Overwhelming Response to US$10 Million Innovation Program | Local company

NEW Planning and Development Minister Pennelope Beckles said yesterday there had been an overwhelming response to the first ‘call for proposals’ for the Innovation Challenge Facility, which is the main component of the US$10 million ($64 million) “Shaping the Future of Innovation” for Trinidad and Tobago.

The Innovation Challenge Facility, provides up to $500,000 in grants to companies with innovative ideas. The program targets small organizations, innovators, entrepreneurs, medium-sized organizations with established business experience and other innovative organizations in the provision of goods and services.

Over 150 proposals were submitted, well above the target of 50. The majority of applications received were in the ICT field, followed by agribusiness and manufacturing.

Shaping the Future of Innovation is funded by the European Union (EU) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), in collaboration with the Ministry of Planning and Development and the Caribbean Industrial Research Institute (CARIRI ).

The program aims to contribute to the development of the country’s innovation capacity through three components:

• The Innovation Challenge Facility (ICF);

• Establish links with industry and academia; and

• Build an innovation network.

These components are designed to address the challenges of fostering a greater level of innovation, including funding, industry-academia collaboration, and stakeholder networking. It can also facilitate innovation reporting and benchmarking for international indices such as the Global Innovation Index.

Commenting on the response to the first call, Peter Cavendish, European Union Ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago, said: “We are very pleased with the response. This shows not only a need but a real ambition on the part of the participants to advance their businesses, and also to contribute to the development of Trinidad and Tobago. We believe innovation is just the way to get there.

“For countries like Trinidad and Tobago looking to recover from the pandemic, it cannot be like before. A diversified and innovation-driven economy is key to driving growth. The EU is therefore very happy that we can work with our partners – the T&T government, the IDB and CARIRI to help this country build back better.”

Beckles said, “This innovation agenda is a key element in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which form the building blocks of the National Development Strategy, Vision 2030 and the Roadmap for reprise “.

She also underlined that “Innovation is one of the eight medium-term priorities of the government for the period 2021 to 2025 in order to stimulate the economy and secure the lives and livelihoods of our citizens”.

The main objective of the Shaping the Future of Innovation project is to stimulate private sector-led innovation that can contribute to new growth, exports and direct and indirect jobs/livelihoods.

The project also aims to strengthen the coordination of the local innovation ecosystem and to report on innovation indicators to facilitate a more accurate representation of innovation in Trinidad and Tobago as a basis for planning and reporting. policy development.

The program aims to remove three critical barriers to innovation:

• Funding for innovation, especially in the private sector

• Lack of dedicated internal talent, especially in new technologies that can support enterprise-level innovation

• An uncoordinated ecosystem comprising a wide range of actors who work in silos, making support time-consuming, fragmented and in many cases useless for SMEs

A two-step evaluation process is currently underway. Applicants who have passed the first stage are currently assisted in the preparation of their proposals by technical specialists. Submissions will then be judged on the quality and presentation of the proposal, with finalists to be announced in May 2022.

This first call for proposals should be followed by other calls in the coming months.

Due to the high quality of applications received, those who applied for the first call, but did not reach the second stage of the process, are encouraged to apply again when the next SME call is launched.