More than $6 million in prizes await the winners in this year's renewal of the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining (STEM) Minister’s Innovation Awards.
The winners will be announced and the prizes and awards presented during a special black tie ceremony, scheduled for the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, New Kingston, on November 8.
Topping this year’s prizes is a whopping $2 million for the entrant adjudged the Innovator of the Year, which, according to Innovation Awards Steering Committee member, Olivia Leigh Campbell, is "the largest it’s ever been."
A cash prize of $1 million will be awarded to the winner of the Outstanding Youth Innovator category, which is open to persons under the age of 30. Additionally, the recipient will be offered an internship with an entity for mentoring in aspects of business and other areas of development for entrepreneurs.
A total of $750,000 will be presented to each entrant adjudged Outstanding Innovators in: Health and Wellness; Creativity; Resource Use Efficiency; and Resource/Knowledge Valorisation (Value Adding); as well as in the Open category, for submissions not falling under any of the aforementioned areas.
The PetroCaribe Development Fund (PCDF) heads the entities sponsoring this year's competition, which also includes: the Petroleum Corporation of Jamaica Group (PCJ); Jamaica Public Service Company (JPS), sponsors of the Youth Innovator Award; Jamaica Intellectual Property Office (JIPO); and Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO).
Brainchild of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining Minister, Hon. Phillip Paulwell, the Innovation Awards aim to enhance the government’s objectives of encouraging and promoting individual science and technology innovation creativity, imagination, efforts and concomitant outcomes.
The initiative is intended to identify, recognise, reward and facilitate intellectual property protection and commercialisation of innovations originating locally, from persons and institutions. Its primary goal is to catalyse an increased and enduring wave of innovation successes, which can be tapped to support the government’s Science and Technology Policy.
Speaking during the recent launch at the PCJ auditorium, New Kingston, Ms. Campbell informed that applications are currently being accepted by the Steering Committee. She said application forms can be accessed and downloaded from the websites of the Ministry at: www.mstem.gov.jm; the Scientific Research Council (SRC) at: www.src-Jamaica.org; and the committee at: www.innovateja.com. Applications should be submitted to the SRC by October 19, 2012.
Commenting on the competition’s categories, Ms. Campbell said the focus of Health and Wellness will incorporate innovations in tourism, environmental health, and nutraceuticals, among others.
The award for creativity will be given for submissions incorporating music, entertainment, fashion, manufacturing, tourism, and research and development. In the category of resource use efficiency, Ms. Campbell said the award will be made to the submission that best reflects how the potential of local resources can be maximized, “and even those (resources) which we don’t have here in Jamaica (which are brought in).” These include: water, energy, as well as undertakings in manufacturing, agriculture, and ICTs.
In the area of resource and knowledge valorisations, Ms. Campbell said the focus will be on processes and/or services adding value to any undertaking, while in the open category the focus should be on those innovations that come from the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), or that can be applied to MSMEs.
Equally important as the prizes, Ms. Campbell pointed out, is the institutional support which will be provided.
"So, we are in touch with a number of agencies, including the JIPO, which is going to help all of our innovators to register their innovations, to get their patents (and) to really ‘double down’ on their intellectual property," she said.
Meanwhile, Minister Paulwell said significant focus will be placed on the sustainability of the project submissions. He explained that efforts will be made to ensure that challenges which may arise, in this regard, are effectively addressed.
“For example, we want to ensure that there is proper registration of intellectual property rights and patents. As for funding, we are moving (to have discussions) with a group in the private sector to look at this matter and other ways of sustaining these new businesses,” he added.
Minister Paulwell said the Ministry is moving to make the awards an annual event. It is currently timetabled for biennial staging.
For his part, Chairman of the Awards Steering Committee, University of Technology (UTech) President, Professor Errol Morrison, explained that the competition is open to submissions from the general public, pointing out that “our committee has been quite clear that we want to broaden this (event) right across the spectrum of our society."
Professor Morrison urged persons, whose ideas might not fall in the themed areas, or which may vary from the norm, to submit them for inclusion in the open category.
"Don’t think that your new way is foolish or it doesn’t make sense. Just let us have it. I want you to send us all of the things you have been doing differently, or in a new way. Let us have what you have done, because we might not have thought of that and, in fact, it may be something of tremendous importance,” he said.
In her remarks, JPS Corporate Communications Manager, Winsome Callum, welcomed the opportunity to be a part of the Innovation Awards initiative, adding that “we are looking forward to a very fruitful partnership."
Extending the Group's full support for the initiative, PCJ Managing Director, Dr. Mario Anderson, expressed the hope that many persons will submit their innovative projects.
"We encourage everybody to put in (their submissions). There is no doubt in our minds that this programme is a good one…and we look forward to seeing its results. We will continue to support this programme," he said.
Inaugurated in 2005, the awards were also presented in 2008 and 2010, with over eight persons and entities copping prizes. They include: Mother’s Enterprise Limited, whose signature soy-based Power Patty won the Agriculture and Foods category; and Big City Brewing Company Limited, whose Roots Sorrel Drink, copped the Manufacturing category, during the 2008 renewal.