EPIC’s regional partners urged to take digital innovation to the next level.

Kingston, Jamaica  Ganesh Rasagam, World Bank Group’s Practice Manager for Entrepreneurship Program for Innovation in the Caribbean (EPIC) has urged regional partners to take ownership for the next phase of implementing the mobile innovation and clean technology enterprise programs to make for the further promotion and success of digital innovation in the region. He was speaking at the launch of a 2 day Hub and Spoke Workshop for regional entrepreneurs in Kingston recently.

“We truly believe that the Caribbean Climate Innovation Center (CCIC) and the Caribbean Mobile Innovation Program (CMIP) have to be owned and empowered by our regional partners to guarantee long-lasting, sustainable success that will create generations of high-potential entrepreneurs for the region. This is also critical in fulfilling the objectives and targets set for the program,” he noted. EPIC, supported by the Government of Canada, is a 7-year project improves the innovation environment for high-growth startups in CARICOM countries and assists entrepreneurs on their journey from “mind to market”.

The workshop, which was organized by the World Bank Group and EPIC’s program sponsors and partners, was the first joint event for the CCIC and the CMIP – two of the three central activity pillars of EPIC. The Hub and Spoke model is a series of regional and local ecosystem activities that are managed by a central innovation hub with support from additional hubs in different locations. It seeks to build mobile-innovation communities by bringing together a variety of stakeholder groups, which include entrepreneurs, developers, mobile phone companies and local businesses which are involved in activities that strengthen the mobile innovation ecosystem.

Mr. Rasagam stated that “in this new phase we need to build upon these successes and to strengthen our efforts to support growth entrepreneurs in the Caribbean through a comprehensive set of value-added services, engagement with key stakeholders in the region and building strategic partnerships.” He highlighted several important milestones including the implementation of the first Proof of Concept grants by CCIC, several hackathon and trainings implemented by CMIP, with over 250 entrepreneurs benefitting from the services of both programs.

UWI Consulting, CMIPs main regional partner recently appointed 3 mobile hubs (mHubs) in Barbados, St Kitts and Nevis and Trinidad to serve the fast growing mobile app development community in those markets. “This is an important step for us in our plans, as we seek to bolster the mobile app ecosystem toward establishing high-quality, sustainable

businesses in the region,” Professor Claremont Kirton, Acting Executive Director of UWI Consulting said.

Counsellor and Head of Development Cooperation at the Canadian High Commission, Walter Bernyck, stated that Canada is investing approximately Canadian $600 million across the region in several development programs and that EPIC is one of the flagship ones. Boosting the productivity of small and medium-sized businesses is an area of priority and need to be encouraged to promote success of the program, he underscored. He also noted that the science on climate change is indisputable and its significant impacts are already being felt by economies and communities, particularly in the world’s most poor and vulnerable countries. “Canada is ready to play its part in combating climate change, and this includes helping the poorest and most vulnerable countries in the world adapt. Canada will be part of the solution. Working on such an ambitious plan requires innovative solutions. Solutions will come from entrepreneurs financed through programs like EPIC.” Mr. Bernyck also stated that at the recent Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Malta, Canada announced that it will contribute an historic $2.65 billion over the next five years to help developing countries tackle climate change. “The investment will help build a more environmentally sustainable future for generations to come. The Caribbean Climate Innovation Centre is an organization that is fundamental to supporting the development of climate technology in the region,” he stated.

According to Mr. Rasagam, “we know we have several challenges ahead but I am very encouraged when I listen to energetic and innovative Caribbean entrepreneurs who are eager to bring their products to market … Like Jamaican clean energy producer, Shirley Lindo who has started exporting products to the US … or when I listen to entrepreneurs, Nichole Crawford and Winnie Dzidonu who just came back from the world-renowned startup festival Slush Impact in Finland where they were able to pitch their Jamaican firm Niritech, an online study platform, to interested investors.” he stated.

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