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Innovation gold mine - Investors not tapping research at SRC, says exec

Published:Friday | June 7, 2019 | 12:07 AMChristopher Serju/Gleaner Writer

Jamaica is sitting on a gold mine of innovation research which has not been tapped by angel investors and other entrepreneurs, which partly accounts for the country’s unimpressive ranking of 83rd on the Global Innovation Index, according to a senior government research manager.

Though the nation has jumped 13 places in the last two years – from 96th in 2016 to 83 in 2018 – much research never gets beyond the hurdle of innovation or commercialisation because projects are not capitalised.

“We are actually getting processes commercialised, but we are still way below where we should be,” said Charah Watson, manager of the Product Research and Development Division at the Scientific Research Council. “Barbados is ranked way ahead of us,” she added during yesterday’s weekly meeting of the Rotary Club of St Andrew.

“The resources that we have, the output that they are giving us, it’s not matching up because we can do a lot better because we have the intellect and the capability. So we are able to translate that problem into a practical solution using basic knowledge and research to do it,” the scientist argued.

Watson is charged with the responsibility for driving the research mandate as well as the conversion of research data into value-added economic activity, whether through standardisation or services offered in assisting small, micro, and medium-size enterprises.

SERVICES OFFERED

This the SRC does through a suite of services offered through plant biotechnology, wastewater services, product development and standardisation, regional energy information, as well as science and education, and a pilot plant for incubator and food services.

Watson offered some insight into some of the other services offered.

“We also have our product development team, which focuses on food development, where we translate material into products. So you, for instance, have a particular sauce, and all your friends love your sauce, and you decide that you now want to commercialise that sauce, the SRC assists you with analysing and getting your products to market,” said Watson.

She continued: “If it’s a case where you usually make a particular cream for your face and you look better than anybody else and you swear blind seh is the special preparation that your mother and her mother used and you know that you want to commercialise, the SRC can assist you with getting that product standardised and ready for the marketplace.”

The SRC also has a pilot plant facility that will assist innovators in getting products on merchants’ shelves, said Watson.

christopher.serju@gleanerjm.com