Avia Collinder, Business Reporter
Knowledge, technology deficits highlighted in GEM survey
Jamaican firms score low on product innovation in the bottom 10 of 54 countries assessed by the Global Environment Monitor (GEM).
The 2011 survey indicates that while Jamaicans are willing to buy or try varying products, and that there is a strong appetite for new products and services, there is not enough innovation in the country to satisfy this demand.
The GEM Jamaican research team - including local researchers include Girjanauth Boodraj, Vanetta Skeete, Dr Horace Williams and Orville Reid - points to the need for a stronger link to be formed between the private sector, universities and public research centres to facilitate R&D transfer.
The GEM Adult Population Survey for 2011 for Jamaica comprised 2,047 households. It also included a National Expert Survey comprising 36 individuals.
"Sixty-eight per cent of experts indicated that research and development has not been efficiently transferred from universities and public research centres to new and growing firms; while 66 per cent stated that new and growing firms did not have as much access to research and technology as established firms," said Boodraj, the lead researcher for the Jamaican study.
Eighty-nine per cent of respondents said new and growing firms cannot afford the latest technology; and 94 per cent said government subsidies for technology acquisition to new and growing firms were inadequate.
It is also widely perceived that much of the research produced is neglected, with 83 per cent declaring that there was a lack of support for engineers and scientists to have their ideas commercialised.
The Jamaican researchers also noted that total early-stage activity in entrepreneurship in Jamaica is struggling to recover after a 50 per cent decline in 2010, rising marginally to 13.7 per cent last year.
But the report also noted that entrepreneurial confidence is on the rise in Jamaica, with 43 per cent of respondents having attempted to start a business in the last year and 77 per cent believing that they have the knowledge, skills and experience to succeed.
The GEM project is an annual assessment of the entrepreneurial activity, aspirations and attitudes of individuals. In 2011, it was carried out across 54 economies.
The report was initiated in 1999 as a partnership between London Business School and Babson College in the United States and now globally has 100 teams involved. Jamaica's team is based at the College of Business and Management at the University of Technology.
GEM groups the participating economies into three levels: factor-driven, efficiency-driven, and innovation-driven, based on the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Report, which identifies three phases of economic development based on GDP per capita and the share of exports comprising primary goods.
The GEM 2011 global data indicates that innovativeness increases in tandem with economic development.
Jamaica is classified as 'factor-driven' in an economy dominated by subsistence agriculture and extraction businesses, with a heavy reliance on labour and natural resources.
The Jamaican survey respondents are of the view that businesses do not sufficiently differentiate their products and services: 45 per cent of respondents believe said many Jamaican businesses offer the same products; 42 per cent are of the view that only a few businesses offer the same product, while only 13 per cent said businesses do not offer the same products or services.
The researchers called for an increased emphasis on technology-based high-growth firms that can produce quality jobs.
Most of local enterprise, it was noted, is retail-based and employ less than 10 staff.