Shannon Clarke won the 2012 National Innovation Award??for his ‘Clever Grocer’ software design. (G. Brewster/BGIS)

Nearly a year of preparation and planning in the pursuit of innovation came to an end on Saturday night at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, when Shannon Clarke was named the winner of this year’s National Innovation Awards.

Mr. Clarke’s creation, a software application called the ???Clever Grocer’, seeks to assist Barbadians in mitigating the high cost of living.?? It is designed to maintain an accurate and current database of the prices of items for sale via information collected from grocery receipts.?? He acknowledged that for his creation to have been chosen from a pool of more than 100 contenders was a great honour, which will see him receive the Prime Minister’s Award for Innovation – $75 000 – to make his dream a reality.

"I am humbled by this award…I really got the first idea for the Clever Grocer from the Ministry of Commerce and Trade’s [price list which is printed in newspapers].?? It’s almost not appreciated how innovative that list in itself was; because more than just giving a price index, which we are all used to, it also gave the individual prices for several items at the specific locations and at specific times," he observed.??

Mr. Clarke said that further inspiration came when he considered how to make the list easily accessible while shopping; and with cost of living further worsened by the recession, he suggested that the Clever Grocer would result in customers being more aware about the money they will have to spend on a trip to the supermarket.

"What we’re trying to do is gather the collective knowledge and experiences of all shoppers together, so that when you go shopping, it’s not just a single experience, you can actually know how much you’re going to spend before you get to the cashier," he revealed.?? Special versions of the software are expected to be made available to the Ministry and the Fair Trading Commission, with the web version of the application currently in the testing phase and mobile applications currently being developed.

In addressing his colleagues – the semi-finalists and finalists who were also rewarded for their concepts – Mr. Clarke noted that "we can’t let any of our creations – the business plans, the pitches that we’ve done leading up to this point – stop here." He offered New York City as an example of a "hotbed of innovation", which is driven, not only by investments but by the community that resides there.

"Those people are willing to take risks. We need to foster that community here in Barbados.?? We can do this and I believe that what we should do is use this competition as a springboard.

"More than the positions that we come in, more than the prizes that we win, what about the other 95 persons who entered into this competition, what were their ideas? How can we continue to develop their ideas as well, so that we can have a truly innovative, knowledge-based society?" he queried.

The finalists in the 2012 National Innovation Awards, which was hosted by the National Council for Science and Technology and the Enterprise Growth Fund Limited, were: first runner up, Dr. Harold Gibbs, who was awarded $20 000 for his World-O-Words (WOW) game, which seeks to make learning English a fun experience; third place winners, Jason Cadogan and Kelvin Lovell, who won $10 000 for their EGOScholar educational system, which uses media and pop culture as a teaching tool; Sherry Pounder and Dwayne Squires, whose Aeroponics system, which helps grow crops such as tomatoes, onions and chives, earned them a $5 000 prize; and fifth place winner Pamela Austin, who won $2 500 for her Waste Game board game.??

The National Innovation Awards – a biennial event, was first hosted in 2003.


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