Well now, what is EPIC?
EPIC (Entrepreneurship Program for Innovation in the Caribbean) is a marvelous acronym for a new infoDev (World Bank) program that is harnessing technology to address climate change issues specific to the region and inspire mobile and climate entrepreneurs, especially women, in the region. It’s an ambitious CAD$20 million seven-year project, funded by the Government of Canada along with regional partners. Just before Christmas, the first Hub and Spoke workshop was launched at the recently-opened Courtyard at the Marriott in Kingston. This was a joint effort between two implementing partners of the program, the Caribbean Climate Innovation Centre (CCIC) and the Caribbean Mobile Innovation Program (CMIP).
“We truly believe that the CCIC and the CMIP have to be owned and empowered by our regional partners to guarantee long-lasting, sustainable success that will create generations of high-potential entrepreneurs for the region. This is also critical in fulfilling the objectives and targets set for the program,” said Ganesh Rasagam, World Bank Group’s Practice Manager for EPIC, at the launch.
And what is Hub and Spoke? Think of it as a bicycle wheel. It is a series of regional and local ecosystem activities that are managed by a central innovation hub with support from additional hubs in different locations. The aim is to build mobile-innovation communities by bringing together a variety of stakeholder groups, including entrepreneurs, developers, mobile phone companies and local businesses. UWI Consulting, CMIP’s main regional partner recently appointed three mobile hubs (mHubs) in Barbados, St Kitts and Nevis and Trinidad to serve the fast growing mobile app development community in those markets. “This is an important step for us in our plans, as we seek to bolster the mobile app ecosystem toward establishing high-quality, sustainable businesses in the region,” Professor Claremont Kirton, Acting Executive Director of UWI Consulting said.
Under the EPIC program, CCIC has already implemented the first Proof of Concept grants, while CMIP has organized several hackathon and training sessions, with over 250 entrepreneurs benefitting from the services of both programs. There are always challenges, but Mr. Rasagam pointed to some success stories: “I am very encouraged when I listen to energetic and innovative Caribbean entrepreneurs who are eager to bring their products to market … Like Jamaican clean energy producer, Shirley Lindo who has started exporting products to the U.S. … or when I listen to entrepreneurs, Nichole Crawford and Winnie Dzidonu who just came back from the world-renowned startup festival Slush Impact in Finland where they were able to pitch their Jamaican firm Niritech, an online study platform, to interested investors.” He added, “In this new phase we need to build upon these successes and to strengthen our efforts to support growth entrepreneurs in the Caribbean through a comprehensive set of value-added services, engagement with key stakeholders in the region and building strategic partnerships.”
EPIC is one of the flagship programs funded by the Canadian Government across the region, said Counsellor and Head of Development Cooperation at the Canadian High Commission, Walter Bernyck. He noted that the science of climate change is indisputable, observing, “Canada is ready to play its part in combating climate change, and this includes helping the poorest and most vulnerable countries in the world adapt. Canada will be part of the solution. Working on such an ambitious plan requires innovative solutions. Solutions will come from entrepreneurs financed through programs like EPIC.” At the recent Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting, he pointed out, Canada announced that it will contribute an historic $2.65 billion over the next five years to help developing countries tackle climate change. “The investment will help build a more environmentally sustainable future for generations to come. The Caribbean Climate Innovation Centre is an organization that is fundamental to supporting the development of climate technology in the region,” said Mr. Bernyck.
EPIC improves the innovation environment for high-growth startups in CARICOM countries and assists entrepreneurs on their journey from “mind to market”. I wish the project, and the entrepreneurs, all the very best in this exciting venture, and look forward to hearing more news on its progress.
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