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We need partners to fund research — UWI

BY NADINE WILSON Observer staff reporter wilsonn@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, February 19, 2014    

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THE University of the West Indies (UWI) Mona campus is hoping that more private and public sector entities will contribute to the funding of local research projects, given that international grants have been dwindling over the last few years.

Pro-Vice Chancellor and Principal Professor Archibald McDonald said although the institution still manages to attract grants from international agencies, such as the National Institute of Health, they are securing far less external funding compared to 10 years ago. Fortunately, local agencies such as the National Health Fund and the Culture, Health, Arts, Sports and Education (CHASE) Fund have been giving research grants, although the dollar value is smaller when compared to overseas donors.

"Clearly it would be very difficult to get funding of that magnitude from local entities," Professor McDonald told reporters and editors during this week's Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange.

"We do get some (funding), but it is very, very difficult. In fact, most of the time now, what we do is to collaborate with a university, say, in the United States, because to attract some of the funding you will have to have a partner from one of their universities," he said.

According to Professor McDonald, UWI currently produces 80 per cent of all the research output of the Caribbean, with the Mona campus accounting for the majority of the research. Approximately $284 million is spent by the university in research grants, and the Office of the Principal also contributes significantly to research undertaken by staff members. There is also a study and travel grant given to staff.

In order to attract more local funding, Professor McDonald explained that UWI will be hosting an opportunity luncheon tomorrow, starting at 1:00 pm at the Undercroft. This will form a part of the university's Research Days activities scheduled for February 19 to 21.

"Essentially, what we'll do here is to invite people from the public and private sectors to hear from the researchers themselves. Each researcher will make a brief presentation, and essentially the purpose of this is to seek out partnerships. We need partners to fund our research and maybe, even more importantly, we need partners to convert some of the research into commercial activities," he said.

Funding for the commercialisation of research, the professor noted, is virtually non-existent.

"We need partners to help us to commercialise and partners in terms of contributing financially to the projects, but also expertise," he pointed out.

Campus Co-ordinator for Graduate Studies and Research Professor Denise Eldemire-Shearer said that an invitation has also been extended to business owners in need of advice to attend the luncheon as well.

"A business might want to change its business environment, but doesn't know how or doesn't know what the problems are; you can come to us with your issue. We design the research to identify the issues and we then work with you as the consultants to implement the change," she said.

"Part of what we are saying is that there is local expertise to implement change and that UWI can provide you with consultants in many of the fields, especially out of the Mona school, to actually diagnose the problem," Professor Eldemire-Shearer added.

She also noted that the upgrading of Jamaica to a middle-income country has been part of the reason for a reduction in international funding over the last few years.

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