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Beckles: Use research and innovation to spur growth

Published:Wednesday | February 7, 2018 | 12:00 AMPaul Clarke/Gleaner Writer
Paula Lambardo (left) of the University of the West Indies (UWI) Discovery Bay Marine Lab giving a first-hand view of a live starfish to Marie Edith Vincennes (centre) and Linnet Reid, students of the UWI. The occasion was UWI's Mona campus annual Research Days exhibition on Thursday.

While universities in developed nations have been pushing the boundaries of research and innovation, those closer to home are stuck at the research stage, generally, according to University of the West Indies Vice-Chancellor Professor Hillary Beckles.

But with volumes of research already stacked at the UWI, Beckles believes that the time is right for having them make tangible contributions to the overall development and economic growth of Jamaica.

"We are at that moment now where we are putting the strategies in place to move the research out of our campuses and into the public space," Beckles told The Gleaner at the opening ceremony of the UWI's 19th staging of its Research Days at its Mona campus.

He added: "Mona has a tremendous amount of research inside of it that is bursting at the seams and is ready to be industrialised, and we need to win the confidence of the private sector. We need to win their confidence that research has industry application and can be converted into products valued-added. We have done it historically, and we need to continue doing it."

The three-day event was held under the theme 'UWI, Mona - Powering Development through Partnerships in Research and Innovation'.

Beckles said that the ideal combination is a three-way symbiotic relationship among the universities, the Government, and private-sector players.

"It's a triangular relationship - government policy, the universities' research and innovation, and private innovation entrepreneurship. We have to build that together. So whatever remaining gaps that exist among these three groups, we must close them right now," he said.




"One of the strategies that we are working through here in Jamaica is to convert all of this area here - the UWI, University of Technology (UTech), all the way to New Kingston and the financial centre and the agriculture research - into a university- and private sector-led science and technology research park," Beckles noted.

He said that Jamaica should, by now, have a science and technology park, and this would be a big policy step for the Government and the private sector.

"All the countries that we celebrate for their transformation and economic growth, the countries in southeast Asia, the massive economic growth that they achieved was through the alignment between the universities, industry, and government policy. That is the key. Jamaica must follow suit," Beckles stated.