Science, technology and innovation offer significant opportunities for Barbados to benefit both economically and socially.

Acting Director of the National Council for Science and Technology (NCST), Charles Cyrus, emphasised this point yesterday as he addressed students and teachers at the second annual Edu-Nation forum in Queen???s Park Steel Shed.

Noting that countries the world over had moved to become knowledge-based societies, he said these included the ??????Asian tigers??? whose ???catch up??? was characterised by a focus on education across the board and the building of the scientific and technological capacity of their countries.

He referred to the case of South Korea and said it highlighted ???an extreme example??? of the success that investment in education and building scientific and technological capability could bring ??? moving a country from a level of poverty and being a developing country to a knowledge-based society, within a span of 50 years although it had started off ???way below where Barbados is today???.

???This shows that Barbados too can build its own scientific and technological capabilities,??? he stressed.

Students heard that innovation was about ???producing, assimilating, exploiting and diffusing a new or significantly improved good or service or a process or a new organisational method??? and Mr. Cyrus noted that diffusion was important.

???Ultimately, innovation has to be available within a market place for you to actually classify it as innovation. So, it is not just about creativity; creativity is really a first step in innovation. Creativity is the generation of new and novel ideas. But, how do you translate this generation of ideas into some sort of product or service or method? And, when you do that, you put it out there and then you become innovative,??? he maintained.

Pointing out that innovation could come in all forms and was not only limited to technology, he said: ???But increasingly, this knowledge is of a scientific and technological base???a majority of the innovation that is taking place today has a science and technology base.??? According to him, recent studies carried out in countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which addressed innovation, found that 70 percent of these innovations had their base in science and technology.

Innovation was also said to be part of a knowledge process that may emanate from either abroad or locally. ???We have to be able to take that knowledge from abroad and adopt it and adapt it to our set of circumstances because innovation also takes place within a certain context, for example, the macro-economic, the cultural??? there is a whole set of things that actually determine how innovative a society is. So, innovation is actually a complex process,??? he contended.

The fourth and fifth form students were further told that with the recognition of the importance of innovation globally, most countries had put policies and programmes in place to actually make it easier for their society to be innovative.

Emphasising that one of the pillars of any innovation policy was the education policy, the Acting Director of the NCST said: ???Knowledge is at the heart of everything; we have to prepare students with the necessary knowledge and skills that are capable of tackling the issues that the country faces??? Critical thinking is one of the skills that is required for innovation???.

While acknowledging that the Edu-Nation Discussion, focused on secondary and tertiary level students, Mr. Cyrus said it was also important to introduce primary school students to the whole concept of Science, its importance and benefits in order to allow for an appreciation of the area.

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