!).  However, no matter how you look at it, the selfie stick is a simple yet highly profitable creation. 

Like most innovative products in the market, the selfie stick started off as an idea. This idea in its raw form would have been developed and examined for commercial viability before being introduced to the market and into the consumer’s reach. 

Inventions come in many forms, some are trending products or fads with a short product lifecycle while others may be devices that solve industrial problems that can change entire industries. 

The commercial viability of any invention relies on the answers to three main questions:

1) Is it new? 

2) Does it work to solve a new or existing problem?

3) Is there a viable market?

These questions are aimed at seeking out the unique value proposition of the invention or an idea , that is, identifying the problem  it intends to solve and how is it cheaper, faster, better or more efficient than competing products on the market.

Let’s take the selfie stick as an example. This monopod is simply a metal rod that extends beyond the average length of a person’s arm, to which any camera phone is attached. Depending on the type of selfie stick, the photo can be taken using a wireless remote or by engaging a built in button on the monopod or most simply by activating the camera’s timer.

1) Is it new?

A quick google search using appropriate search terms can reveal whether an idea is novel as well as provide hits on similar products on the market with information on where it can be bought and at what price.

Research unveils that the selfie stick was identified as early as 1995 in a Japanese book of useless inventions. Although the monopod isn’t novel, it has been gathering attention from consumers in the USA and Europe, who can access different variations of the stick for under US$20.00 on

2) Does it work to solve a new or existing problem?

The simplicity of design allows for ease of use and addresses some problems that users may have encountered in taking photographs without this clever tool. You may ask what problem exactly does the selfie stick solve? For starters, by extending the distance of the camera, it increases the range of vision, so that a larger group photo is possible.  Secondly it is ideal for vacationers who do not wish to ask random strangers to take their photo. Further to taking beauty shots of oneself or a group, the selfie stick can serve other purposes. It may be useful to capture live shots of a game, in a crowded stadium for instance, without disturbing fans around you to obtain better quality photos. Since the camera is hoisted on a pole, the camera is steadied so even video recordings will look more professional.

3) Is there a viable market?

Some detractors may argue about the magnitude of the problem that the selfie stick solves, or if there exists a problem at all, but market trends and the price point of the simple device, suggest market viability. Timing the market is equally important. Reports allude that the monopod was pitched as early as 1995, but at that time the market was not ready. Fast forward 20 years later, with the advent of social media, where Instagram has more than 300 million users, the market is ripe with possibility.

Any idea must be examined for proof of business in order for commercial success to be realised.  It is critical to clearly identify the value proposition, the advantage the invention or idea offers over existing competitor products and the target market for the product. 

Many great ideas aren’t commercialized because of a disconnect between the idea, what the market wants and how the product or service is evaluated by the market. It is with this in mind that CARIRI’s Centre for Enterprise Development (CED) which is aimed at facilitating Research, Development and Innovation has introduced a free service called the Idea Advisory Service (IAS) which seeks to close this gap by working with idea generators to assess the facts and assumptions surrounding their ideas.

For more information, please contact CARIRI’s Centre for Enterprise Development at 299-0209 ext 2661 or email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Website:

Corrosion is something that occurs all around us, all the time and in all environments and if there is no plan in place, then corrosion can cost you a lot more than money. 

But what exactly is corrosion?  According to NASA, corrosion can be defined as the degradation of a material due to a reaction with its environment.  Degradation implies deterioration of physical properties of the material. This can be a weakening of the material due to a loss of cross-sectional area, it can be the shattering of a metal due to hydrogen embrittlement, or it can be the cracking of a polymer due to sunlight exposure.

What this tells us is that because corrosion happens, reinforcements are necessary to ensure that the integrity of the component is maintained.  But sometimes, even the reinforcement can become corroded. 

Let’s take the example of steel - steel reinforcement may become rusted because it was initially exposed to the atmosphere.  When freshly, mixed concrete is placed around this steel, the mixing water penetrates through the rust pores, where it gradually forms hydrated calcium ferrite. Moreover, this water reacts with steel and forms a thin layer of iron and calcium hydroxides.

All these products in the vicinity of steel raise the pH of concrete pore solution, up to about 13. It should be noted that when on contact with initial rust, cement hydration is disturbed and a transition zone is locally formed. Concrete is more homogenous when far from this zone.

The concrete mixing water makes it possible to form some products, which protect the steel by passivation. More precisely, under atmospherically induced rust, reinforcement is covered with a thin protective layer of white products, containing ferrite and calcium hydroxides.

Such protection vanishes when large cracks reach reinforcement or the porosity of the concrete is large enough to allow aggressive elements to reach the steel surface.

Corrosion with rusting of reinforcement in concrete comprises two stages. In the first stage (or step), the aggressive elements such as chloride or carbon dioxide, present in the surrounding medium penetrates the concrete- this is the initiation stage. The second stage is propagation, which starts, when these aggressive bodies are in rather high concentrations at the reinforcement level. This corresponds to rust growth, which can break concrete cover.

These stages are described as follows:

  • A first stage involves the transfers of aggressive agents (mainly carbon dioxide and chloride) of water and of oxygen, inducing the corrosion initiation (de-passivation of reinforcement).
  • A stage of corrosion growth, leading to concrete damage, to spalling, cracks, etc. This stage starts when the contents of aggressive agents are high enough to reinforcing steel.
  • To describe steel corrosion in concrete, it is advisable to define, on one hand, the penetration of the aggressive agents through concrete and on the other hand, the conditions of depassivation of reinforcement, then the dissolution rate of metal and rust growth.

Metallurgy is the science and technology of metals. It involves analyzing the physical and mechanical properties of metals and examining how they are affected by composition, mechanical working and heat treatment.

CARIRI’s Metallurgy Unit offers a wide range of tests and services that are comparable with established laboratories anywhere else in the world.

These include:

  • Failure Analysis of Mechanical Components
  • Corrosion Assessment & Prevention of Coatings and Components
  • Mechanical Testing of Material

CARIRI is also home to the Industrial Materials Unit – Civil which is dedicated to testing and consultancy services, primarily to the Building and Construction industry and together Metallurgy and Civil have been able to ensure the best quality solutions for their clients.  As part of its commitment to ensuring that it continues to educate the population on various issues and topics, CARIRI will be hosting a session entitled ‘Quality in Construction’ on Tuesday 12th April, 2016, which will be held under the auspices of the Minister of Works and Transport, the Honorable Fitzgerald Hinds. 

For more information, please contact CARIRI at 299-0210 ext 5048/5687 or via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The market for smartphones and mobile apps is a closely related market, moreover, with Trinidad and Tobago and other English-speaking Caribbean islands being tiny domestic markets for mobile app developers, internationalization is a key strategy for mobile app ventures looking to scale up. Research firm Gartner estimates the total number of mobile app downloads globally (both free and paid) will soar to 269 billion in 2017, up from 102 billion in 2013.Developer Economics estimates that there are 2.9 million mobile app developers in the world, creating more than 2 million apps.

The Local Mobile App Industry

With over 100% mobile phone penetration in Trinidad and Tobago, a large and growing proportion of which represents smartphones, more and more people are downloading and using apps. Thousands of smartphone users will have ideas for apps, with a subset willing to take steps towards having these apps created.

According to the BBC, “a mobile app is short for application and this can be any type of computer programme   Applications have been around for as long as computers, but the term 'app' is associated with the software that runs on a smartphone or tablet device. Apps are usually accessed by clicking or tapping on an icon on the homescreen of your smartphone or tablet.  This means you don't need to search for a programme or key in the address of a website.”  This, by its very definition, means that apps are more convenient to the user, so we do expect the app industry to explode to an even greater extent in the next few years.

The developer community in Trinidad and Tobago comprises mainly of mobile app developers who are at varying levels of experience, expertise and activity. Some are self-taught developers, while others have received formal training here in the region, at a North American or European institution, or online. Judging from participation in events like hackathons, local and international competitions, start-up weekends, and networking events around the country, it can be inferred that the number of people with advanced mobile application development skills is in the low hundreds.

In terms of demographics, while mobile app development might have a natural, almost instinctive appeal to tech savvy millennial, the demographics of mobile app developers in Trinidad and Tobago, and wider Caribbean, vary widely in terms of age, gender and income. Several educational institutions in Trinidad and Tobago offer mobile app development training at certificate, diploma, Bachelor or Master’s Degree level. In all cases where the training is offered at tertiary level, these courses are offered as individual modules or even part of an ICT module rather than as a specialism or main area of focus. In some instances, one-off short courses are also offered by technology partners like Microsoft, who have a vested interest in promoting their brand.

However, knowing the precise number of mobile app developers is less important than understanding the trends in terms of people showing an interest in becoming mobile app developers, or coming up with ideas for apps. The trends show an increasing number of people seeking formal and informal training in app development, as well as participating in proof of concept competitions and start-up competitions with mobile app ideas, prototypes, or fully built solutions which can all be provided at CARIRI’s mCentre.

The Centre for Enterprise Development (CED) is a flagship development of CARIRI which is aimed at facilitating Research, Development and Innovation. The Tekmania arm of CED accommodates Information and Communication Technology (ICT) project initiatives being undertaken by CARIRI that are geared towards enhancing the operational efficiencies of SMEs.

One section of TekMania is the mCentre which is the only mobile applications laboratory and accelerator in the region which incubates high potential mobile app developers. The lab provides world class business and technical training to high potential individuals on mobile application development and entrepreneurship on all platforms. mCentre is a shared space where technology and entrepreneurs can interact, work, gain access to tools and expertise, deploy their solutions and start and grow their businesses.

As part of it growth, CARIRI’s mCentre was selected to be a part of the Caribbean Mobile Innovation Project (CMIP).

CMIP is a two-tiered partnership approach to support growth-oriented mobile app businesses in the region.  As part of the World Bank’s infoDev ICT development approach, the CMIP seeks to build mobile innovation communities by bringing together a variety of stakeholder groups.  The hubs operate out of Jamaica (main mobile application hub), Trinidad and Tobago (CARIRI), Dominica, St Kitts and Nevis, Barbados and Suriname.

Mobile app entrepreneurs using the services of the CMIP in each respective market will be able to access technical, business and project management training, mentoring, and business incubation services.  The goal of the training will be to support mobile app entrepreneurs to move their idea from ‘mind to market.’

It is with this in mind that CARIRI’s mCentre will be hosting the local leg of the regional competition, CODESPRINT on Thursday 21st April 2016.  Persons who have a working mobile app (either a prototype or one already on a mobile app store) will be asked to present to a panel of judges for the chance to win seed funding, prizes, and mentoring.

For more information, please contact CARIRI at 299-0210 ext 5048 or 309-8651 or via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The ability to solve real problems in the physical world is one of the key strengths of 3D printing i.e. reimagining manufacturing. 3D printing gives us the unlimited ability to design, test and engineer with hands on exposure to additive manufacturing, and gives us an advantage at the dawn of the next revolution in digital manufacturing. This contributes to their boldness for design, increasing their confidence and imagination.

Nearly every subject taught in school has a potential engagement, from STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Physics, Design, Art, Law, Ethics, Psychology and Anthropology as well as several other fields in which 3D Printers offer the ability to create solid physical models that can be used to develop “discipline-specific courses” for further education and a future in the next revolution of manufacturing.

If you combine students’ limitless potential with the disruptive technology that is 3D printing, then the result is a powerful combination that can create powerful learning environments in schools. 3D Printing empowers students to embrace innovative technology and allows them to reach new levels of thinking. The exploration of 3D printing, from design to production can open up new possibilities for learning activities.

Students love to explore and try new things, but many are afraid to try; they are scared of failure. 3D printing removes that fear; instead it embodies them with the confidence to venture into the unknown.  3D printing in education is unique compared to other technologies. The mindset of the student becomes one where it is okay to fail and encourages experimentation in their learning.

Combined with the Internet Of Things (IoT), students of today will have powerful tools to solve the problems of tomorrow. With the removal of failure as a fear, students will be able to reach new levels of thinking and problem solving.

3D printers are the perfect vehicle to transform traditional learning methods of, “knowledge through books” to one that encourages creative thought and discussion via hands on technology. The 3D printing technology method utilizes layer by layer of melted plastics to print actual 3D objects which gives it a “cool factor”. Throw in the ability to turn ideas into something tangible and you have technology that can serve an educational purpose.

Applications of 3D Printing: A new dimension in learning

  • Capture the interest of students - The younger students get bored with lots of text and reading, making information visible helps but when you truly want to keep students interested, you print it in 3 dimensions. 
  • Stimulate interaction during class - By using a 3D printer any class will instantly be transformed in an interactive learning experience. Print parts of a skeleton to use for a biology class or use it for prototyping in technique classes. 
  • Create tangible aids - Difficult concepts will not only be visible but also tangible. Anything you would normally draw out on the blackboard can now be explained through models that students can touch and investigate from any angle. This is something that a 2D drawing can’t do because you only have one view.
  • 3D printing can be used to connect science and technology because it encourages people to flesh out their ideas and potentially create the next cool widget; it also makes it easier to communicate one’s results to people outside one’s field of expertise.

Imagine a learning environment where engineers are talking with artists and creating new forms of knowledge. The end result is a new teaching model, where it’s about learning from one another to create a spark that can be fanned into a flame. It allows students to break out of the box and cross pollinate their ideas and beliefs in ways they normally could not, thereby unlocking human creativity both individually and collaboratively

The Caribbean Industrial Research Institute (CARIRI) was established with a mandate to enhance industrial capability and competitiveness, both locally and regionally, by providing a range of technical and technological support services, including applied technology, research and development. As such CARIRI’s core business is to provide technological solutions and advice, and to source, adapt, and develop technologies for new and existing industries.

With this model in mind CARIRI introduced the Centre for Enterprise Development (CED) which is aimed at facilitating Research, Development and Innovation through capacity building and fostering business creation and expansion through the provision of Incubation infrastructure. Housed at the CED is a 3D lab which educates on Rapid prototyping technology and 3D modeling while offering various services attached to the modeling process.

For more information on this service, please contact us at 299-0210 ext 5687 or 5048 or email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The Caribbean Industrial Research Institute (CARIRI) is a research and technological organization that is committed to the development of innovative ideas, products and services locally and regionally.  As part of CARIRI'S strategic thrust to more substantively contribute to the achievement of the national developmental goals of economic diversification and sustainability, the Institute has been turning its attention to capacity building for Innovation and Technology, recognizing that these are the primary drivers of international competitiveness and business growth. In this context, CARIRI has been taking a number of initiatives in the area of Research, Development and Innovation (RDI) aimed at strengthening and expansion of existing businesses, and fostering of new business creation.

One such initiative has involved the undertaking of in-house developmental work to formulate a water-based engine coolant for use in tropical environments, for which the Institute has received provisional patent approval in the USA. The need for such a product stemmed from the recognition that coolants currently available on the market are not specifically suited to tropical climates.

What is a Coolant?  According to Wikipedia, a coolant is a fluid which flows through or around a device to prevent the device from overheating, transferring the heat produced by the device to other devices that either use or dissipate it.

CARIRI’s Metallurgy department has been working astutely on formulating this water-based engine coolant for use in tropical environments and they have received patent approval.

Internal combustion engines (Diesel and Otto cycle engines) generate a considerable amount of heat, much of which has to be dissipated from the body of the engine itself into a cooling system. In most cases the cooling system consists of a coolant liquid circulating through a heat exchanger (radiator) which is fan cooled to dissipate the heat.

The use of water as an engine coolant causes problems especially in very cold climates where freezing temperatures can cause ice to form in the cooling system where it can damage radiators, connecting pipes and the engine block itself due to expansion. Water as a cooling medium is also not ideal under warm weather conditions as it may boil off or evaporate from cooling systems. Plain water as an engine coolant has an additional disadvantage in that water causes corrosion of engine components.

To overcome these problems, a number of chemicals have been used with and without water as engine coolants. The most common coolants are now water-based mixtures utilizing polyethylene glycol as an additive. Mixing polyethylene glycol with water slightly raises water’s boiling point but considerably reduces water’s freezing point. For example, a 1:1 mixture of water and glycol freezes at about minus 37 °C and the boiling point is slightly raise (105 °C).

Most modern coolants use 30-100 percent ethylene glycol or propylene glycol with water. However these mixtures cause corrosion of engine components. To remedy the corrosive properties of ethylene glycol and or propylene glycol water-based coolants, modern coolants include various types of corrosion inhibitors.

The use of glycol-based anti-freezes in tropical climates has significant disadvantages. Glycols reduce water’s ability to dissipate heat. Thermal conductivity of glycols is about 50% lower than water. Glycols also promote scale formation on the surface of radiators which adversely affects the performance of engines. At high temperatures, glycols decompose to form organic acids which adversely affect metals resulting in leakage of radiators.

Another prominent disadvantage of Glycols is the health effects because it is a poisonous substance. Ethylene glycols are sweet in odour and taste and attract animals and children. Thousands of cases of accidental ingestion of coolants by children and concomitant fatal injuries occur each year.  As a further disadvantage, Ethylene glycol and other glycols are non-biodegradable. Entry of ethylene glycol and other glycols into the environment (i.e. rivers, lakes, streams, and seas) poisons fish and other aquatic life.

CARIRI’s invention provides a water-based coolant for warm climates that overcomes many of the disadvantages listed above. The invention is a non-toxic coolant with high thermal conductivity and elevated boiling point that incorporates corrosion inhibitors to prevent corrosion of engine components. CARIRI is proud to be the first to receive a patent for a coolant which incorporates eco-friendly additives such as Aloe-Vera.

A feature of the invention is the combination of dissolved corrosion inhibitors and hygroscopic substances in anti-boil fluids. An advantage of the invention is that the combination prevents corrosion of the cooling system of an engine while simultaneously preventing evaporation i.e. loss of water from the coolant. Another advantage of the invention is that the hygroscopic substances impart a longer shelf life to the invented coolant and increase time between coolant fill ups saving you the consumer both time and money!

If you have more questions about this coolant, then please contact the Metallurgy Unit at 299-0210 ext 5687 or 310-4529 or email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.