Saint Lucia
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Building a Nation of Innovators

THE success story of INVICTUS is found on the centre pages of this issue of the newspaper. In light of this success, a number of recommendations, which could transition Saint Lucia into a major Hub for Research and Innovation in the Caribbean Archipelago are highlighted.

One critical question however is, what can Saint Lucia do to learn from this international recognition and act with purpose? In 2019, on a recommendation from the Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (GEF SGP UNDP), a Decade of Research and Innovation was declared. We believe that for Saint Lucia to move forward, it must now build on this international success by two of its citizens, by establishing a national Parliamentary Level Committee, within the Department of Innovation, to achieve the following:

Promotion of a Philosophy of Transformational Change: Simply put, Saint Lucia must first decide to become a nation of innovators and if needed, to go where no SIDS has gone before. This will include taking necessary and reasonable risks over an extended period of ten years in the first instance. Right now, there is need for focus, drive and an infectious passion for change, exemplified in all sectors of this nation;

Articulate a Clear National Policy on Research and Innovation: That is, setting a ten – year comprehensive research and innovation policy, with a compulsory mid-term evaluation, which is approved and promulgated by the Parliament of Saint Lucia. It should be developed using a participatory process, by inviting Saint Lucians from within and without to participate. Saint Lucia should also follow-up and build on the publication titled Towards Integrating Research and Innovation into Sustainable Development Processes in Saint Lucia (2021), published by GEF SGP UNDP;

Identify and allocate Space and Systems: Identify sufficient space with the requisite infrastructure e.g., the fastest independent and reliable internet link and adequate security, to establish an Innovation Hub, from where Saint Lucian agents and representatives should go out into the world to attract the best  reputable companies to set-up Innovation businesses in Saint Lucia. The tropical marine climate should be a great attraction to many scientists and their families from the frigid north;

Source Funding: In the aforementioned publication, Dr. Keith Nurse, the former Principal of Sir Arthur Lewis Community College, lamented the inadequate investment by Caribbean Governments in Innovation.  His research revealed that only Trinidad and Tobago had reached the low figure of 0.05% of its GDP. Globally, he noted, the international benchmark was 1%. He concluded that if Caribbean Governments were serious in making progress in Innovation, they must seriously consider the quantum of resources required for investment;

A recommendation can be that Saint Lucia begins with its next budgetary process by dedicating a percentage of the national budget  to Innovation. This amount should be increased annually, until Saint Lucia reaches the international benchmark of 1% of GDP, within five  years or sooner. To reiterate, the goal must be, if needed, to go where no SIDS has gone before in meeting the goals and objectives, as well as the outcomes and impacts projected;

Develop and use incentives: Research is needed to discover the level of incentives given for Innovation around the world and use should be made of the findings to develop a package that is extremely attractive. This must include inducing the best and the most reputable companies and/or individuals, including Sant Lucians in the diaspora, to work in Saint Lucia. One suspects that with the current deficit in agglomeration of economies, the initial incentives would have to be extremely attractive. To avoid failure, the country must develop a strategy that is simultaneously proactive and reactive, but also robust and evolving, with effective feedback loops for LEARNING. Above all, Saint Lucia should develop areas that it has maximum or can develop maximum economies in;

Strategic Partnerships: Among the many goals, should be to seek out, establish and nurture  strategic partnerships in various areas of innovation, relevant to the nation’s sustainable development plans.  It is here that Saint Lucia’s attractiveness for investing in innovations will become a primary variable; and

Move into an action mode:  Those who tarry out of fear or other reasons, shall never begin or arrive. Professor Cato Laurencin, the Father of Regenerative Engineering, is of Saint Lucian parentage, and like Sir Arthur Lewis (the Father of Development Economics), he has attained global accolade for his work. Based on his successes, we are inclined to believe that he is a candidate for the Nobel Prize sooner rather than later.

Professor Laurencin in 2021, in a speech given at the luminaries’ symposium held in the  chamber of the nation’s Parliament,  offered his global reputation and his ability to attract funding to create an International Clinical, Research, Technology and Entrepreneurship Institute in Saint Lucia. He noted that such an institute “ . . . would enable a culture of world class clinical care, biomedical and medical engineering science and technology and entrepreneurial hub.” Have we explored this offer with him or are we still waiting and procrastinating? Is this the time for action or accelerating any initiatives taken to date?

Innovation is not an option but an imperative. If we prefer to just exist, it will become near impossible to meet the aspirations of the People of Saint Lucia in the future.