Business

JPS /Marubeni's I-Lab now open and full of energy

This $7-million lab is said to be the cusp of energy and technological innovation

BY KELLARAY MILES
Business reporter
milesk@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

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The Jamaica Public Service (JPS) in collaboration with Marubeni Power International on Tuesday, commissioned its Innovation lab (I-Lab) into use. This Lab is expected to be the transformative solution to providing university students/ interns and graduates with the ability to find creative solutions and effect real life changes in the energy industry.

Speaking at the official launch of the facility held at the JPS's head offices in New Kingston, Emanuel DaRosa, president and chief executive officer (CEO) of JPS said that the lab was born out of the new reality with which many companies are faced today, wherein innovation must be a way of life, especially in the energy industry which is moving at an unprecedented pace.

“In order to stay ahead or even keep up with the rapid changes in the industry, we must innovate. We have learnt that it is almost impossible for innovation to occur in an environment in which we are constantly kept busy with the everyday growing demands of our customers. One has to be intentional in a 96-year-old organisation such as JPS, where some things have been done in a particular way for decades. That's why the innovation lab is essential and creates space for that separate but not completely apart from the everyday operations of the business,” he said.

The lab, he continued, will provide an environment in which new recruits, as well as more experienced energy experts can work together to arrive at new solutions for real industry challenges. He then went on to thank his partners at Marubeni and the University of the West Indies (UWI), with whom they have also signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for making the lab a reality.

Mo Majeed, chief operating officer (COO) at Marubeni expressed elation at the official opening of the lab, which he deemed to be a part of cutting-edge technology and innovation. He said that his company, which has been in business for over 150 years currently operating in 67 countries out of 136 branches, is providing varied services to the energy industry.

He noted that JPS has made significant investment in technology in the past five years with an aim to improve service to customers and to tap into the global disruptor space.

“The I-Lab serves to explore new opportunities for JPS, it provides graduates with valuable work experience in the energy industry , it enhances risk-taking abilities, it incubates a new culture, provides clear alignment of academic programmes with industry needs , drives growth and development, accelerates innovation and mitigates risk with all aimed at improving value of service to the customer,” he said.

“The I-Lab provides the platform to develop solutions for challenges yet to be discovered, I'm proud to represent Marubeni's sponsorship of $7 million for this investment in the future of JPS and Jamaica. I'm excited by the opportunity it allows and look forward to seeing the outputs make meaningful contributions to JPS and the wider Jamaican society,” Majeed further stated.

Gary Barrow, COO of JPS, who is said to have conceptualised the plan for the facility, reasoned that the I-lab will be a disruptor in the local space. This, as the country has taken note of the fact that it cannot just be business as usual, noting that new and innovative ways must be found to harness disruptive technologies to drive growth.

''The innovation lab is the nucleus of something bigger to come and JPS is on the path of being the centre of technological excellence in the Caribbean. It will be a resource centre for creative enquiry, unconventional research, disruptive thinking and exploratory play,” he added.

Minister of Energy Fayval Williams, who also addressed the launch said that the I-Lab represents the convergence/intersection of technology and energy in one setting.

She stressed that utility companies are beginning to become more agile and strategic in their business models in order to accommodate the many changes while at the same time remaining competitive. She shared that the new energy lab will seek to do just that.

She highlighted the energy sector as a viable sector especially for young people potentailly providing numerous employment opportunities. In referring to global statistics from the International Renewable Energy Agency she said that “the renewable energy sector employed some 11 million people in 2018, with employment in wind power supporting 1.2 million jobs, while 3.6 million jobs were in the solar Photovoltaic PV industry.

“We're working to develop our energy sector and infrastructure so that after obtaining the requisite training and experience they [youths] can find jobs locally and positively contribute to the Jamaican economy. Renewable and other fuels such as liquid nitro gas (LNG) are being more widely incorporated in our energy mix to provide more opportunities. We're going to need more civil and mechanical engineers, solar PV technicians, experts in wind systems and energy efficiency,” she said.

She added that “with the concept of big data and artificial intelligence very much alive and real at JPS every expertise will be needed to build out the necessary infrastructure in the industry”. She emphasised that youth are a critical part of this.

In commending JPS and Marubeni for launching the I-Lab, she expressed hope that the facility will be an incubator for greatness and that the products and solutions that will be created, will change Jamaica and the world.


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