On Wednesday 3rd May at its flagship hub for innovation, the Centre for Enterprise Development in Freeport, the Caribbean Industrial Research Institute (CARIRI) launched one of its newest services for Innovation called the ‘Innovation Gap Analysis Programme’ (IGAP) which is aimed at fostering and encouraging innovation in Small and Medium sized Enterprises (SMEs).
Innovation is ‘Creativity Being Implemented’; this is CARIRI’s own definition and something that the Institute has continually been seeking new opportunities and avenues to encourage innovative thinking. As part of its ongoing thrust to build capacity for Innovation on a national scale, and thereby contribute more substantively to the achievement of Government's national goal of economic diversification, CARIRI has initiated the implementation of this programme.
IGAP is modeled along the lines of the Danish Technological Institute's (DTI's) Innovation Agent Programme (IAP) and is being implemented at CARIRI with consultancy support from the DTI, under a Collaboration Agreement between the Institutes.
This relationship with the DTI was formed due to CARIRI’s association and membership in the World Association of Industrial and Technological Research Organizations (WAITRO). There are over 150 members of WAITRO from around the world and CARIRI has been searching for partnerships that will benefit the country and the region, and this is just one of them.
The IGAP programme is intended to identify and engage potential innovations in existing companies and will also 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.
In this context, the IGAP would provide assistance at a number of levels, including:
- Facilitating co-operation with national, regional and international knowledge and Innovation systems,
- Helping companies gain access to knowledge, for instance, about new technologies and solutions that they were not aware of before and assisting them in applying that knowledge to strengthen their business and enhance competitiveness.
- Showing companies how to generate value for their business by investing in Innovation.
- Supporting companies, particularly SMEs, in thinking "out of the box", using their imagination, and being attentive to other factors playing a vital role in Innovation processes.
- Helping companies, both large and small, in undertaking Innovation activity by actually developing pretotypes/prototypes, initiating user test of new business ideas and accelerating quickly to market.
Dr Erik Hallgren, Senior Consultant in Innovation at DTI's Centre for Ideas and Innovation, who is quite knowledgeable and experienced in Facilitation and Development of Innovation Processes in SMEs, spoke at the session and captured the imagination of the audience on the innovation process. In his presentation, Dr Hallgren encouraged people to think beyond the box and get beyond the thought that we can’t compete with countries like China. He stressed that people in this country were very innovative and he had seen and heard of many ideas that, if commercialised, could become major players in the European market. He took the audience through the Danish innovation process and then attempted to show the linkage to T&T in the current economic environment. He then went on to further expound on the way forward for the programme and how we can use the IGAP as an essential tool in developing the innovation eco-system in private sector enterprises.
Chief Executive Officer of CARIRI, Mr Liaquat Ali Shah urged the audience to incorporate innovation in their daily lives and to not just treat the word innovation as another fad but to understand how it can catapult an SME into the global arena. Mr Shah has been an advocate of innovation and what can be achieved when this concept is applied. It is with this thinking that many of the SMEs that attended the session were able to sign up for a complimentary IGAP visit to their organization to start the process of implementing an innovative culture into their processes.