Gov't allocates $200 million for R&D at local universities

Senior staff reporter

Saturday, July 13, 2019

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MINISTER of Finance and the Public Service Dr Nigel Clarke says that the Government is budgeting $200 million this year in a special fund to promote research at local universities.

Dr Clarke said that the Administration is taking the cue from overseas universities, like Cambridge in England, which have proven that the innovation provided by research institutions is essential for growth and development by creating 4,600 companies based on their research, and employing 60,000 people.

“The research that has come out of Cambridge University has found its way into making cancer drugs and several multi-billion-dollar companies. In fact, a start-up that achieved market capitalisation of US$1 billion is called a unicorn, and there are 16 unicorns in the Cambridge University space,” he noted.

He said that must be the vision for Jamaica but, with much room for improvement, the country has to, at least, first get to the point where it can call itself a start-up destination.

He admitted that a crucially important prerequisite for that journey is financing. However, he said that it would be futile to have a market economy where prior ownership of capital is seen as a necessary prerequisite to move from point “A” to point “B”, which he described as “an experiment in futility”.

“That will never work. We have to democratise capital as the only response to ideas — and we are taking steps in doing that,” the minister told guests at Wednesday night's official opening of the Mona School of Business and Management's (MSBM) '4th Business and Management Conference' at Jamaica Pegasus, New Kingston

He said that as part of an Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) facility, the Government will start by investing $200 million in credit support from the Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ), which will require the support of “angel investors” on a 50-50 basis to benefit primarily risky ventures.

He said that these funds will be specially dedicated to research across the university space, and the universities will be required, under a memorandum of understanding, to run transparent research application practices for further allocations.

In addition, he said the Government will increase credit support from the DBJ from $250 million to $600 million, as well as increase the bank's risk capital funding from $100 million to $400 million this financial year to promote entrepreneurship.

“That is because we recognise the role that research plays in entrepreneurship and in development,” the minister stated.

“Entrepreneurship is exactly the right thing to be focused on, and the Government is aligned with you in that regard and recognises that we ought to have a vision for where we want to go,” he added.

Other speakers at the function included: managing director of the DBJ Milverton Reynolds; executive director of the MSBM Dr David Mcbean; conference chair Dr Indianna Minto-Coy; and chairman of the event, James Moss-Solomon, executive-in-residence at the MSBM.

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