Prof Brian Copeland said today his vision for the University of the West Indies' St Augustine campus was to help in the development of the national economy and make it more sustainable, through microenterprise.
Speaking at UWI’s consultation with the private sector, state enterprises and government at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, Port of Spain, Copeland said he believed his team had successfully and thoughtfully set up “the preconditions for take-off” in innovation and entrepreneurship at UWI St Augustine.
“The time has come – and we are ready to take off, to put innovation and entrepreneurship at the forefront of what we do at UWI, St Augustine, and embedded in the DNA of who we are as a nation.
“This is in keeping with the UWI’s Triple-A Strategic Plan 2017-2022 that seeks to propel the UWI’s evolution beyond traditional teaching, learning and research and to enhance its role as a major driver of local and regional innovation and entrepreneurship.”
He said the university’s initiatives are pegged to a vision for the not-too-distant future that sees the students of today at the forefront of a large, robust foreign-exchange-earning small and medium enterprise (SME) sector.
Copeland said he has called the SME sector-to-be the “Caribbean Mittelstand,” in recognition of the German Mittelstand model, which accounts for 30 per cent of its exports and 60 per cent of its workforce.
“Since I assumed leadership at St Augustine in 2016 I have been looking at how we could optimise our processes to do just this, and more. I stand among you today with some sense of pride that, along with a small campus team – led by our new Professor of Practice, NGC chairman Gerry Brooks – and in consultation with, and support from, some significant private-sector players, we have successfully mapped what we call an I&E Ecosystem – one that much better facilitates and motivates the creation of new commercially viable ideas and provides the support to move those ideas into the open economic space through, for example, university spin-off companies.”
He said at the same time, the university will enhance its current capabilities to direct its burgeoning creative talents in providing support to existing companies in improving products and processes to increase their competitiveness.
Copeland said the pinnacle of the I&E ecosystem is a company in formation, a strong partnership between the university and the private sector, known as UWI Ventures, which will be the holding company for these innovative and entrepreneurial initiatives.
“The efforts coming out of St Augustine have been lauded and approved at the highest levels of the university.
“I admit we are still in the process of rolling out and stress-testing the ecosystem, but I stand before you today confident that the St Augustine campus is ready to catalyse change and to be the regional thought leader in innovation and entrepreneurship.”
Copeland said the sustainable future of the campus and the national economy depended on a change in business ethos and a change in the drivers of the economy.
He said without sharing too many secrets before October’s event, he wanted to say the university had been fortunate that some business interests had already committed, and tangibly so, to the campus initiative.
“We have plans for construction of an I&E Centre with support from some very keen private-sector partners who recognise the merit in and transformational nature of our work.”