A business idea from a former public sector worker who was retrenched last year is among winners of a University of the West Indies contest to find viable startups by UWI students.
Five ideas made the final cut in the Student Entrepreneurial Empowerment Development (SEED) competition, who were presented with seed money in a ceremony attended by the Minister for Entrepreneurship Dwight Sutherland at the 3Ws Oval at the UWI’s Cave Hill campus.
And even as the student-entrepreneurs were being toasted by the university, Sutherland called on the UWI to play a greater role in developing entrepreneurship in Barbados and the region.
Winners of the competition were Mikhail Eversley and Kemar Codrington of Oasis Laboratory and Franz Harewood-Hamblin from Grow Smart Youth Farm.
Over 60 businesses have been created out of the SEED programme over the years with the contribution of over $180,000 from the CIBC FirstCaribbean International Bank.
Sutherland said it was about time higher education institutions make every effort to “resist any temptation to be stymied by intellectual loyalty” and instead “reinvent” so that they could help individuals turn their ideas into viable businesses.
He said it was important that regional universities foster entrepreneurial development by focusing on courses that place emphasis on creating new enterprises, provide positive role models in teaching and intensify experiential learning and real-world experiences.
The Minister said: “You must see yourselves as an integral source of talent and ideas as you serve as economic magnets for investments, entrepreneurs and talent in the region.
“Further, your role in economic development must continue to be increasingly magnified, given the fact that there is considerable leverage that can accrue through your agenda of core education, research and development, and other critical spillovers.
“Your remit must, therefore, be to create the type of entrepreneurship education that causes those who graduate in the past to also become interested in up-to-date and transferable entrepreneurship programmes.”
Sutherland said he saw the university playing a critical role in helping to develop the blue economy in the Caribbean as Barbados and the rest of the region continue to grapple with economic development issues.
“To my mind, a sustainable blue economy must combine governance, strategic priority and policy setting and investment with the simultaneous identification of socio-economic opportunities provided by the coastal and ocean resources.
“The university, with its cadre of well-trained academic experts, is therefore strategically positioned to strengthen blue economy opportunities by increasing the understanding of the complexities of the marine ecosystems and the intrinsic links to land-based activities.”
Additionally, said Sutherland, the university should continue to play a critical role in further developing entrepreneurs in the agriculture sector, adding that this area had the opportunity to create employment, lower the island’s food import bill, increase national income and sustain development in rural communities.
“Essentially, therefore, the university must rid itself of the perception of being a stranger to the community. In this regard, I therefore see a natural role for the university, whether faculty, students, or young entrepreneurs, to collaborate with Government in its Building Blocks programme, its Community Cluster initiative, the Barbados Trust Fund Limited and the Financial Literacy Bureau, to facilitate greater reach across the island’s communities, especially those that are perceived as being more socially challenged.”
The head of the Department of Management Studies and SEED’s chairman Dr Dion Greenidge said given that entrepreneurship was a critical part of developing regional economies, the university was currently reviewing its curriculum with the view of introducing a Bachelor of Science degree in Management, Entrepreneurship and Innovation.
Officials of the SEED programme were also looking at the possibility of taking it to “the community”, he said, in an effort to give more people the opportunity to bring their ideas to fruition.
“That is what we are about. We are about not only empowering our own students, but empowering those in the community, we want to role out that programme along with the ministry,” said Greenidge.