Remarks at CARIRI’s Corporate Innovation Conference

Good Morning to you all. It is always a pleasure for me to be able to bring greetings on occasions where we celebrate as well as aim to enthuse our innovative and creative drive into the essence of what we do and who we are as citizens and residents of Trinidad and Tobago. In this regard, I commend the Board, Management and Staff of the Caribbean Industrial Research Institute, CARIRI, for your continued drive to be the centre of excellence, leading and serving through innovation and technology and your commitment to local and regional development.


The enhancements in global living standards over the last century have come about mainly through technological advances propelled by the application of knowledge to solve problems in food production, transportation, manufacturing, finance, technology, service delivery you name it. Innovation, from the beginning of time, stands as the key catalyst of economic growth and development.


The general thinking is that innovation is the implementation of a new or significantly improved product which can be a good or service, or a process, a new marketing method, or a new organisational method in business practices, workplace organisation or external relations. This definition emphasizes that ‘new’ means new to the firm or business and not necessarily new to the world. Imitation is therefore a form of innovation. Secondly, innovation is concerned with implementation and includes the steps- scientific, technological, marketing or organizational – that lead to the implementation of the new product, process, or method.


Innovation has evolved from the prehistoric creation of weapons to ward off prey or simply survive off the land within a particular geographic area or community. Innovation is one of the key elements of global competitiveness. In the modern era, countries use innovation to build upon existing advantages, develop new ones, enhance the capacity to adjust to changes and pivot to shape their future. Innovation also drives a knowledge society and sparks the entrepreneurial flame of its people.


Studies have shown that businesses utilising innovation to differentiate and create new products and services outperform their competitors in market share, profitability, growth and exports. Innovative businesses create more jobs and grow faster. Therefore while national physical and other resources are limited, imagination, creativity and talent are infinite.


Having recognized this, the government is laying the groundwork to leverage the innovation of our people, businesses, communities across the society in support of infusing innovation in Trinidad and Tobago’s diversification and economic transformation thrust.


  1. and Tobago’s National Development Strategy: Vision 2030, was developed in 2016 to provide the overarching development framework for our nation. The need to diversify our economy is recognised as a core goal in our development themes, specifically Theme Four, ‘Building Globally Competitive Businesses’. The second goal of this theme is to facilitate a vibrant business environment and support system leading to a diverse economy that is innovative, competitive and has the foundations and supports to encourage businesses and entrepreneurs to succeed and become more competitive both locally and internationally.


Today’s conference is a key testament to giving credence to this goal and I again commend CARIRI and you the participants for your willingness to support this initiative.


Having said all of this, one may ask, what is government doing to support innovation in Trinidad and Tobago?


We have committed to promote a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation through education and training. In this regard, labour skills assessments have been concluded as of 2022 in collaboration with UNICEF, for the Information Communication Technology Platforms and Services as well as the Energy Engineering Sub-Sectors of Trinidad and Tobago. We are putting things in place to conduct a similar assessment for the agricultural sector.


  1. resulting assessments, with their forecasted skills requirements and recommendations will form the basis for developing sector skills strategies, closing skills gaps and tackling skills shortages in Trinidad and Tobago. ensuing work to meet the demand for forecasted skills along with implementation of the proposed policy recommendations can lead to employment generation, enhanced productivity and general economic growth. In this regard, the skills assessments benefit the public and private sectors and by extension all of Trinidad and Tobago through a review of the educational and skills based approach to innovation.


Also keeping in this direction, the Government has engaged in numerous other localised studies through the Ministry of Planning and Development, engaging independent consultants and academic institutions which ultimately lead to the creation of Trinidad and Tobago’s Draft National Policy on Innovation which, as of 2020, we have been giving attention to revising.

  1. the body of work CARIRI has been accruing, it would be interesting to see an expansion of the Institute’s mandate to undertake the challenge of leading the development of Trinidad and Tobago’s innovation ecosystem.


CARIRI, as we all know, has been providing hands on support to our young innovators and the business community. Through strategic local and international partnerships, CARIRI has for a number of years facilitated training and other forms of support which include guidance to entrepreneurs on how to access funding, guidance for persons to take ideas to market, assessing ideas for market and numerous other business based services to support entrepreneurship in Trinidad and Tobago, in accordance with their mandate.


The Government also recognizes the efforts of the private sector in promoting innovative activity. We have seen numerous initiatives led by the private sector such as the innovation competition for secondary schools to teach, encourage and build an innovative and entrepreneurial mindset in our youth as well as provide opportunities for funding and support.


We all recognize the value of these activities and therefore support the acceleration of more initiatives that will benefit the innovation drive. According to the European Central Bank, One of the major benefits of innovation is its contribution to economic growth. In simple terms, innovation can lead to higher productivity, meaning that the same input generates a greater output. As productivity rises, more goods and services are produced and all of this leads to economic growth.

Citizens of Trinidad and Tobago have been gifted with creativity, from the invention of the steel pan, the only instrument invented in the 20th century, to the development of our festivals which some are importing across the globe, our music, food and even indigenous technology have the capacity to become global game changers.


Having said this, one of the main reasons for us being here today is to create an atmosphere where we can fully unleash that creative and innovative potential in ways that add value for our economy. If we can stimulate a high level of investments in innovations, then there is potential to generate greater levels of revenue, new employment opportunities and forex generation.


We know that a nation which makes investments in innovation today will be dominant in the global economy tomorrow.


So once again, compliments to all of the participants and drivers of this Corporate Innovation Conference. To our partner agency CARIRI, keep up the inspiring work and I wish everyone continued success in finding new paths to our desired destination.


Thank you all.