Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining (STEM), Hon. Phillip Paulwell, said he will be reinstating the national award programme in science and technology (S&T) innovation, starting this year.
He said the objective is to celebrate and award excellence in the field, so as to encourage greater use of S&T, and create an enabling environment for innovation and creativity.
“So, innovation is going to be a major focus and we are going to reinstate a national award. Every year, as Minister, I will be awarding, through a competitive process, a project that shows the dynamism of Jamaicans using S&T. It’s going to focus a lot on the priorities that we have,” he stated.
Minister Paulwell, who was addressing a special meeting of the Faculty of Pure and Applied Sciences held recently on the University of the West Indies’ (UWI) Mona Campus, stated that Jamaicans have an innate ability to be innovative, and that creative talent must be harnessed to propel the country “into the top echelons of the world of S&T adaptations”.
He said the government is of the firm view that the future job market is going to require people trained in the technical skills.
“Yes… lawyers are useful, but we need more engineers, more ICT (information communication technology) specialists, and if I have anything to do with resource allocation in the Cabinet, I am going to be insisting when budgetary issues come up that those areas that are focussed on S&T and innovation be given priority treatment. The country can’t afford anything else,” he contended.
Minister Paulwell noted that the UWI has had a number of achievements in S&T, and the government must now bring together, “the business and productive sectors of the country much more closely with the work that is being done at the university”.
“The university can become …a productive enterprise offering the services you provide to your students to the business community and in the creation of businesses yourselves,” he pointed out.
He indicated that some funding has been earmarked for this kind of endeavour through the PetroCaribe Fund “so that could be used to mobilise that effort”.
Minister Paulwell, in November 2005, presented the first National Innovation Awards for Science and Technology, to celebrate outstanding achievements of innovators in the field.
These annual awards were in support of the government's efforts to promote the systemic application of scientific and technical knowledge to meet diverse and changing needs in different areas of the economy, and ultimately to increase production, productivity and diversity of products.
By O. Rodger Hutchinson, JIS PRO