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The Caribbean Industrial Research Institute (Cariri) is getting access to a vast range of products from global technology company Microsoft to accelerate T&T’s quest for economic diversification through innovation. This follows last week’s signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to establish the Microsoft-Cariri Innovation Centre (MCIC) at Freeport.
Cariri CEO Liaquat Ali Shah said while T&T has some of the most creative and talented people in the world, it is challenged by its inability to translate creativity and talent into value added, tradable goods and services on a sizeable scale. “It cannot be over emphasised that without innovation, our firms will be unable to compete, economic diversification will be unachievable and our economic fortunes will continues to be dependent primarily on the vagaries of the energy-based sector.
“Innovation, knowledge and entrepreneurship are now the prime determinants of competitive advantage, with practically all countries aggressively pursuing the creation, growth and attraction of knowledge-based, high value-added economic activity as their primary developmental strategy,” he said. “ICT in particular, which has radically transformed marketplace dynamics, has levelled the playing field somewhat and affords us the potential for innovation and competitiveness enhancement.
Shah added: “Cariri’s primary focus on business development, particularly new business creation, and growing SMEs into productivity innovation enterprises, represents potentially an area with significant benefit to the institute as a key partner in the MCIC.
“Strategically, Cariri will seek to leverage its status in this centre to forge linkages with Microsoft productivity innovation centres such as exists in Manresa, Spain. This will provide an avenue for a higher level of engagement with businesses in relation to productivity and correspondingly, profitability enhancement through the utilisation of ICT.”
Shah said the full impact of the MCIC can be appreciated in the context of Government’s seven inter-connected pillars for sustainable development and a more diversified and knowledge intensive economy. Barry Ridgway, vice-president of sales, marketing and services at Microsoft Latin America said: “We have 100 plus innovation centres around the world, so the opportunity is there, in a network of research, to understand that innovation is about collaboration.
“How do we not only spur collaboration here in T&T, but how do we spur innovation and collaboration for T&T? One big agenda that we have is trying to enable the IT eco-system in the markets that we serve, and that certainly is what you would expect from a large corporation, to focus on how we are servicing the markets.”
He added: “Of course we are doing a lot in terms of education. We do a lot in terms of social programmes, closing the digital divide, working with over 4000 NGOs around the region to support various kinds of programmes.
“But there is one that is very near and dear and core to Microsoft as a software company. We spend over $9 billion a year on research and development, so we have incredible research and development assets around the world. There is nothing more dear to our hearts than partnering with governments and local entities to spur innovation and that’s innovation that creates businesses and creates jobs in the local market,” he said.
Ridgway said Microsoft’s footprint across Latin America tells a story of more than 90,000 partners in the network with IT related companies that do business in and around Microsoft technology. He said those companies employ more than one million people, so the idea and the opportunity is to be forward thinking, investing in building that eco-system, strengthening it, and creating opportunities.