Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : July 11th 2013 Contents BG8 | NEWS
BUSINESS GUARDIAN www.guardian.co.tt JULY 2013 • WEEK TWO
Adoubles vendor has invented
a machine to make the skins.
Kathleen Bethel of B s Ice-
cream worked on production
innovation to expand her
Those are but two types of businesses in
which the Caribbean Industrial Research Insti-
tute (Cariri) has worked with to get businesses
Of Cariri s relationship with B s Ice-cream,
its chief executive officer Liaquat Ali Shah
said, "That was an ICT intervention."
In a July 4 interview at Cariri s University
of the West Indies offices, Shah spoke of the
launch of its Freeport-based Centre for Enter-
prise Development (CED) in June as part of
Cariri s efforts to "find a fit under the umbrella
Asked why it was based in Freeport, Shah
said that s where land was available. The centre
was built on 1.8 acres. The sod was turned in
June 2012 and was launched in June 2013.
Construction cost was $20 million.
"Inside of the words Centre for Enterprise
Development is a living concept, " Shah said.
"Cariri, as a research and technological organ-
isation (RTO), is not unique in this way. There
are many agencies in T&T in existence for
30-40 years, doing snippets of work, but Cariri
has been evolving."
The CED is part of that evolution.
The centre houses four components:
1. Business incubator
Shah said the business incubator aims to
take in two kinds of tenants: tenants and vir-
"It houses five tenants and seven virtuals
of people who are in business and now need
to build on it. With that, we have locked into
alliances. For example, the American Chamber
of Commerce T&T has agreed to be in alliance
with us to provide the necessary types of men-
"We find some of the small and medium
enterprises (SMEs)---and Cariri has been dealing
with them for 42 years---focus on the T&T
market, but they don t go extra-T&T and think
of the global arena.
"With all this Internet and telecommuni-
cations, the world can be the playground,"
Shah said. "You have to groom them to go to
2. Innovation incubator
"I m taking the word incubator and putting
it into its different components, all related to
the small and medium sector, but action ori-
The innovation incubator provides a base:
"Any Tom, Dick or Harrylal with an idea
right now has very few places to go in this
country, if anywhere, to even discuss the idea.
I m not saying every idea will necessarily be
accepted and developed, but at least you have
a place to come and discuss. And we are recep-
"We never say something s a silly idea,"
Shah said. "We say it s probably an idea whose
time has not come. Not every idea ends up
as something to be implemented."
Shah said Cariri is not a financier of ideas
and projects, but will advise.
He said the Government has set up, through
the Competitiveness and Innovation Council
within the Ministry of Planning and Sustainable
Development an I2I---innovation to imple-
He said it was announced a year ago and
2013 applicants are being processed. Through
this grant programme, anyone with promising
commercial ideas can apply for consideration
and are evaluated. Funding ranges between
$50,000 and $150,000.
Shah said the grant is intended that one
can take an idea and go onto proof of principle:
develop a design, a machine or an app.
"Cariri has been managing the programme
for these recipients from last year in which
we are taking them up to proof of principle,"
"Our task is two-fold: say, if someone has
come up with an app, we d have to see if they
have the necessary hardware and software.
There are steps to proving it can work. For
each step, Cariri will provide the terms of ref-
erence with the recipient and then send them
to possible service providers."
He said the grant money is not given in a
lump sum, but quotations are evaluated and
recommendations are made. The National
Entrepreneurship Development Company Ltd
(Nedco) manages the fund.
"Cariri issues a letter to Nedco saying X
want $10,000 of their grant, this makes sense,
so we recommend it. They release the cheque
in the name of the person, it comes to us, and
we give it to them. Somewhere along the line,
they would have learnt the proof of princi-
"There is a guy who has designed a concept
of garbage disposal. His idea is that in resi-
dential areas, garbage bins placed outside their
home look untidy, so he has designed some-
thing that fits into the wall. Right now, we
are in the prototype stage. We are assessing
He said an average of five people approach
Cariri monthly with ideas.
"Not just ideas; they come to do projects.
Some of them are under confidential cover,
even the idea, but I can tell you they can be
food-based, related matters. They may be pro-
ducing something and want quality upgrade,
shelf life increase.
"For instance, if you re producing a food
product and you have to state on packaging
what date it is to be used by, that s the shelf
life. You find it s not developed for the shelf
life, most times it would be the result of food
safety, good manufacturing practices. We will
go in and see what is causing the reduced
shelf life," Shah said.
When this grant is finished, where do they
go?"They would have had a proof of principle,
they are better equipped to do their business
plans. They have to go back to financial houses.
We re looking for those people coming off the
streets to see if we can raise some private
sector funds to create what we call a "hatchery,"
so that these ideas, where worthwhile, for
those who did not fall under the I2I."
The centre also has a state-of-the-art 3D
"The latest thing now is 3D printing. You
take a drawing in 3D and the machine will
produce an example of the device."
Shah said these are services Cariri charges
for, but the I2I, they don t have to pay us
because we are contracted by the ministry.
He said the centre will also house the sec-
retariat for a project Cariri just earned from
the World Bank, a US$3.58 million grant Cariri
signed off on two weeks ago, aimed at the
creation of a climate control innovation centre
for the region.
"This project we are sharing with the Sci-
entific and Research Council in Jamaica, which
is another RTO. Since we are the principals
in the project, we will house that. It s all part
of the innovation incubator."
On the subject of innovation, Shah said:
"We at Cariri use a simple definition for inno-
vation---creativity implemented. Inventions
are not the only innovations. There s social
innovation. Process innovation.
"All these social programmes we have,
whether they are food cards or what, are
tremendous innovations. Once you start to
talk invention, there s a concept that everything
you come up with as an innovation must win
a Nobel Prize. If I say innovation is creativity
implemented, it is contextual."
3. Technology incubator
Shah explained how it works: "There are
ten bays in this incubator, each housing a dif-
ferent process. One is a guy who has researched
robots and he has robot kits. His name is Mark
Ramos. He is also a tenant in the business
He said one can be a tenant in the business
incubator for five years for a fee of $225,000
over five years to cover rent and other serv-
"We work out in each case the rent, and if
after two years, it doesn t make, you do not
owe us anything."
One of the Tekmania tenants is Market
Movers, which delivers to consumers fruits
and vegetables ordered online.
"There s a small scale cassava processing
plant. One doing garlic: simple technology,
the machine pegs, shells and minces the garlic,"
"As you scale up, add more equipment,
there s also value added. It makes more eco-
nomic sense. Also working on putting a plant
for mushrooms. We have the technology."
4. ICT centre/Tekmania
Shah said Tekmania also houses what is
called the M-Centre, which apps for mobile
phones can be developed.
"We have had discussions with Digicel and
Microsoft. We re not branding this as a Digicel
outlet, but there s a kind of an alliance. If you
have an app, that is, at the centre, we will
discuss with you under non-disclosure agree-
ments, then we would evaluate it. The centre
also has a lab and we bring in people from
outside to test the app.
"If that app has potential, you re going to
come into the M Centre, sit there, have people
guide you if you need further guidance, and
develop your app."
Cariri launches $20m
centre to push enterprise
Cariri chairman Hayden Ferreira, left, joins
Planning Minister Bhoe Tewarie, second from
right, chief executive officer Liaquat Ali Shah,
right, and Arlene McComie, permanent
secretary in the Planning Ministry, at the June
launch of the Centre for Enterprise
Development in Freeport.
PHOTO COURTESY CARIRI
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