At EPIC Workshop, ...

At EPIC Workshop, Entrepreneurs and Partners Share Vision for the Caribbean's Future

Walter Bernyck, Head of Development Cooperation at the Canadian High Commission, meets with Jamaican clean technology entrepreneurs Kert Edward (FOSIL), Brian Wright (New Leaf), and Shirley Lindo (Outta Earth).

KINGSTON, Jamaica: “Entrepreneurs are benefiting from the necessary knowledge, networks, and skills critical to promoting their businesses through the Entrepreneurship Program for Innovation in the Caribbean,” said Julian Robinson, Jamaica’s State Minister in the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy, and Mining.

Minister Robinson spoke at a two-day workshop hosted by the World Bank Group and the Government of Canada on December 2-3, 2015. The workshop was the first joint event of the Caribbean Climate Innovation Center (CCIC) and Caribbean Mobile Innovation Program (CMIP), two initiatives of the Entrepreneurship Program for Innovation in the Caribbean (EPIC).

EPIC is strengthening the region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem through grants and training programs for entrepreneurs, carried out in close collaboration with investors, policymakers, academics, and other private sector partners. The program follows a “hub and spoke” model, in which central innovation hubs oversee activities at local and regional hubs. The workshop offered a chance for entrepreneurs and program partners to share success stories and shape the future of EPIC.

UWI Consulting, a regional partner of the mobile program, recently established three mobile hubs (mHubs) in Barbados, St. Kitts and Nevis, and Trinidad to serve the fast-growing mobile app development community in those markets. mHubs are meeting grounds for entrepreneurs, programmers, mobile phone companies, and other partners to collaborate and learn.

"This is an important step for us in our plans, as we seek to bolster the mobile app ecosystem toward establishing high-quality, sustainable businesses in the region," said Claremont Kirton, Acting Executive Director at UWI Consulting.

Canada is investing approximately CAD$600 million across the region in several development programs and EPIC is one of the country’s flagship initiatives, according to Walter Bernyck, Counsellor and Head of Development Cooperation at the Canadian High Commission. Boosting the productivity of small and medium-sized businesses is a priority of the program, he said.

The first phase of the program saw the launch of the Caribbean Climate Innovation Center’s first proof of concept grant competition, which drew hundreds of climate technology business ideas from the region. The Caribbean Mobile Innovation Program also held several trainings and hackathons, including CodeSprint. More than 250 entrepreneurs benefited from these early activities.

“We know we have several challenges ahead, but I am very encouraged when I listen to energetic and innovative Caribbean entrepreneurs who are eager to bring their products to market,” said Ganesh Rasagam, the World Bank Group’s Practice Manager for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. “For example, Jamaican clean energy producer Shirley Lindo, who has started exporting her products to the United States. Or Jamaican entrepreneurs Nichole Crawford and Winnie Dzidonu-Genius, who just returned from the world-renowned startup festival Slush in Finland where they were able to pitch their firms Niritech and Transcel Ltd. to interested investors.”

As the programs enter their next phase of implementation, Rasagam urged regional partners to take ownership of the mobile innovation and climate technology entrepreneurship programs.

“We truly believe that the CCIC and the CMIP must be owned and empowered by our regional partners to guarantee long-lasting success that will create generations of high-potential entrepreneurs for the region,” he said.

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