Sun | Oct 24, 2021

Innovators get funding to jump-start ventures

Published:Wednesday | April 10, 2019 | 12:00 AMKeisha Hill/Senior Gleaner Writer
Yanque Yip topped the group of 15 finalists with his 'Roottube' innovation.

In an effort to improve access to economic opportunities as well as foster innovation in vulnerable communities, The Trust for the Americas, an affiliate of the Organization of American States (OAS), has given 15 youth a financial boost to jump-start their ventures through the DIA Urban Lab project.

Twenty finalists were selected from a pool of 37 qualified participants who attended a recent innovation camp to refine their presentation skills prior to making a pitch for seed funding.

Of the 15 finalists, Yanque Yip topped the group, with Sophia Bryan, Trusha Dixon and Nathan Henderson placing second, third and fourth, respectively.

Yip’s innovation, titled ‘Roottube’, a hydroponics system – a method of growing plants without soil by using mineral nutrient solutions in a water solvent – invented for the production of root tubers, including yam and Irish potatoes.

“The standing pipes house the tuber as it grows and allows it to have a uniform shape. This is just the prototype and the next level is to create the product,” Yip said.

According to The Trust for the Americas CEO Linda Eddleman, close to $5 million in cash and kind has been pumped into programmes they have implemented in Jamaica.

“With private-sector sponsorship, Citi Foundation, we have been able to implement a second lab in this hemisphere. Vulnerable persons now have access to technology and innovation resources, so they can innovate and take their innovations to the next level,” Eddleman said.

She pointed out that the organisation is hoping to expand to 10 digital labs, reaching up to 20,000 youth.

DIA Jamaica seeks to empower a new generation of young entrepreneurs and innovators to be agents of change in their communities.

Launched in 2016 with support from founding donor Citi Foundation and collaboration from local partner, the Institute of Law & Economics (ILE), the DIA Urban Lab – part of the Democratizing Innovation in the Americas (DIA) programme ­– has awarded 68 seed-funding opportunities and benefited more than 1,100 young people through innovation training and access to state-of-the-art technology.

The DIA Lab in Jamaica is part of the DIA regional network, which has chapters in Belize, Colombia, Mexico, Costa Rica, and Panama.

“For three years, our Citi Foundation has been a major supporter of Jamaica’s first DIA Urban Lab for Youth Innovation, where youth can hone their entrepreneurial talents and creativity with the ultimate goal to build and strengthen their communities, and to date, we are pleased with the results,” said Citi Country Officer Eva Lewis.

DIA is part of Citi Foundation’s Pathways to Progress global initiative to equip young people with career-readiness tools and opportunities. Pathway to Progress comprises programmes, research, and partnerships like the one with Trust of the Americas, which help youth build an entrepreneurial mindset and acquire leadership.

At the pitching event, participants received feedback and commendations from businessman Michael Lee-Chin, Citi Financial Institution head Christopher Johnson, Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) President Howard Mitchell, and Organization of American States Secretary for Hemispheric Affairs James Lambert.

In addition, The Trust for the Americas and the PSOJ signed an agreement to create a programme that will support DIA Pitch Tank winners with guidance, career development and mentorship.

“The private sector recognises that investment in human capital is, perhaps, the most important investment that can be made. Our members are eager to play their part in imparting knowledge and offering guidance to the next generation of business owners and contributors to the economy through this mentorship programme,” Mitchell, the PSOJ boss, said.

keisha.hill@gleanerjm.com