KINGSTON — Newly appointed Executive Director of the Scientific Research Council (SRC), Dr. Chadwick Anderson, says he is looking to deepen ties with players in the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) sector to conduct research and develop new products to support industry needs.
The move, he tells JIS News, is in keeping with Government’s focus on the development of the sector to create employment and serve as the engine for economic growth.
He says that while existing efforts in agro-processing, cosmetics and integrated pest management will continue, it is important that new methods and strategies are found to support SMEs.
“We want to deepen our relationship with all industry players in support of the Government’s mandate. Those little companies that employ 30 persons… multiply that number by 1,000 and we would probably have an unemployment rate by two to three per cent down from whatever rate it is right now,” Dr. Anderson points out.
The SRC, an agency of the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce, is Jamaica's principal public sector agency responsible for fostering and coordinating scientific research and the promotion and application of its results to impact socio-economic growth and development.
Driven to support SME development, the Council targets the needs of the sector and provides solutions through new product development and research services.
The agency has facilitated the growth of a vibrant agro-processing industry, utilising local crops to create value-added products for commercialisation and subsequent divestment to the private sector.
Among these are creating flour from yam and breadfruit; chips from banana, potato, plantain, and breadfruit; and numerous condiments, preserves, soups, liqueurs, jams and jellies, among others.
The agency has also assisted in the development of the local sorrel industry through research highlighting the health and nutritional benefits of the plant, including its powerful antioxidant quality.
In addition, the development of chutney, squashes, and several other new exotic products from sorrel, have not only stimulated demand for the product, but also for inputs such as sugar, ginger, mango, guava, and spices, creating benefits for farmers of these crops, and service providers such as labourers, truckers, processors, packers and distributors.
Dr. Anderson tells JIS News that the agency has also done work related to ackee processing and is working on a ginger project. “We currently have a nice contract to supply through an intermediary, 120,000 ginger plants to stimulate the ginger industry,” he informs.
In addition, the Analytical Services Division is working on project involving teas and essential oils. “We are looking onto formalising the trading and extraction of lemon grass, all the way to the lotions… essentially health and wellness industry,” he says.
Dr. Andersons informs that the SRC’s laboratories are International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 17025 certified, which means that “any paper, any results that come from here is already leapfrogging the industry. The entire entity is ISO 9001 2008 certified”.
He says that even as the Council continues to carry out research and development activities, there is need for continuous retooling as technology changes very quickly. He notes that economic challenges have impacted the Council’s ability to change over equipment to modernise some aspects of its operations.
“As technology changes it drives efficiencies across a number of areas. One of the things we want to do is to be able to convert an idea into a product and move that product to the various stakeholders, then to an industry in the shortest possible time. In that regard we would certainly love to have some equipment,” he says.
Even with the challenges, the Executive Director, who took office in January, says he is committed to carry out the agency’s mandate.
He says he will be calling on the experience of his staff and his knowledge of the internal workings of the agency, having served as a member of the SRC’s board of directors since 2007. He says this work on the board has allowed him to learn about the operations of the Council.
“I saw the passion, I saw the direction in which the Council was going and the leadership at the time was doing an excellent job. When an opportunity came as the former Executive Director resigned I jumped at it because it gave me the opportunity to move from policy to operations. So instead of just shaping a framework… I am now involved in the operation,” Dr. Anderson says.
The SRC Executive Director is a graduate of the University of the West Indies (UWI), where he earned a Bachelor of Science (BSc) degree in Food Chemistry and a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Organic Chemistry. His PhD research, among other things, centered on substances of interest in endemic Jamaican plants.
A scholarship awardee of Tanaud International BV, a division of Shire Pharmaceuticals in the United Kingdom (UK), Dr. Anderson has worked with the company as a senior research scientist, leading a team in designing and synthesising compounds towards the treatment of ailments of the central nervous system.
He also serves on the Board of the Heart Trust NTA and is a member of its Human Resource Subcommittee and its pension fund board.
By LATONYA LINTON, JIS Reporter