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Jamaicans win regional energy contest

BY DENISE DENNIS Observer staff reporter dennisd@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, August 24, 2012    

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THREE Jamaican companies were part of a team of eight winners of the Caribbean-wide 2012 IDEAS Energy Innovation contest. They are Echos Consulting, which presented a proposal called Caribshare Biogas; The Family Garden, which proposed a project on community hydroponics farming with solar energy; and Caribbean ESCO Ltd, which proposed creating an energy-efficient hybrid solar agro-products dryer, utilising alternative renewable energy and liquid desiccant technology.

The winners, which were announced at a meeting at the Terra Nova Hotel in Kingston, Tuesday, were each awarded grants of up to US$200,000 to develop their proposed projects. This comes to a total of approximately US$1.5 million.

In addition to grant funding, the winners -- which included a Belizean national, two Surinamese and two Haitians -- will receive technical and business development support to implement or scale up their ideas, as well as access to other experts, policymakers, institutions and potential financial partners.

IDEAS is a competition designed to identify and develop innovative, renewable energy solutions that have local or regional benefits, such as job creation and a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. It is supported financially by UKAid, UK-based non-profit organisation Global Village Energy Partnership International, the Inter-American Development Bank and the Government of South Korea.

Minister of Science, Technology, Energy, and Mining Phillip Paulwell has congratulated the winners and has praised the sponsors for having recognised that what is preventing more innovation is a lack of resources and capital.

"Not every one of these [projects] will become a multimillion-dollar project, but trust me, we will get one or two out of them, and certainly it will provide for our people demonstrations," he said.

He said 90 per cent of Jamaica's exports are still raw material-based and only six per cent "high-tech". He said this could be due to an inadequate policy guiding science, technology and innovation in the island, a lack of effective national innovation systems, a weak innovation culture, and comparatively less science, technology and innovation in the island.

Paulwell said the process to develop Jamaica's strategic Science, Technology and Innovation Programme has formally started and is going apace. The programme, supported by the International Development Bank, has a list of criteria including adding value to goods and services, improving efficiency of commodities, such as fuel and food, enhancing health and wellness and providing small and micro-enterprises with a competitive edge.

The minister said the programme will also provide the creation of three centres of excellence in Jamaica. One will specialise in science and technology education at local tertiary institutions. There will also be an applied science and industrial value-added centre of excellence based at the Scientific Research Council, as well as one focused on applied environmental science.

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