This was the theme of the Caribbean Industrial Research Institute's (CARIRI's) mega Conference entitled Innovating with Emerging Technology which was held on Wednesday 18th April at the Hyatt Regency Trinidad.
Chief Executive Officer of CARIRI, Mr Liaquat Ali Shah, gave the Opening remarks and stated 'As part of our strategic approach, we are seeking to contribute to the building of capacity for Innovation on a national scale and position the Institute as a Focal Point for Innovation and Technology, not just nationally, but in the region as a whole. In this context, we have recognized, based on past experience, the imperative of instituting the appropriate infrastructure to develop the areas of Innovation and ICT, as part of our capacity building efforts. Our approach, I should hasten to add, takes cognizance of the importance of establishing a platform for sustainable economic transformation over the medium to long term, as an integral part of the diversification thrust.'
The sold out event saw the Minister of Trade and Industry, the Honorable Paula Gopee Scoon deliver the Feature Address in which she reiterated the government's commitment to diversify the economy, and this includes strengthening the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector.
As part of the thrust to include technology in every aspect of our lives, and to showcase how small the world has become with this technology, CARIRI was able to set up a live stream to the Embassy in Washington D.C., U.S.A. for members of the Diaspora. Additionally, His Excellency Brigadier General (Ret'd) Anthony Phillips-Spencer, Ambassador of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago brought greetings to the audience here in Trinidad.
CARIRI was able to secure internationally recognized speakers in various areas of the 4th Industrial Revolution and the day started off with a bang as Professor Anthony Clayton of UWI Mona, Jamaica was able to speak in depth about Artificial Intelligence and Robotics. Right after this, Mr Nelson Mac Quhae, Chief Technical Officer at Microsoft LATAM spoke about the Internet of Things and how we can expect to communicate in the future. The Intellectual Property Office of Trinidad and Tobago then presented on the role of intellectual property in the future.
Ms Thelma Britton, the Senior Operations and Logistics Manager for Panama and the Caribbean of UBER gave wonderful insight into the operations of her company in T&T and the Caribbean and then was able to speak to the future of urban mobility. Daniel Poliquin of IBM Corporation in Canada discussed at length smarter cities and how we can go about shaping the region. Marla Dukharan, Caribbean Economist brought home the point of e-Government and Digital settlement networks and the day wrapped up with Dave Landry, co-founder of Datawheel which is a spin off of MIT, Boston.
After such a full day, participants were well informed and had the chance to interact with the speakers via an application in which they could ask their questions via their mobile devices, once again incorporating technology into the Conference.
Our region stands on the threshold of a technological revolution that will essentially alter the way we live, work, and relate to one another. In its scale, scope, and complexity, this transformation, which has been taking place for a while, will be unlike anything that we have experienced before. Although we do not yet know just how it will unfold, one thing is clear: our response to it must be integrated and all-inclusive, involving all stakeholders from the public and private sectors to academia and civil society.
Cognizant of the anticipated transformative impact of this technological development, and mindful of the need for an integrated and all-inclusive response, involving all stakeholders from the public and private sectors, as well as academia and civil society, CARIRI wanted to bring the spotlight to bear on this potentially disruptive development. At the end of the Conference, it is clear that CARIRI was able to achieve its goal.
The Caribbean Industrial Research Institute (CARIRI), in collaboration with Kidavo Creations, celebrated World Book Day 2018 on Monday 23rd April 2018 with the launch of "My Tropical ABCs" at its Centre for Enterprise Development (CED), Innovation Avenue, Freeport. One facet of the Centre is the Idea Advisory Service (IAS) which is an initiative geared towards assisting persons with taking their idea to market.
CARIRI's IAS forms part of the Institute's thrust to build capacity for Innovation on a national scale, and thereby contribute more substantively to the achievement of Government's stated developmental goal of economic diversification. Misty Hamid, owner of Kidavo Creations and author of My Tropical ABCs, is one of CARIRI's prominent Idea Advisory Service clients.
My Tropical ABCs is a fun and innovative book designed to educate children on indigenous foods by matching the fruit names with letters of the alphabet. It is specially designed to reach young children at the early stages of language and reading development, and gives parents/guardians the opportunity to sit and spend quality time with their children who are attracted to easy-to-read books, with vivid colours and illustrations.
A survey of the current market revealed that there are no books designed to teach children about tropical fruits. Trinidad and Tobago's children are, for the most part, unfamiliar with the large variety of local flora and fauna available to them. My Tropical ABCs aims to instill a greater love and appreciation for our local culture through an educational medium that is appealing both to young people and adults.
The alphabet is the foundation of language and is essential for a child's growth and development. Researchers and educators agree that beginning readers experience more success in reading when they can associate letters to words within their familial environment. Educating the youth on our indigenous fruits is also an integral step towards promoting an "Eat Local, Support Local lifestyle."
The launch was well attended by persons from diverse backgrounds such as local bookstores, various Government Ministries and both primary and secondary schools. The launch kicked off with a pan rendition of the national anthem by Mr. Brian Benoit of Benoit Academy of Steel Pan.
CARIRI's Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Liaquat Ali Shah, in his opening remarks, welcomed everyone to CARIRI's CED which he described as a National Innovation Hub and a Regional Technology Transfer Centre which is the only one of its kind in the Caribbean. He went on to quote Michael Jordan's famous line "I believe I can fly" and encouraged attendees to believe in their dreams. He stated dreams act as the catalyst for innovation and change in this world and persons must hold strong and fast against detractors.
In closing, Mr. Shah challenged the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries to invest in providing plants and seedlings of the various local fruits featured in My Tropical ABCs. This exercise, he explained, would result in indigenous fruits with local names being made available to the local population and tourists; which is integral to promoting an "Eat Local, Support Local lifestyle. He commended Misty for her courage and the Ministry of Education for their support.
Honourable Senator, Avinash Singh, Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture Land and Fisheries (MALF) started off his remarks by commending Misty Hamid, the author of My Tropical ABCs, on creating a book that in his childhood would have been extremely helpful in his quest for learning about our local fruits and fueling his passion for Agriculture. He responded to Mr. Shah's challenge by agreeing that it is the responsibility of the MALF to bolster the efforts of the research division and increase the supply of information to the population.
Mr. Singh believes that, as in the case of the Steel Pan, My Tropical ABCs, which showcases our indigenous fruits, could become a hallmark of our country and that as a nation we should be proud to say we created this publication. He closed off by asking the representatives of the Ministry to work towards supplying every school in Trinidad and Tobago with a copy of My Tropical ABCs.
Ms. Karen Ramdahin- Nandaram, Curriculum Officer- Agricultural Science from the Ministry of Education in her feature address stated, "The launch of this book is a sign of maturity when we as a people can provide resource material that is nested in our Caribbean identity. I commend CARIRI for providing an avenue where persons can see their ideas or prototypes become income generating realities. The Idea Advisory Service is in sync with the Ministry's thrust towards innovation, creativity and idea generation, and is integral to stepping away from oil and gas to become an intellectual and knowledge based society. In closing, a wise man once told me while pointing to the library that all the knowledge is in there. I encourage everyone present here today to go read a book!"
Ms. Hamid spoke of her sons as her inspiration when teaching them their ABCs. She conveyed her dissatisfaction with teaching them "A for Apple" instead of one of our tropical fruits grown on our beautiful island. Misty spoke of hearing her inner voice saying, "Why don't you write a local ABC book?" She dismissed the idea at the time and said to herself, "What do I know about writing books?" The idea however was not done with Misty and over time she would start doodling or jotting ideas until one day she was introduced to the illustrator of her book, Jason Alfred, who began drafting sketches on which she would ask her children for feedback.
Eventually, she reached an impasse where she had this amazing idea but no clue of how to conceptualize and turn it into a reality. She came across a Facebook advertisement on CARIRI's Idea Advisory Service and decided to give them a call. She told the audience "Never be afraid or ashamed to ask for help. Don't feel as an entrepreneur that you have to make this journey alone! CARIRI's IAS Team has provided me with the tools to cultivate my idea and has shown me that entrepreneurship is a way of life. CARIRI's IAS Team is highly skilled and professional with a true passion for cultivating innovation and supporting ideas. Their network of connections has opened doors for me to connect with stakeholders such as the Intellectual Property Office (IPO), Ministry of Education and fellow entrepreneurs who have shared their journey and provided much needed support and guidance."
Misty's advice for entrepreneurs is, "Write down your idea so it moves from a thought to paper, connect with the right people and most importantly, pray. Don't allow yourself to get stuck in your comfort zone, push yourself beyond your limits and allow yourself to grow."
Ms. Melissa Bissoondath, Business Development Officer at CARIRI, spoke about Misty's journey with CARIRI and how the Idea Advisory Service assisted her through the following steps in making her dream a reality:
1. Submission of the idea to CARIRI in 2016, which was recognized for its innovativeness and potential based on the incorporation of color, spelling and syllabication, which, combined with the realistic illustration of the book, was testament to the novelty of the book.
2. After the novelty was determined, the market demand was evaluated and findings revealed that books are still considered to be the best method to educate children about tropical fruits and the majority of interviewees would support a book that educates children on tropical fruits.
3. The market research validated that there was a market demand and proof of business which allowed Misty to set up her business
4. An integral step was to ensure protect Misty's Intellectual Property. Ms. Steffi Mohammed, Trademarking Systems Specialist of the IP Office, in her presentation, explained how they worked with Misty in helping her with trademarking her logo, as well as copyrighting the book.
5. Developing a prototype in the form of a picture book which was refined through feedback from the Ministry of Education
6. Finally, Misty was ready to commercialize and turn her dream into the reality that is My Tropical ABCs
Melissa closed by saying, "Everyone has the ability to create innovative ideas regardless of their skill set or job level."
CARIRI would like to remind the public about its diverse service offerings, not only in the area of analytical services, but also in the areas of Research, Development and Innovation, with particular focus on its programme geared towards entrepreneurship development and business creation through its CED. The Idea Advisory Service represents one such programme.
If you have an idea and would like assistance from CARIRI's Idea Advisory Service, contact them at:
CARIRI's Centre for Enterprise Development
Innovation Avenue, Freeport
Tel: (868) 299-0210 ext. 2210
Honourable Senator, Avinash Singh, Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture Land and Fisheries during his remarks
Ms. Karen Ramdahin- Nandaram, Curriculum Officer- Agricultural Science from the Ministry of Education
Misty Hamid, Author of My Tropical ABCs signing copies for attendees