Date: Thursday 28th July 2016

Venue: CARIRI’s Centre for Enterprise Development (CED), Innovation Avenue, Freeport

The Caribbean Industrial Research Institute’s (CARIRI’s) Idea Advisory Service (IAS) in collaboration with the Danish Technological Institute recently hosted an information session entitled, “Developing a Culture of Innovation in SMEs” at CARIRI’s Centre for Enterprise Development, Innovation Avenue, Freeport. This is part of the Institutes 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. The session was well attended by over 100 persons from diverse SMEs, various Chambers throughout the country as well as key stakeholders and movers and shakers in the manufacturing and services sectors.

CARIRI’s Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Liaquat Ali Shah in his opening remarks welcomed everyone to CARIRI’s Centre for Enterprise Development 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 say, “There is a widespread acceptance that we need to look towards diversification in our economy, based upon our non-energy sector and downstream energy based industries. But how much diversification is actually going on and what is the role of individual companies?”

Mr. Shah continued on saying, “One facet of diversification deals with innovation, which in today’s globalised and competitive environment has been termed as the most crucial element. The cry ‘differentiate or die’ echoes throughout the competitive world. It is against this background that we have been concentrating our efforts on Innovation Facilitation. Some of our programmes are the Idea Advisory Service, Business Hatchery, ICT Interventions and startup incubation. Our vision is that the Innovation Hub is at the core of a spider’s web and we network nationally, regionally and internationally to bring relevant resources as required which explains our partnership with the Danish Technological Institute (DTI).

He closed off stating, “Companies are not prioritizing innovation! It may be because they are making enough profits or because they do not understand or know how to make changes happen. Some may also feel it is too time consuming or too complicated. There are no shortages of brilliant ideas however there seems to be an issue with implementation or as in some cases they are risk averse”

Mrs. Melissa Birbal, Business Development Officer, CARIRI presented on CARIRI’s Idea Advisory Service which focuses on bringing innovative solutions to the market. Melissa impressed upon the audience, “Everyone has the ability to create innovative ideas regardless of your skill set or job level. Everyone encounters problems in their everyday lives either at work, school or home. Many persons have ideas but do not know how to move their ideas forward.” She went on to describe CARIRI’s IAS as, “a free initiative which encourages innovation and assists persons in taking their ideas to market.”  CARIRI’s staff has trained with the DTI who have been providing the service in Denmark for over 40 years and have tailored a model to meet the creative needs of the Caribbean.

Mrs. Birbal stressed that the IAS program allows inventors to have their ideas or inventions confidentially, independently and objectively assessed, anytime, all the time. The IAS team works closely with the Intellectual Property (IP) Office in assessing the novelty of the idea and advising which Intellectual Property tool will be most relevant in securing the idea. The IAS team works with the inventor to:

  • Identify and strengthen the benefits of your idea to the target market to determine exactly what makes your idea different to what already exists
  • Evaluate market demand and establish proof of business of the idea
  • Assist in the development of market research surveys to assess the market
  • Provide assistance in the development of a demonstration model or pretotypes through drawings or 3D printing

Once proof of business for the idea has been established there are two pathways to commercialization. The first is licensing where they can identify and network with potential licensees of your idea on your behalf and negotiate licensing agreements. Licensing enables inventors to exploit the expertise of an existing company in terms of market experience, distribution channels and manufacturing to commercialize your ideas. The second pathway is a business start up which is offered by CARIRI’s Business Hatchery.

Mrs. Sherese Chee Mook, Business Hatchery Coordinator, CARIRI expanded on the Business Hatchery in her presentation where she described the service as, “Building Better Businesses.” Based on 3 month programme duration, thus far the CARIRI Business Hatchery has completed 7 cohorts over an 18 month period which provided support to over 50 businesses. The CARIRI Business Hatchery constitutes a unique environment in which hi-tech entrepreneurs, world-class business people, academics, researchers, venture capitalists and people with ideas can meet, network and grow. It caters for all persons with a passion to succeed with their start ups and who want to pursue entrepreneurship.

The objectives are to prepare clients for active business, produce sustainable businesses and foster a community of entrepreneurs. Mrs. Chee Mook explained that Business Hatchery program is for, “Early stage entrepreneurs who want to set their business on a pathway to success and acquire fundamental tools to provide marketability.” The Business Hatchery is a robust 5 module curriculum that provides the following services:

  • Customer validation
  • Market research
  • Accounting and finance
  • Business model
  • Pitch development
  • One on one business coaching
  • Robust curriculum
  • Alumni;  Peer circles and mentors

A programme such as this Mrs. Chee Mooke estimates can run to over $15,000 however CARIRI offers their 13 week programme at only $3,000. The Business Hatchery start-ups have come from diverse backgrounds such as Food and Beverage, Beauty, Fashion, Environmental, Education, Entertainment and even Accounting Solutions. Some of the past participants have described the Business Hatchery as “the most down to earth learning experience in Trinidad and Tobago and having my head dunked in cold water.”

Mrs. Chee Mooke closed off by saying the Vision of the Business Hatchery is, “To be Trinidad and Tobago’s premier platform for business start-ups, in building a community of entrepreneurs who go on to discover and innovate sustainable solutions that improve lives, connect people and stimulate change.”

Participants also gained insights from Dr. Erik Hallgren, Senior Consultant in Innovation at the Danish Technological Institute (DTI) on “Developing a culture of innovation in SMEs” which encompasses the implementation of innovation check-ups in SMEs and implementation of training activities for innovation agents. Dr. Hallgren has over ten years experience in facilitation and development of innovation processes in SME’s, model building in research projects on service innovation and innovation support.

Dr. Hallgren outlined the Innovation Audit Programme which is intended to 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; which entails institutionalizing Innovation, an art that needs to be learned, practiced and experienced, as a continuous business activity. With depressed energy sector prices projected to continue over the medium term, the country has little choice but to harness and exploit its abundant creative potential.

Dr. Hallgren advised persons to go out there and expand your markets, because if you don’t you can guarantee that the foreign markets will come to you. He warned participants against becoming the 3 blind mice of business which are Kodak, typewriter and Motorola. This scenario can happen to anyone who does not ask the question, “How can I be better? How can I make my business better? Remember, Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” He went on to ask the question the audience, “Who could have predicted the internet? Open innovation and more so disruptive technologies are becoming the norm. The extinction of manual jobs is soon upon us.” Dr. Hallgren closed off his presentation with these parting words, “Let your ideas breathe, a lot of innovation is based on your mindset.”

The session also included a riveting panel discussion which featured Mr. Liaquat Ali Shah, Chief Executive Officer, CARIRI; Mr. Erik Hallgren, Senior Consultant in Innovation at the Danish Technological Institute (DTI) and Ms. Georgina Terry, Managing Director, BPD Associates Limited each giving their own perspective on “Mobilization of Innovation in SMEs.”

Ms. Terry gave important insights into the cultural struggles faced by companies who are trying to implement innovation and may be facing resistance from employees. She describes Trinidad and Tobago as extremely innovative and full of ideas as evidenced by steel pan, doubles etc. She advises that fear stops us from fully realizing our potential i.e. fear someone will steal your idea, fear you will fail. She also says that there are so many companies doing similar things but what sets you apart is your perseverance and your determination to succeed. Her advice to everyone was to have a clear vision in your mind, have a proper plan and take steps each day to move forward.

CARIRI and CED continues to remind the public about its diversity and innovation not only in scientific research but also entrepreneurial development for example the Business Hatchery program and the IAS (Idea Advisory Service) just to name a few. CARIRI is not only about general research rather it is about applied research.

For more information on our Idea Advisory Service and the CARIRI Business Hatchery you can contact them at:

CARIRI’s Centre for Enterprise Development,
Innovation Avenue, Freeport
Tel: (868) 299-0210 ext. 2661
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. / This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Dr. Erik Hallgren, Senior Consultant in Innovation at the Danish Technological Institute during his presentation 

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(L-R) Dr. Erik Hallgren, Senior Consultant in Innovation at the Danish Technological Institute (DTI), Ms. Georgina Terry, Managing Director, BPD Associates Ltd. Mr. Liaquat Ali Shah, Chief Executive Officer, CARIRI.

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Side shot of the audience 

On Wednesday 3rd August, 2016, CARIRI and the Engineering Institute of The University of the West Indies signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which will see greater collaboration between the two institutions.  The general intent of both parties is to cooperate in the areas of Research, Development and Innovation (RDI), Entrepreneurship Development and Commercialisation. 

The primary focus of the MOU will be on collaboration in the areas of design, manufacture, calibration and marketing of electronic/precision engineered products/instruments and the establishment of joint training and entrepreneurship development initiatives. 

Signing the MOU on behalf of the Engineering Institute was the Manager, Professor Clement Imbert. Representing CARIRI was Mr Liaquat Ali Shah, Chief Executive Officer.  While acknowledging the new challenges that lay before their respective organizations, both men were looking forward to the collaborative efforts that will see real benefit accruing to the institutions and, by extension, Trinidad and Tobago and the wider Caribbean region. 

Both CARIRI and the Engineering Institute have highly trained staff and modern, well equipped facilities which will see more ground breaking ideas and inventions coming to the forefront as the partnership takes effect.

CARIRI has established an Idea Advisory Service (IAS) over the last year, which is a free service offered to the general public. It provides an avenue for persons with innovative ideas to submit these ideas for screening, via a portal on the Institute's website, with a view to determining novelty and market validation, as well as proof of business. The IAS has been gaining traction over the last few months and the signing of this MOU with the Engineering Institute aligns with CARIRI’s ongoing, strategic thrust of facilitating Innovation, ie. Creativity Being Implemented, as a means of increasing substantively its contribution to economic diversification. 

For over 40 years, CARIRI’s modern laboratories with state-of-the-art equipment, together with its highly trained specialist professionals, technologists, technicians, consultants and researchers, have been helping local and Caribbean enterprises, encompassing large and MSMEs, to grow and develop while ensuring that the environment is adequately safeguarded.

CARIRI’s focus, as far as R&D is concerned, is primarily on applied research and, with the signing of this MOU, a new world of possibilities opens up to translate developmental work into commercial opportunities.  

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Signing of the MOU

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l-r: Chief Executive Officer of CARIRI, Mr Liaquat Ali Shah and Manager of the Engineering Institute of the University of the West Indies, Professor Clement Imbert

On July 16th 2016, a diverse group of entrepreneurs and business start-ups completed the CARIRI Business Hatchery Programme. The graduates all agreed that the knowledge gained from the programme will enhance the viability of their respective businesses.  They also expressed that they had a clear vision of their next steps and how to move their businesses forward.

One graduate, Ms. Colleen Cameron who is the owner of Caribbean Concoctions described her journey from where she was, before she enrolled into the programme to where she is now:  “I ran a hectic, but not very profitable business.  I wanted to take my business to the next level.  Is this business really viable?  I signed up for the three (3) month programme and through its intensive market research fundamentals, mentorship and coaching I now have a clear vision to where and how to take my business forward.”  She also mentioned that her next step will be exploring exporting possibilities, new packaging and product development.

A number of graduates showed similar interest in the areas of: packaging, product development and getting into export markets.  CARIRI through its innovation have already designed a complementary programme: “The CARIRI Business Hatchery Food and Beverage Programme” to address these specific areas and it is currently scheduled to start as early as October 2016.

Present at the graduation was CARIRI’s Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Liaquat Ali Shah. In his address he encouraged the graduates: “I would like to see each and every graduate continue their journey towards building better businesses. Aim for the stars and even if you did not achieve your goal on the first attempt, the true test is to pick up and try until you succeed.  Execution of business ideas and initiatives is a function of time and it is important as entrepreneurs to differentiate their products and services and through this innovation is how they will be able to impact the business world.  Service Quality is a key element in the formula for sustainability”.  Mr. Shah reminded graduates that the overall objective of the Centre of Enterprise Development (CED) is to create opportunities for Entrepreneurs.


First row – Ms Melissa Birbal, Business Development Officer, CARIRI;  Ms. Regina King, King’s Specialty; Ms. Maria Seecharan, Maria's Taste Delights; Mrs. Nigel Jordan, Twigs Naturals; Ms. Lisa Benjamin, Intervention Strategies.  Second row- Ms. Colleen Cameron, Caribbean Concoctions; Mr. Arnold Babwah, BH Programme Consultant; Mr. Ashley Mitchell Programme Consultant; Ms.Celise Patrick Alfred – TBA; Mr Liaquat Ali- Shah, Chief Executive Officer, CARIRI.

Congratulation to the graduates of Cycle 6 CARIRI’s Business Hatchery Programme!

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On Thursday 7th July 2016, the Caribbean Industrial Research Institute (CARIRI) launched a new initiative, an Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Help Desk for Micro Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (MSMEs) called CARISupport. 

Born out of an InterAmerican Development Bank (IDB) project that CARIRI has been executing for the past four years which involved MSMEs, CARIRI saw the need to provide a service such as this.  The overall objective of the IDB project was to improve the business performance and competitiveness of small businesses in the target sectors of Food and Beverage and Printing, Plastics and Packaging initially, and was later expanded to include virtually all sectors in the country.

After working with various MSMEs over the last few years, CARIRI recognized that there was a need to offer practical support and advice to these businesses, hence the creation of this Helpdesk.

CARIRI’s CARISupport is a one of a kind helpdesk meant to provide quality ICT support to MSMEs that do not have full access to an in-house team that is skilled or experienced in ICT.  ICT can be challenging for those who do not have that expertise or the time or finances to invest in this particular area.  This is where CARISupport sees itself making a difference by providing the necessary proficiency to support these MSMEs so that they can concentrate on growing their businesses by using technology. 

In a global economy, the only way to effectively compete is to use the technology that is available to extend your brand nationally, regionally and internationally.  CARIRI believes that the MSMEs in the country have a lot of potential to reach a larger audience with the proper use of ICT.     

CARISupport is an outsourced facility that will provide unlimited support with quarterly maintenance checks and on-call services for MSMEs that recognize the importance of staying up to date with the latest technologies or for those businesses that just need the support of experts but do not necessarily want to hire full time staff. 

An integral part of CARIRI’s mandate is to enhance business capability and competitiveness by providing a range of technical and technology-based support services to a number of organizations. 

CARISupport offers a flexible subscription to MSMEs, and some of the features include: ICT support (telesupport), callouts where the CARIRI staff would visit to determine the issue if it cannot be solved remotely and a live chat to help you with your issues. 

There are various packages that are being offered so that the MSME can pick the one that is most convenient and affordable to them. 

CARISupport is Your IT Solution Provider, contact us today at 299-0209 ext 2680 or email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and find out how we can help you grow your business with ICT.