By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
The Bahamas’ first and “only” Centre of Entrepreneurship and Innovation will develop a business and technology incubator designed to benefit 1,500 students, it has been revealed.
The Centre, which is being part-financed by a $500,000 Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) grant, is targeting 15 new start-up businesses to be launched by University of The Bahamas (UoB) students and graduates within the first three years as it seeks to position The Bahamas for the digital era.
In addition, the project is also aiming to establish “at least five partnerships” for local and international firms, and start-up ventures, in technology and research and development (R&D) with women to be “at least 50 percent” of the 100 students involved.
Dr Ian Strachan, head of UoB’s northern campus, told Tribune Business that the Centre should be set-up and operational come August 2022 with the IDB and university in the final stages of concluding the grant funding. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) will also be signed with the Government-supported Small Business Development Centre (SBDC).
An IDB paper, explaining the rationale for the project, said: “The Bahamas has experienced two major external shocks over the last 12 [sic; 28] months, Hurricane Dorian in 2019 and the COVID-19 pandemic. This, and an insufficient innovative capability among Bahamian firms and its high unemployment rate presents, a particularly difficult environment for entrepreneurs and job seekers.
“The main reasons for this are a lack of digital talent, scientific and technological knowledge/research, and access to programmes for training and limited connections between the entrepreneurial ecosystems. This project will aim to solve this problem by fostering entrepreneurship through the creation of a Centre of Entrepreneurship and Innovation (The Centre) at UoB’s North campus.
“This Centre aims to apply disruptive technologies and incubate entrepreneurs in the digital technology space. The Centre will mainly focus on developing digital knowledge through training, boot camps and certificate programmes to provide the technological skills needed to increase innovation and competitiveness among small and medium-sized enterprises in The Bahamas,” it added.
“Furthermore, the project will provide strategic programming and advisory services for the implementation of an on-campus business incubator in partnership with the Small Business Development Centre, the local (Grand Bahama) Chamber of Commerce, and the Ministry of Grand Bahama.”
With UoB identified as the executing agency, the IDB paper said: “As the project evolves it will seek to address the needs not only of Grand Bahama but the entire archipelago, as it will be the only Centre of Entrepreneurship and Innovation in the country.
“Linkages will be pursued with other regional incubators and innovation centres as well with the network of higher education entrepreneurship centres throughout the Caribbean and the Americas. The aim is for the Centre to provide a model for similar centres in other parts of the country and region.
“The main beneficiaries of the project are 500 students and graduates of the entrepreneurship boot camp programme, of which at least 50 percent are women,” the document added.
“In addition, 1,000 enrolled students and graduates of newly-created certification programmes will benefit and at least five partnerships will be created for local or international firms and high growth start-ups to host internships in specific applied R&D, technology and innovation fields for a minimum of 100 students (at least 50 percent will be women).
“Additionally, the project will aim for at least 15 new start-ups to be launched by university students or graduates over the three-year duration of the project.”