Facilitate innovation in a plantation | Local company

OUR government launched a US $ 10 million program last Friday to build an innovative and competitive economy through economic diversification. This program is in collaboration with the EU, IDB and CARIRI. The plan is to target identified gaps in the government’s innovation ecosystem, which include financial incentives, industry and academic linkages, and a network of key players who provide support to businesses.

The grant will be made available to the public and private sectors and will target organizations that have developed and brought to market new and innovative products and services, which have the export potential necessary to generate foreign currency income.

Thus, the government will support those who are ready to invest in R&D to create 21st century products with the ultimate goal of stimulating new economic opportunities. According to the Minister of Planning, the program will develop a network model to drive and maintain coordinated support for innovation, both during and after the proposed intervention. The Minister did not develop the structure of this network and how it should be supported beyond this intervention.

The competitive advantage today in the global market is indeed product / service differentiation and it is the result of innovation. However, innovation is a product of knowledge, of R&D, of invention and in particular of the use, as Klaus Schwab, the founder of the World Economic Forum, calls them, of the technologies of the fourth industrial revolution; these include artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of things, autonomous vehicles, 3D printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, materials science, energy storage, massive automation and the quantum computing – the digital revolution. Therefore, world-class competence in some of these areas and the ability to conduct relevant R&D, leading to innovation, are certainly the necessary preconditions for our staff if we are to break into the global market.

Hear Professor Emeritus Theodore Lewis: “The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) does not disturb us; we are comfortable in the third world where nothing is created … The government still offers CEPEP work to able-bodied young people, who are excluded from good schools – 50 people with a single lawnmower trying to mow the grass, it’s all over before 8 a.m. We need a new day … it is necessary to focus on education and literacy from the cradle. “

Indeed, an education, which takes us with confidence in the 4IRs is required. But history has left its debilitating mark on us, on the potential entrepreneurs of our country and therefore on general education in all school curricula, although it is necessary for us to participate in this economy it is not enough to do of us innovators able to compete in the global economy.

Our initiative to get us out of the economy based on oil plantations in which we exist on the rents left by foreign investors, requires a more structural approach than that announced by the Minister for the use of the 10 million US dollars in association with the EU and the IDB.

I have constantly quoted Professor John Foster’s commentary on the rigidity and therefore the non-adaptability of the current players in on-shore plantations, imposed on them by their economic history of being generally rent-seekers who use the rents left by oil exploitation. resource, in which the low-risk tasks of importing, upgrading and selling and the production of non-tradable goods constitute the predominant activity of these entrepreneurs.

While some may speak of the need to export, it is not enough to simply say that we will go into manufacturing or agriculture for export or even import substitution when we do not have the advanced skills or l infrastructure required in the 4IR to be competitive on a global scale. It is therefore futile for this government to grant subsidies in the hope that innovative entrepreneurs will rise up for the window, when they do not have the required skills and are moreover historically reluctant to enter the market. export.

Yet we have the core players who can form the team that can both take us into the global 4IR market – R&D institutions (with staff who can quickly acquire the skills of 4IR technologies), the existing private sector or newly created and government.

What is missing, however, is the economic system, a national innovation system that can harness these players and make them highly skilled supporters of 4IR technologies and guide their progress to become competitive exporters. The initial task of any innovation system is to choose the industries or technologies that the R&D effort will address, via a foresight exercise. Therefore, a valuable use of the $ 10 million fund could be to finance such an exercise. Indeed, in support of this effort, must be the upgrading of the general education of all our people since this creative approach will produce well-paid jobs for a qualified population; looking forward to a job that requires the skill level of a “weed cutter” is not enough.

In several of my articles, I have talked about the path taken by Singapore to transform this country from a swamp to one of the richest countries in the world. However, one commentator criticized keeping this country as a business model for us because we could never duplicate what Singapore was able to do. Singapore had certain establishment opportunities which it exploited in an innovative way using local R&D. We don’t have these opportunities, so we can’t emulate Singapore’s success. However, my advice was to use Singapore’s national innovation system model and now with 4IR technologies to exploit our own opportunities and even create new opportunities.