Minister of International Business and Industry, Ronald Toppin gets behind the wheel of Megapower Barbados’ electric car at Innovate Barbados yesterday. He is joined by Megapower’s Sales and Marketing Executive, Johan Rogers. (C.Pitt/BGIS)

The Barbados Investment and Development Corporation (BIDC) is about to launch two new initiatives designed to reduce this island’s imports in key areas, increase exports and create high value jobs.

This is according to Minister of International Business and Industry, Ronald Toppin, who gave the opening remarks at the third annual Innovate Barbados Conference, at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre on Wednesday.

Mr. Toppin disclosed that the first initiative will be a New Product Development Programme, which will facilitate the creation of new products or enhance existing products that have the potential to earn or save foreign exchange.

“The second of these programmes, titled Accelerate 20/20, is aimed at starting up and expanding 20 high-growth companies over the next year-and-a-half,” he said.

He added that the programme will target companies that can “start up and scale up quickly” which have the potential to achieve annual export earnings of BDS$100,000 in the medium to long-term.

The Industry Minister noted that several high-potential areas that could ignite the domestic economy and attract venture capital funding were identified. These included renewable energy, climate resilient goods and services, health and wellness, Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), cuisine and culture.

Mr. Toppin insisted there was an immediate need to build this country’s future today by leveraging its unique characteristics and challenges and called on Barbadians to find ways to transform them into opportunities.

Minister of International Business and Industry, Ronald Toppin, addressing the third annual Innovate Barbados Conference at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre on Wednesday. (C.Pitt/BGIS)

“We have leveraged our sun, sea and sand to make Barbados the number one in the world for visitor satisfaction (according to the 2017 Destination Satisfaction Index). Now we are called upon to leverage our sun, sea and this time, land in a different way – in solar, aquaculture, bio-tech, agro-processing and other areas.

“Barbados is a small island economy. We have no booming oil resources. We are located in the Caribbean, right in line to be affected by super storms and hurricanes. These challenges are our opportunities! Because of these challenges, we are ideally positioned to be innovators in renewable energy solutions that can benefit the world,” he outlined.

The Minister added that innovation in Barbados’ maritime economy and agro economy could also deliver a needed economic boost.

“The benefits which could be derived in terms of new products are tremendous; from pharmaceuticals derived from algae or local flora, to new bio-fuels that could power our plants, homes and transportation modes of tomorrow,” he remarked.

Minister Toppin told participants to take advantage of the opportunities at Innovate Barbados and “to gather the knowledge, inspiration and connections that can help us win the race”.

The two-day event, organized by the BIDC, is a solutions-oriented initiative which seeks to bring entrepreneurs, innovators and business leaders together in one space.

During the conference, local, regional and international Industry experts will present on a wide range of topics and participants will get the opportunity to engage in one-on-one sessions with them.

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