Sat | Apr 29, 2017

Fostering innovation

Published:Friday | December 26, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Martin Henry, Guest Columnist

The National Innovation Awards in Science and Technology again brought into national focus the importance of innovation for the growth and development of Jamaica.

But what is innovation? Innovation is simply something fresh, new or improved that creates value, the act of introducing something new. Science and technology is one source of innovation.

Since 2005, the biennial Innovations Awards in Science & Technology have recognised outstanding achievements in innovations, while promoting the importance of science and technology for national development.

The award scheme was intended to sensitise the nation to the role of innovations in economic performance, to foster an innovative spirit among Jamaicans, as well as to identify and encourage innovators and to publicly recognise their contribution to the development of science and technology.

Awarding leaders in the field was expected to help build better understanding of the role of innovation and to create a cultural shift in the perception of the contribution of science and technology, while increasing awareness among young people of careers in S&T.

High award

This year, Dr Henry Lowe, biomedical scientist and S&T entrepreneur with more than 30 products on the market through his Bio-Tech Research & Development Institute and his Medicanja company, received the highest award, the National Medal for Science, Technology and Innovation, given by the prime minister, who chairs the National Commission on Science & Technology.

Lowe was particularly recognised for his Alpha Prostate Formula 1 innovation with its anti- prostate cancer properties and developed from the ball moss, which grows on power lines across the country. Alpha Prostate 1 also won an award in the Health and Safety category.

Dr Lowe has contributed his prize money of $1.5 million, with a matching amount of another $1.5 million, to support research and development and the work of young scientists in the field of nutraceuticals.

Nutraceuticals are a multibillion-US dollar field that capitalises on the health and healing properties of natural products.

The National Commission on Science and Technology, first established in 1993, has been recently reconstituted with University of Technology presi-dent Professor Errol Morrison, a distinguished biomedical scientist and world-renowned expert in diabetes, as Director General. The NCST, the prime minister said at the relaunch of the commission in October, is expected to advance research, popularise science and technology, and make recommendations to government for policy action.

The National Innovator of the Year award went to Harlo Mayne and his group for their H2 Flex Hydrogen Hybrid Kit, which was also an award-winning entry in the Education and Popularisation of Science, Technology and Innovation category. The H2 Flex Hydrogen Hybrid Kit converts water (H2O) into hydrogen, which can be used as a fuel.

The NCST, which collaborates with MSTEM and the SRC for the innovation awards, is a joint effort of the public and private sectors for the advancement of science, technology and innovation for the advancement of the nation.

Stem centre

Among the activities of Science, Technology and Innovation Month was the opening of a state-of-the-art Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Centre in downtown Kingston. The $18 million STEM Centre for young people is equipped with a computer lab for animation, an electronics lab for robotics, a 3D printing-and-design facility, and a multi-subject science lab, among other features, is the creation of GraceKennedy through its foundation, with several partners assisted by a USAID grant.

During STI month, the Scientific Research Council also staged its biennial conference on Science and Technology focusing on innovative uses of the ganja plant. Also, the University of Technology, as part of its contribution to using innovation to help drive growth and development, hosted a two-day training workshop for research managers in higher-education institutions and research organisations in managing intellectual-property rights and knowledge transfer. The workshop, which had some 40 participants, is part of an international EU-ACP-supported project, in which UTech is a partner institution.

Martin Henry is a university administrator and public-affairs analyst. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and medhen@gmail.com.