Minister of Commerce and Trade, Senator Haynesley Benn (right) and Acting Director of the National Council for Science and Technology, Charles Cyrus (left), congratulate??this year’s winner of the National Innovation Award, Shannon Clarke. (G. Brewster/BGIS)

Knowledge-based economies will continue to be the leaders around the globe and it is essential that Barbados embrace this truth.

This was the sentiment shared by Minister of Commerce and Trade, Senator Haynesley Benn, as he addressed the 2012 National Innovation Awards – Power of the Dream, on Saturday night at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.

He said: "As developing countries across the globe move toward knowledge-based economies, in which the application of knowledge is the major component of all economic activity, Barbados, like other developing economies, must endeavour to put policies and strategies in place to encourage innovation.

"… Economic advancement for all intents and purposes now hinges more and more on a country’s ability to produce goods and services at competitive prices as well as on its ability to formulate and develop new and or improved production technologies, processes and products".

Senator Benn noted that the key to economy prosperity was to increase productivity, and to produce more with less. "Productivity growth is the basis for raising real wages for workers, increasing returns to shareholders, and increasing per capita income for the country," the Minister observed, adding that innovation was one basis for creating productivity, as it sought to find new solutions for existing problems.

The Commerce Minister noted that "while it is unlikely that Barbados will become engaged in the sort of frontier [research and development] done by scientists and engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology or in Silicon Valley, for example, it was important that Barbados boost its Research & Development capacity to solve local challenges such as developing more value added products from locally grown crops and local, natural resources".??

Government had a role to play in this process, Senator Benn said, by supporting innovators; removing obstacles to new initiatives; establishing a responsive research structure and developing a creative and receptive population.?? The Minister highlighted the fact that the creation of such a society was not only dependent on technical and managerial skills, but vocational skills as well.

"Innovation must not be restricted to any particular sector, for all sectors can benefit from new ideas…The greatest benefits are likely to come from our focus on improving low technology sectors through innovation.?? In agriculture, we must embrace new technologies and use these to improve the efficiency and productivity of our farms…Our manufacturers will continue to face competition from abroad. Perhaps the only way in which they can survive is through innovation. They must find ways to create new products/markets as well as innovative ways to serve these markets," Senator Benn offered.

Acknowledging that a way had to be found to finance and encourage innovative pursuits, the Minister suggested that the diaspora should be considered as a source which could assist the country. He identified the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade’s second Diaspora Conference in August as a means of forging this link, as "major benefits from diaspora engagement as it relates to innovation also include, but are not limited to, institutional reform in home territory, investments and donations".

The government, too, was making an effort to foster innovation, with projects such as: The Micro Enterprise Programme administered by the Business Unit of the Ministry of Industry, Small Business and Rural Development; the ongoing programme of Special Technical Assistance managed by the Barbados Investment Development Corporation; and the granting of duty-free concessions on machinery, equipment and chemicals for aquaculture, mariculture and aquaponics systems.


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