In this week’s article of the series, ‘Shaping the Future of Innovation’, we will discuss the role that Government and policy play, in the quest to develop and drive innovation within Trinidad and Tobago. To recap, innovation is about developing new ways of doing things, this will include new products or new services that add value to society. The key words here are “adding value”, and for our economy, innovation is at the heart of issues such as competitive advantage, increased productivity and economic progress. It is the transformation of new ideas or services into solutions that can be used either for economic benefit or social benefit.
This economic and social benefit are key ingredients towards diversification. The word diversification is frequently used by several stakeholders in recent times, especially as we are faced with increased challenges due to the pandemic. But what does diversification really mean? What does diversification have to do with innovation? The simply answer to this question is that diversification refers to the process of creating a broader assortment of skills, products, interests, services, etc. in order to solve problems, grow the economy or reduce risks. Therefore, in order to effectively diversify an economy such as ours, innovation becomes a vital tool.
To bridge the gap between achieving diversification through innovation, the Government has engaged in numerous initiatives to promote innovation in Trinidad and Tobago. These investments began with numerous studies by the Ministry of Planning and Development, independent consultants and academic institutions. These studies gave us real insights into what is required locally to promote innovative activity and where the gaps are based on what currently exists. This ultimately lead to the Ministry of Planning and Development establishing Trinidad and Tobago’s first National Policy on Innovation. This was a major step in Government fulfilling the pledge made in Trinidad and Tobago’s National Development Strategy, Vision 2030, to “create a business environment that is conducive to entrepreneurship and innovation”.
Innovation is also at the heart of building and maintaining a sustainable society. This theory is demonstrated on a global scale, as innovation is the 9th Sustainable Development Goal (SDG), set out by the United Nations. As stated in our COVID-19 Roadmap to Recovery Report, “Restructuring and transforming towards a stronger, more resilient, economy in which equity, inclusiveness and self-sufficiency for all, are the cornerstones of a new society.” One significant contributor to enhanced competitiveness is a private sector filled with highly productive, innovative and sophisticated firms. To achieve such, the following must be implemented:
- Sound (R&D) infrastructure including the right human capital;
- public support for private sector innovation investment;
- coordination among key actors in the system (such as businesses and researchers); and
- deliberate interventions aimed at improving the business sector’s capacity to absorb technology
Our state agencies have also been playing their part, the Caribbean Industrial Research Institute (CARIRI) for instance, has been blazing the trail in providing hands on support to our young innovators and the business community who are actively engaged in innovation. Through strategic local and international partnerships, CARIRI has for a number of years been providing training and other forms of support to entrepreneurs, including guidance on how to access funding, all with the aim of promoting innovative activity at their. Government has also through the National Entrepreneurship Development Company (NEDCO) been affording innovators access to funding to assist in taking their new products and ideas to market.
As such, the Government of Trinidad and Tobago, through the Ministry of Planning and Development, has partnered with the European Union (EU), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB and the Caribbean Industrial Research Institute (CARIRI), to support our achievement of SDG 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure, by offering entrepreneurs, students and business leaders, grants and technical assistance, to transform their innovative ideas into products and services that add value to the society at large.
To learn more about the ‘Shaping the Future of Innovation’ initiative, visit