Established in 1970 with technical and financial assistance from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the Caribbean Industrial Research Institute (CARIRI), which is a State-owned entity, has developed a reputation in the region as a multifaceted Institution providing services in the areas of Laboratory and Field Testing, Consulting, Research and Development, Training and Innovation.
Since its establishment, CARIRI has evolved over the years into a widely recognized Centre of Excellence, leading and serving, both the local and regional public and private sectors, through innovation and technology. In this regard, it is considered in many quarters as a valuable Caribbean asset.
Housing state-of-the-art equipment, complemented by experienced and knowledgeable staff, CARIRI is highly capable of serving a wide range of industries; which includes the petrochemical, biotechnology, environmental, manufacturing, agri-business, tourism and ICT sectors, among others.
The Centre for Enterprise Development (CED) is a flagship development of CARIRI aimed at facilitating Research, Development and Innovation capacity building and fostering business creation and expansion through the Incubation process. It is what can be deemed a central node in the Innovation Ecosystem since it provides the space, both virtual and physical, for thoughts, ideas and inventions to be transformed into products and services. It 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.
The CED houses a Business Hatchery which hosts a series of workshops for budding and growing entrepreneurs over a duration of three (3) months. The Business Hatchery works with early stage entrepreneurs helping them to further develop their project initiatives, which entails, in a number of instances, advancing from proof of concept to proof of business over the three months. Cycle #8 is carded to commence on the 14th January, 2017.
After the Business Hatchery, graduates can choose to branch off on their own or go into the next phase of CARIRI’s support network in the form of a Business Incubator which caters for both in-house (providing a space for business owners to conduct their work from a set location) and virtual tenants. The Business Incubator takes place over a 12-month period and clients, referred to as “Incubatees”, have access to technical and business support supplied from a pool of highly qualified consultants and specialist mentors in relevant fields of expertise. Through a comprehensive support base, clients can access a network of national, regional and international experts and skilled human resources.
CARIRI also houses a mobile applications lab, referred to as mCentre. mCentre is the only mobile applications development and testing laboratory and accelerator in the region which incubates high potential mobile app projects. The lab provides world class business and technical training to individuals in mobile application development, and entrepreneurship, across all platforms, viz. Android, iOS, Blackberry and Windows. Always looking for new and exciting ways to promote app development, CARIRI’s mCentre is involved in the Caribbean Mobile Innovation Project (CMIP), which is a regional mobile app development programme designed to promote this sector within the Caribbean region. The CMIP provides hands-on training, skills-building and mentorship to developers from across the region, as well as access to investors. There are currently hubs in six Caribbean countries which ensure start-ups across the region benefit fully from the Programme.
Also housed in the CED compound is the Microsoft Innovation Centre (MIC). CARIRI and Microsoft Trinidad and Tobago have partnered to establish the MIC in Trinidad, with the potential to establish links throughout the Caribbean. This facility was established with the primary objective of contributing to the diversification of the country’s economy through the development of a local software industry, thereby fostering new business creation and strengthening existing SMEs in specific industry verticals.
CARIRI also has a 3D Printing Laboratory at the CED. The 3D Lab serves to promote, and facilitate access to, rapid prototyping technology and 3D modeling services. The Lab affords the opportunity to demonstrate the innovative capabilities of the machinery and software.
A Technology Incubator is also housed at the CED. This consists of partitioned bays that house food processing equipment for demonstration of different process lines. Each process line can be licensed to suitable investors under a Technology Package. The Technology Package includes, but is not limited to, product formulation, plant layout, equipment specifications, potential equipment suppliers, packaging specifications, profitability analysis, etc. At present, some of the lines catered for at the facility are: Oyster Mushrooms (Currently Unavailable), Cassava based breakfast cereal (Cassola), Garlic and Soy.
One of the newest additions to the CED’s activity base is the Idea Advisory Service (IAS). The IAS is a Programme implemented by CARIRI with technical support from the Danish Technological Institute (DTI). It is modeled along the lines of the DTI’s Inventor Advisory Service (IAS). DTI has been providing this service in Denmark in excess of forty years. Many great ideas are not commercialized because of a disconnect between the idea, what the market wants and how the product or service is evaluated by the market. The Idea Advisory Service seeks to close this gap by working with ideators/inventors to establish novelty and market validation, as well as proof of business. Once proof of business has been established, there are two available pathways to commercialization, i.e. via business start-up or licensing. Under the IAS, CARIRI is committed to assisting the potential entrepreneurs in pursuing either of the pathways.
CARIRI has been able to establish the link with DTI through its membership in the World Association of Industrial and Technological Research Organizations (WAITRO) which is headquartered in Malaysia. CARIRI is a founding member of WAITRO and its Chief Executive Officer currently holds the position of Second Vice President of the Association. Membership in WAITRO affords CARIRI access to the technical know-how, experience and breakthrough research of over 160 Research and Technology Organisations (RTOs) from over 70 countries.
As a follow up to the establishment of the IAS, CARIRI, recognizing the critical need to contribute to fostering Innovation capacity building in the private sector, as an integral part of its Innovation Facilitation thrust, is in the process of implementing an Innovation Gap Analysis Programme (IGAP). The Programme, which entails reaching out to companies to assist them in developing/implementing innovative project initiatives, is being effected with additional support from the DTI. In this regard, select members of CARIRI’s staff are being trained to go out into companies; ascertain the status of innovation activity; undertake gap analyses; identify and shortlist interventions, in collaboration with the company’s senior management personnel; and assist the companies in implementing the identified innovation interventions in their organizations. Thus far, research conducted has shown that a sizeable number of companies are interested in accessing the service, with some of them having plans to implement innovative project activity. This notwithstanding, a number of companies are constrained in so doing, in terms of resource accessibility and mobilization; and this is where CARIRI is seeking to bridge the gap.
Overall, CARIRI has been affording priority to enhancing its contribution to economic diversification and, through its close involvement with the private sector, can be a model for public-private partnership. By focusing its efforts on Innovation Facilitation, CARIRI is leading the way in effecting technological advancement and economic transformation and thus fulfilling the role of a central node in the Innovation Ecosystem; a role that will redound to the benefit of the citizens and businesses of Trinidad and Tobago and, by extension, the entire Caribbean region.