Money for ideas

Acting Director of the National Council for Science and Technology, Charles Cyrus at the launch.
Acting Director of the National Council for Science and Technology, Charles Cyrus at the launch.

The Science and Technology arm of the Barbados Government today launched its sixth biennial National Innovation Competition, with a total allocation of $105,000 in seed capital for those emerging with the three best commercially viable business ideas.

Coordinator Paulita Benjamin told the ceremony at the Savannah Hotel this morning that the Enterprise Growth Fund-financed competition would be undertaken in three phases.  Benjamin said the first phase began with a launch and participants registering their ideas for the contest.

“These ideas are governed by specific rules. They must be original and will not be considered if it is discovered that they have already existed in some other part of the world. It must be a new concept to the industry or market. Entries must meet the deadline for submission,” the coordinator explained.

She said workshops were being held across the island, designed to educate the participants about the competition and to get them involved. The dates are now being formulated. The final calls for entries will come at the end of August and the first round of winners will be announced in September, Benjamin said.

The second phase requires entrants to create a two-page summary explaining their idea and describing and demonstrating its innovativeness.

“These,” she continued, “will be assessed based on their innovative spirit, marketing potential, feasibility and financial projections. This process will be completed by the end of September this year. After the preliminary judging during phase two, 10 entrants will be selected and these will be narrowed down to five persons. The five finalists must then create a business plan for their ideas. Each participant will be given technical assistance.”

Phase three will see the finalists present and demonstrate their projects to the judges. She pointed out that they must be able to justify and defend their projects verbally.  This will be held in February 2014. The competition will conclude the following month with an awards ceremony, at which the winners will be announced.

Benjamin noted that the intention of the competition was to be a channel for creativity and innovation in Barbados by encouraging members of the public to be creative and promote creative thinking, giving them the opportunity to commercialise their product or service idea.

She assured that anyone could participate regardless of age, race, education, profession or expertise.

This morning’s launch was attended by the winner of the 2011-2012 National Innovation Competition. Shannon Clarke, an electrical and computer engineer, won with a software application called the Clever Grocer.

“Clever Grocer is an online application…, an intelligent shopping system that provides purchasing recommendations based on your shopping preferences,” Clarke explained. “What it means basically is that if you have a shopping list, mentally or written, you can actually say that my preference is a budget under $50 for these two items, or for these 10 items I want to get healthier items… so it would actually give you personal recommendations in terms of that — and also for the retailers.”

He said most applications compare prices. But the shopper still has to run around, he said, adding that the intention of his product, was to eliminate that.

“So the innovation with Clever Grocer is that you are actually focusing on the comparison of the entire list of items. As a result of that, I can also offer benefits to the retailers, where the retailers will actually utilise it as a retail commerce platform to engage with their customers, before, during and after the experience,” submitted the computer engineer. (EJ)


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