Archive for the ‘innovation’ Tag

Local entrepreneurs shine at UTT’s Business Plan Competition 2010

First prize winner Abigail Liverpool (second from left) is presented with her cheque by Carl Francis, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Trade and Industry; Dr. Denise Thompson, UTT Professor at the Centre for Production Systems; and Angela Hordatt, Vice President of Business Development at e TecK

Young entrepreneurs took advantage of the opportunity to showcase their innovative ideas at the University of Trinidad and Tobago’s (UTT) fourth annual Business Plan competition, held on Thursday July 15th at UTT’s O’Meara campus in Arima.

The competition, which is sponsored by e TecK and the Ministry of Trade and Industry, provides a means for identifying, developing and testing the feasibility of innovative, knowledge and technology-based opportunities in some of the industry areas targeted by the government for expanded investment.

“Our goal is to increase the contributions of non-energy sectors, thus reducing our dependence on energy-related resources,” stated Permanent Secretary Mr. Carl Francis, who gave the keynote address on behalf of the Honourable Mr. Stephen Cadiz, Minister of Trade and Industry.

He added that competitions such as these promote healthy linkages between creative, technological and educational facilities which support greater innovation and entrepreneurship throughout Trinidad and Tobago.

‘Organicycle’ takes the win

Applicants were given 20 minutes to present their business plans, and were judged on:
(1) Innovation, creativity and originality (15%)
(2) Market feasibility and response to clear market needs (25%)
(3) Management feasibility, human and technical resources (15%)
(4) Financial feasibility, start up and sustainability (25%)
(5) Presentation (20%)

The team of Abigail Liverpool and Giselle Lewis emerged as the winners of the $100,000 prize for their entry “Organicycle”, an organic waste recycling company developed with the objective of solving problems that exist within the agricultural and horticultural industries, as well as providing a solution for the country’s waste management.

“The competition gave me the opportunity to bring my ideas to fruition by managing a small startup company for turning waste into organic matter for planting,” said Abigail Liverpool.

She added: “While others may encourage you to think big and start big, I would encourage budding innovator and entrepreneurs to engage in something that is manageable and can grow in a short space of time.”

The team of Cherisse Ferreira, Davina Bujhawan and Leon George placed second with “Bambusa Limited”, which seeks to establish a manufacturing plant for the production of bamboo flooring and bamboo products in Trinidad & Tobago.

Cherise Ferreira stated that the exposure and experience was most valued by her team. “We were able to get to express a different side other than academic,” she said. “The practical application of academic knowledge was a welcome change.”

Third place was secured by Kirby Austin, Elliot Mapp-Best, and Arlette Antoine for their proposed company T.A.I.B. Ltd. which will provide tilapia fish products to the local market in Trinidad & Tobago.

 Springboard for future businesses

The UTT Business Plan Competition originated as a programme requirement for the students of the Masters in Industrial and Innovation Entrepreneurship, and was gradually opened to the wider university inclusive of students, staff and faculty. It intends to act as both a preview of the way a real business will be conducted, as well as a potential take-off platform for future opportunities.

As the Trinidad Guardian newspaper highlights, UTT criteria specifies that the first-place winner must follow through on the business plan to access the prize money:

  • $25,000 is distributed when the team successfully completes within 6 months the company registration, identifies management team and board, has first board meeting, and opens a business bank account
  • $25,000 is distributed on satisfactory completion of a business plan within 8 months of winning the award
  • the final $50,000 is given on completion of patent, drafting a sales contract or developing a satisfactory prototype

e TecK has been sponsoring UTT’s Business Plan Competition for the past four years, and intends to continue its investment in this venture to encourage Business Development opportunities.

The budding entrepreneurial talent emerging from this and other similar competitions will directly feed into the Trinidad and Tobago Innovation Centre at Tamana InTech Park.

Entrepreneurship & Innovation in T&T

The word ‘entrepreneur’ generally calls to mind an image of a fast-talking, savvy businessman with numbers on the brain and money to burn.

Schoolchildren wielding rubber-bands? …Not so much.

But this rubber-band project was a building block of an innovative activity geared to stimulate students’ entrepreneurial drives.

This was done by students at one of the schools linked to the Trinidad & Tobago Entrepreneurship and Innovation Club (TTEI), which is headed by Ryan John.

Rubber-band innovation

As John explained, the rubber-band project demonstrated why students frequently arrived late to school.

Thick rubber-bands of varying colours were sold for $1 each, and along the rubber-band’s surface, information was written to indicate time and distance between places.

The students then used the rubber-bands to indicate on maps their routes to school, demonstrating how difficult it was to be on time.

The end result is a visual and artistic representation that reflects an innovative and entrepreneurial approach to the process of problem-solving.

The students hope to venture out into the surrounding community to expand the project and get others to take part in it, with the hope of gaining an audience of the Ministry of Works and Transport and eventually the Prime Minister.

TTEI – nurturing innovation

The example of the potential to be gleaned from a mere rubber-band was one of the seeds of thought inculcated by the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Club.

Currently operating through The National Institute of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology (NIHERST), the Club provides a forum where young people can visit in order to get some information on business practices and to practice entrepreneurship before leaving school.

Ryan John believes that it is essential to begin teaching and encouraging entrepreneurship from a very young age, at least at the Form 3 level.

“By the time they’re finished with CXC, they’ve gone through that ‘brainwashing’ process of ‘you’re going to school to work for somebody, to get a job’,” he said.

“Before that is injected, we need to instill in them that there is a possibility that exists for them to be able to put something of their own out there and live off it.”

All-encompassing innovation

John lamented the fact that, at present, as the Club operates through NIHERST, it mainly attracts youths from the Port-of-Spain region.

He would like for the Club to exist in different locations around Trinidad and Tobago, and to liaise with other companies to aid the development of the country.

He acknowledged that some companies have already contributed to promoting innovation, but insisted that most efforts have been separatist to date, which only benefited the company’s interests rather than the country as a whole.

TTEI aims to function as an all-encompassing entity and neutral body that does not focus on any one sector or industry, but takes the entire development of the country into consideration.

“We want it to be a centerpiece for every element that exists for helping youths – we’re connected to Science and Technology, so we can direct members of the Club to where to go for ideas and how to make their ideas feasible, where to go for patenting, and so on,” John said.

Mobile mentorship

Some successes of the Club to date include the hosting of National Entrepreneurship Development Company Limited (NEDCO) and Business Development Company (BDC) for lectures and discussions on business funding.

Ryan John has also conducted talks on the necessary sacrifices involved in being an entrepreneur, and worked with students in teams towards the development of innovative ideas towards an end product.

John’s next step for the Club is to begin a ‘mobile mentorship’ program, where youths can connect to recognised and established people in their fields of interest and pitch questions and concerns by text-messaging, emailing and the Internet.

Reflective of the high-paced technologically-driven atmosphere of youths, this is ideal for young entrepreneurs, and would also be a more low-maintenance and less time-consuming relationship for the mentor as well.

UTT’s Innovation Centre

TTEI is only one initiative to indicate that innovation is alive and well in Trinidad and Tobago.

Who knows? Perhaps the members of TTEI will be the same youths to develop start-ups businesses under the University of Trinidad and Tobago’s (UTT’s) Innovation Centre (TTIC), a business incubator that will provide tenancy and enhanced managerial and financial support for 1-3 years to start-up technology and knowledge-based companies.

Operating virtually since October 2006, the Centre will finally have a place to be physically housed upon the launch of e TecK’s Tamana InTech Park in Wallerfield, north Trinidad.

Like John’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation Club, TTIC aims to be a springboard for young entrepreneurs who need the framework to pursue their entrepreneurial desires and innovative ideas, with the intention of culminating in the successful launch into the world of business.

To find out more about TTIC, click here.

To connect with TTEI on Facebook, click here.