has embraced the use of research, development and innovation
as a means of creating an internationally competitive business
environment for small and medium-sized enterprises in the
The Chamber views the recent launch of the Research and Development
Facility (RDF) by the Ministry of Trade and Industry, to be
implemented by the Business Development Corporation (BDC),
as a step in the right direction.
The objective of the RDF is to develop the local research
environment by strengthening the research capability of small-
and medium-sized businesses.
This would assist them in re-designing and re-tooling their
products and services to create more added value and capture
market niches. The Chamber is supportive of this effort.
The RDF would make available research grants upon to a maximum
of $100,000 per year to these businesses.
Understandably, there is criticism that the grant, which represents
two-thirds of the cost of the research proposal, is well below
industry requirements, if the goal is to achieve international
competitiveness, but it is a start.
Our existing small- and medium-sized businesses have not taken
advantage of research and perhaps do not fully appreciate
the value of adopting new technologies.
This is why institutions like the RDF are so important, since
they seek to forge valued partnerships between Government,
private sector and training and research institutes.
It is therefore vital that this initiative be successful and
paves the way for greater and even more structured partnerships
The Chamber urges Government to ensure that this initiative
is fully supported under the BDC, by dedicated trained staff,
empowered to effectively monitor and report on the progress
and ultimate benefits derived from these grants.
The RDF must not simply become a structure within a structure,
poorly managed and under-funded and whose relevance is never
However, the Chamber notes the omission of the participation
of UWI as one of the resource institutions to be accessed
by the RDF.
UWI is some 50 years old, with a huge knowledge base, which
can provide access not only of research tools but the manpower
to carry out the research.
To some extent this is also an indictment on UWI, which it
has failed to market its capability to the private sector
in the areas of research and innovation over the years, but
perhaps with the new focus on innovation and creativity this
The Science Technology and Innovation Sub-Committee in its
submission in the Draft National Strategic Plan (Vision 2020),
had mandated, that in order for T&T to create and sustain
an environment of international competitiveness, wealth and
human resource development and employment creation, we needed
to create a environment where the private sector would utilise
research development, innovation, scientific and technological
training as part of its corporate strategy.
The sub-committee stressed the urgency of the private sector
developing strategies to harness technology, creativity and
experimentation if it wished to reap the rewards of better
quality, competitive products and services.
The way to achieve this was to forge partnerships, which would
bring together policy makers, expertise, financial resources,
market intelligence and technology, and link the private sector
with learning institutions which have the knowledge, capacity
and resources to conduct research and development and identify
technological needs and train staff.
We need to create a culture of entrepreneurship. Perhaps the
RDF can be the catalyst for innovation and partnering.
The Chamber is prepared to play its part in stimulating these
partnerships, in its commitment to developing a private sector,
which not only values and performs research but seeks to exploit
In this light the Chamber invites the RDF to utlise the wide
knowledge base of the Chamber, the source of considerable
market intelligence, with its catchments of small- and medium-sized
private sector companies, the target base of the RDF.
Arguably, much remains to be done to align industry and innovation
in T&T and the Chamber stands ready to play a dynamic
role in creating a competitive advantage for its members.
Regrettably, corporate Trinidad does not have a culture of
investment in research and development, which it views as
added costs with risky returns. Our financial systems do not
readily support innovation in industry and the creation of
Currently, we do not enjoy what the sub-committee described
as a pulling environment, engaging the private
sector in the science technology and innovation imperative.
We have all the inputs but lack the holistic approach, which
would see players like Namdevco, linking up with the private
sector to create value added agricultural products.
In this light the RDF is urged to go out into the market place
and seek to forge non-traditional partnerships, rather than
simply wait for industries to come to them. This is the time
to be pro-active.
To be effective the RDF must market itself. It must develop
strategies to bring the key stakeholders together. Government
has provided the environment; the RDF must create the strategic
Government it appears has headed the urgings of the sub-committee
which concluded that it was the role and duty of Government
to be the conductor and develop the overall leadership and
the management structure and provide support funding for the
development of an effective and efficient national science
technology and innovation policy.
At present Government investment in research and development
is 0.13 per cent of GDP.
The sub-committee proposed that one of the ways to stimulate
aggressive private sector investment in technology research
and development was to offer fiscal incentives to the private
sector, including tax relief, on profits of pioneering companies
which emphasised the use of high technology skills, on research
and development expenses, and on expenses relating to specialised
high level post-graduate education training at institutions
at home and abroad.
Undeniably, wealth, job creation and the establishment of
competitive industries depend on the application of new technology.
The Chamber recognises that this is critical to creating sustainable
growth and competitive industry in T&T.
In this light the Chamber wishes the RDF every success in
fostering the development and growth of knowledge based competitive
industries in T&T.
We look forward to hearing of the success stories of those
businesses that have accessed the facility.