Camille Robinson-Regis, Minister of Planning and Development has announced that the Government has signed a Financing Agreement for a development aid programme “Support to a Competitive and Innovative Economy in Trinidad and Tobago”, with the European Union under the 11th European Development Fund (EDF) amounting to EUR 8 M (TTD 64 Million) of grant funding.
The initiative aims to support the building of an innovative and competitive economy in Trinidad and Tobago through diversification, in line with the National Innovation Policy 2017-2020, and is designed to drive economic growth and jobs in a socially and environmentally sustainable way. The Programme was developed through a partnership between the Ministry of Planning and Development, the European Union and the Inter-American Development Bank, with CARIRI as the key implementing partner.
Speaking during the recent budget 2020 debate in the Parliament, Minister Robinson-Regis stated: “This Innovation Programme is a key element in the fulfilment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which form the building blocks of the National Development Strategy, Vision 2030.” The Minister also emphasized that, “innovation forms one of eight medium term priorities of the Government for the period 2021 to 2025 in order to stimulate the economy and secure lives and livelihoods of our citizens.”
This grant resource will be made available to both the public and private sectors and will specifically target organizations that have developed, and are bringing, new and innovative products and services to the market. The grant will benefit the business sector by assisting those innovators who have developed a new product or service that is market ready and has the export potential necessary the generate foreign revenue.
The Minister stated that, “the Government is therefore seeking to monetize our innovative capacity as a nation by supporting those who are willing to invest in research and development necessary to create 21st century products with the ultimate goal of stimulating new economic opportunities.”
Mr Sanjin Soldatic, Charge d’Affaires at the EU Delegation to Trinidad and Tobago stated: The realization of this Programme is a testament to the strong partnership and close collaboration between the EU and Trinidad and Tobago as both parties have worked assiduously together to bring this very important programme to fruition. The funding for this initiative forms part of “Team Europe” – the global EU response to Covid-19 supporting partner countries, as the need to drive growth has become even more urgent now due to the impact of COVID-19. It is fortunate, therefore, that a main component of the Programme – the Innovation Challenge Fund – targets SMEs, the group that has been especially hard-hit. The EU is very happy to able to assist Trinidad and Tobago in its efforts to attain the next level of growth and development and we are very much look forward to seeing this Programme being rolled out in the coming months.”
The Programme will be open to both private and state organizations as well as Civil Society and will include three major components as follows:
1. Provision of grant financing and technical support to organizations seeking to innovate in the development of goods, services, business models and export market access.
This component will establish a competitive and demand-driven innovation challenge program targeting organizations that are seeking financing for innovation in products, services, channels, new markets and business models. Over 90 percent of the budget allocation for the Programme will be used for this initiative.
2. Closer applied collaboration between tertiary institutions and firms in developing innovative solutions for key operational and organizational challenges.
This component will to seek to forge closer ties between academia and private sector firms. The government of T&T has invested heavily in expanding access to tertiary education by providing financial support for undergraduate and graduate studies. However, the level of applied, commercially oriented R&D work between academic institutions and local firms remains low. Under this component, a program will be designed and piloted to link tertiary graduate students with local organizations to solve specific challenges and conduct applied research for innovation.
The pilot program will involve participation of the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT) and the University of the West Indies (UWI). Organizations wishing to secure support will be required to define and submit a specific challenge/scope of work that will be required, while technical backstopping and quality assurance will be provided by university faculty in collaboration and consultation with the partner organizations senior management. To ensure success, the pilot will start by engaging the faculties of UTT and UWI that are interested and open to participate and will define requirements of the student and the receiving organizations’ management.
3. Development of a network model to drive and sustain coordinated support for innovation, both during and beyond the duration of the proposed intervention.
This component will address the lack of local, regional and global networking and co-ordination to support innovation in T&T. It will build a network model linking local actors as well as external (regional and international) accelerators, incubators, academic institutions, venture capital funds and company builders to create an innovation network that can support continuity and expansion of the innovation thrust in T&T. This intervention was designed to strengthen the eco system by which innovators can access the support and linkages required for success.