Media Launch of the 2015 Prime Minister's Awards for Scientific Ingenuity - November 5 2014




Date:    Wednesday November 05, 2014
Venue:   Marriot Hotel, Port of Spain, Trinidad
Time:    10.30 am

  • Professor Prakash Persad, Chairman of the Board of the National Institute of Higher Education, Research, and Technology otherwise simply referred to as NIHERST and other NIHERST Governors
  • Ms. Ingrid Seerattan, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Science and Technology and other senior executives from my Ministry
  • Ms. Joycelyn Lee Young, Acting President of NIHERST and the NIHERST Management Team
  • Ms. Frances Correia, Country Head, Microsoft
  • Dr. Wanda Chesney. Vice President of Academic Admission, University of The Southern Caribbean
  • Mr. Nigel Forgenie, Chief Executive Officer, YTEPP
  • Past winners of the Prime Minister’s Scientific Ingenuity Awards
  • Other Distinguished Guests
  • Members of the Media
  • Ladies and Gentlemen

It gives me great pleasure to speak to you this morning at the Media Launch of the 2015 Prime Minister’s Awards for Scientific Ingenuity which is a novel and forward-looking project of NIHERST to encourage and inspire creativity and innovation. This biennial competition, first introduced in 2000, recognises and rewards Trinidad and Tobago’s innovators, inventors and problem-solvers, from all walks of life, for their ingenuity.

The Scientific Ingenuity Awards Scheme showcases the inherent creativity of the people of Trinidad and Tobago and is a critical initiative in Government’s thrust to develop a highly diversified, knowledge based economy that is founded on our people’s creative genius.

The Prime Minister’s Scientific Ingenuity Awards competition is a wonderful opportunity for the public, especially our young people, to explore science and technology. It is an opportunity for the public to engage with the wonders of science and technology. And it is an opportunity to encourage young people to become scientists, inventors and innovators.

I urge our young people to make full and unbridled use of this opportunity to develop the feel for the power to create and improve the lives of people around you. Be inquisitive and take part in this program.

Indeed, I am happy to announce that the prize money for the 2015 Scientific Ingenuity Awards has increased from TT$1.25m to TT$1.50m.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The world today faces many challenges - whether it is the threat of infectious diseases, cyber-security, climate change, the security and sustainability of our energy and food supply and technology and the loss of our biodiversity.

Science, technology and innovation play a central role in understanding these challenges and assessing the risks and developing workable solutions to these issues.

It is in this regard that Government has identified science and technology as pre-requisites for the transformation of Trinidad and Tobago to a highly diversified, knowledge-based economy. Generating innovative ideas and applying scientific knowledge to create new technologies, products and services and solutions to problems will assist in producing sustainable job creation – a goal to which we all subscribe.

If we fail to invent and innovate; we may be simply left standing still as the pace of scientific discovery globally is accelerating. We have to become the shapers of our own history – we have to become the subjects of history rather than its objects. We must take charge of our ability to create, innovate and be entrepreneurial. Our focus needs to be on “re-imagining our future”.

And herein lies the importance of the Prime Minister’s Awards for Scientific Ingenuity.

I was also particular intrigued by the story of Mr. Benaiah Simon, the inventor of the Genesis 1, a machine used for the accurate cutting of ceramic, porcelain, clay, marble, quarry, granite and composite tiles.

Benaiah Simon spoke so passionately about his invention and the phenomenal journey to discovery. It was really heartening to hear his story.

It should be noted that the skills and calibre of our citizens as scientists have been recognised internationally. We have had two (2) winners securing US patents, one (1) seeking protection in the United Kingdom and one individual filing his invention at the local Patent Office. As a matter of fact, all of the 2013 Scientific Ingenuity Awards winners also displayed their inventions at this year’s Invention and New Product Exposition, the world’s largest invention trade show that is held in June in Pennsylvania, USA.

Such outstanding performance is testimony to the high quality of budding scientists in Trinidad and Tobago. It also shows that our approach of reaching out to the young and stimulating their interest in science from a young age does pay off, and surely, we will over time build up a strong pool of local talent in scientific research.

Already, we have started to make our mark at the international level. More importantly, their work has great potential to bring real benefits to mankind and to improve our quality of life.

It would be remiss of me if I did not urge the relevant authorities to have this invaluable Awards Scheme strategically linked with some type of Innovation Technology Business Incubator Facility to test market the range of new products for which we can invite investors.

This is an extremely important as it ties research and development and entrepreneurship to business realisation.

Science and technology do make a difference to the lives of the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago. It is our hope that the soon to be established Science City in Couva, a NIHERST initiative, will accelerate the process. It should be noted that the National Science City will house state-of-the-art facilities for providing visitors with an engaging, enjoyable and memorable experience in science and technology.

NIHERST must be commended for designing and implementing projects of this nature that assist in developing and sustaining a culture of invention and innovation in Trinidad and Tobago.

Without a doubt, awards programs such as this are crucial especially in a country that is seeking to promote sustainable economic development and increase economic growth.

Ladies and gentlemen, the message that the Ministry of Science and Technology is intent on spreading is that science and technology are an essential and inescapable part of almost every aspect of modern life.

I urge our media practitioners to join us in spreading this message.

In closing, I declare the 2015 edition of the Prime Minister’s Awards for Scientific Ingenuity officially launched. I look forward to an exciting and successful competition.