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DBJ to upsize IGNITE programme

Published:Wednesday | December 6, 2017 | 12:00 AMNeville Graham

The Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ) will be launching a second round of its grant -financing programme, which backs innovators and early stage ventures in need of capital to commercialise their ideas.

The Innovation Grant for New Ideas and Entrepreneurship, IGNITE, will have $100 million for disbursals, starting in April 2018. The first phase, which doled out $72 million in grant funding to entrepreneurs, comes to an end on December 31. That phase was valued at $75 million, three million of which was used for administration and marketing.

General Manager of the Strategic Services Division at the DBJ Christopher Brown, says that although phase one has not yet closed, the bank is already counting it as a success and the reason for the upsizing of phase two.

He says that in addition to an increased budget, there will be three critical changes.

The grants will increase from a minimum of $1 million to $2.5 million but will maintain the cap at $4 million.

DBJ will also relax the requirements for participants from catering only to start-ups to include older companies that are going through a process of innovation.

"The first round of IGNITE was for start-ups, that is to say companies that have been in operation for less than three years, but we are now considering opening that up to companies that are in business for longer but may be trying to bring some sort of innovation to market," Brown said in an interview with Gleaner Business.

The third change is an expansion of IGNITE's business advisory component to include technical and information technology support.


Funding disbursed


In the most recent data compiled on IGNITE One, Brown said that $50 million of the funding had been disbursed up to June 2017, while other candidates were at varying stages of roll-out.

"The greatest success is that some of the companies have been able to break into new markets, develop new products and meet the demands for their products that they were unable to do previously," he said.

Up to June, there were 215 new jobs coming out of this project, about 60 per cent of which were permanent positions.

Brown said that 25 of the 27 companies targeted have actively participated in the full programme. He noted, however, that six of the 25 had not launched their products up to June but had benefited from the business training and guidance offered.

"This programme was designed with the customer in mind, focusing on their needs. In the year leading up to the launch, there was heavy consultation, and we certainly benefited from the experience and the lessons learnt from involvement in previous projects," Brown said.

He adds that part of IGNITE's success was its partnerships.

DBJ was able to leverage the experiences of service providers such as the Branson Centre for Entrepreneurship, the Jamaica Manufacturers Association,

and the Jamaica Business Development Corporation to assist the IGNITE businesses, said the division head.