Building an Entrepreneurial UWI

A conducive innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem supports innovation behaviour in Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), and strengthens their global competitiveness. Evidence of this is present in Germany, the United Kingdom, and other parts of the world especially in the Organisation for Economic Co- operation and Development countries. In Trinidad and Tobago, however, our post-2009 period has shown significant lag. Efforts to catalyse new industry and business clusters have shown modest impact. The International Monetary Fund, the World Intellectual Property Office, and other global indicators, reflect a Trinidad and Tobago economic performance as being tepid to moderate at best, with slow to negative Gross Domestic Product growth, low innovativeness (ranking 91 st globally), and a middling global competitiveness ranking (79 th globally). Our current and future reality is even more challenged as the Corona virus disrupts the global ecosystem, putting major airlines, shipping, retail and manufacturing industries, and MSMEs under serious threat. This has had an adverse knock-on effect on the financial services and energy sectors. Despite these challenges and even as the global environment experiences unprecedented disruption and volatility, there is opportunity. In the near term, we must ensure restoration of personal and national health, business continuity, employee retention, supply chain restoration, and liquidity and cash flow improvements. We must re-examine our business models, their resilience, and value proposition. Prospectively, business models must be recalibrated to deepen online and virtual capability; fine-tune lead indicators to adapt to evolving market needs; proactively engage in innovative behaviour; leverage new systems, products, and processes which can secure competitive advantage, and reposition the business to be globally competitive. As in the 1990’s, we must reinvent ourselves to take advantage of post-COVID-19 opportunities. If we are to create the seismic shift in our country, this new national imperative must be supported by an even more

integrated Innovation and Entrepreneurship architecture. Regionally and nationally, we must create a new normal designed to strengthen the enabling environment and the innovation ecosystem. The UWI’s Triple A Strategy 2017-2022: Revitalising Caribbean Development defines the new ecosystem required: one which integrates local industry, government, and academia to promote and support all aspects of the innovation and entrepreneurship journey. Functionally, diverse stakeholders do not simply merge into a harmonised ecosystem. Rather, this cohesive architecture facilitates effective and meaningful collaboration. We have pushed the boundaries within The UWI to create The UWI Ventures Limited which will serve as a central facilitator to operationalise the Triple Helix concept. When operational, UWI Ventures will be critical to enabling the seamless flow of knowledge, intellectual property, talent and capital, between key stakeholders of the ecosystem including industry, corporations, private equity investors, the university and start-ups. The UWI has begun to aggressively realign its strategy towards proactive engagement with industry. It presents itself as not only an academic institution, but as a viable industry partner that is open for business. This is the only way forward for the University, its graduates, and the region. The process of realignment began with the enhancement of other critical entities—the St. Augustine Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (StACIE), the Mona Office of Research and Innovation (MORI), the Cave Hill Office of Research and Innovation and the Open Campus Business Development Unit. In addition, the institution offers key innovation programmes from such faculties as Food and Agriculture, Engineering, Medical Sciences, and Science and Technology , to name a few. By orienting these entities towards the business community and focusing on key growth poles such as agri-business, energy, energy conservation, ICT, maritime services, medicine, plus key social enterprise activities, The UWI is leveraging talent and research expertise to strengthen its impact within industry and create a new channel of opportunity for graduates.

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