Archive for the ‘Laughlin & De Gannes’ Tag

TTMA’s Greig Laughlin calls for innovation

Greig Laughlin, TTMA President, on the state of innovation in T&T

TTMA President Greig Laughlin is a busy man.

“Oh gosh, I am constantly running all over the place… but I can’t complain,” he laughs good-naturedly, as I finally cornered him following e Teck’s High Value Manufacturing Cluster Launch held at the Trinidad Hilton at the end of April.

Laughlin, also the Managing Director of automotive products supplier Laughlin & De Gannes, joined the Trinidad and Tobago Manufacturing Association (TTMA) six years ago as a small manufacturer.

He was recently re-elected to serve a second term as TTMA President. Despite tremendous challenges, he led the TTMA through the effects of the global economic crisis.

He managed to share with me his passionate plea for the future of innovation in Trinidad & Tobago.

Robotic innovation

“We at the TTMA have been strong promoters of innovation,” he said. “Some manufacturers have taken advantage of the slowdown period by really looking into their processes and finding new ways of delivering.  Most are trying to find new niche markets, and in order to do this, they have to be more innovative in what they’re doing.”

One example sited was Robert Tang Yuk, of Tang Yuk & Co. Ltd., who brought in an entire robotic plant that builds electrical boxes.

Like Laughlin, Tang Yuk has worked extensively with University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT) students, who were excited to get involved with the robotic plant. It is the only one of its kind in the Caribbean and one of the few in Latin America.

“But what he envisions is doing more,” Laughlin stated. “Architects and builders are now making such a wide range of designs that they’re not looking for standard-sized boxes – now they want different sizes, different shapes, and intricate designs. As such, Tang Yuk has to make more innovative designs.” 

‘Mistrust’ bars innovation

But one of the major problems facing Trinidad, as Laughlin argues, is the level of mistrust between students and the business community.

He also lamented that the mentality in Trinidad and Tobago is still one of trading – ‘buying-and-selling’ – rather than building our own.

“Not that there’s anything wrong with that,” he justified. “But we also need to find industries that will add to the economy. My fear – and it should be the fear of many – is what happens when oil and gas is over with. How do you continue to keep going?

“How do we maintain – and increase – our standard of living after oil and gas? What can we fall back on?”

Renewable energy focus

Laughlin suggested that instead of focusing on oil and gas energy, the country needs to place more emphasis on renewable energies such as solar chips.

He says: “We need to find technologies that will take Trinidad and Tobago into the next 50 years and 100 years.”

e TecK’s Tamana InTech Park in Wallerfield, north-east Trinidad, will address this need for innovation as a core component of the country’s business infrastructure.

The Park, which is expected to be opened later this year, is an 1100-acre light eco-industrial park with an academic and research focus that will also balance a unique blend of environmental appeal (30% green) with industrialisation.

Its largest tenant, the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT), will provide the essential synergy between industry and academia that TTMA President Greig Laughlin fervently supports.