Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation to Catalyze Business Resilience in Grand Bahama

Announcement of a $500k grant from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to University of The Bahamas (UB) to spark entrepreneurship and innovation in Grand Bahama. From left are: Vice-Chair of the UB Board of Trustees Mr. Peter Whitehead; Senator Hon. Kirk Russell; IDB Representative Mr. Tyran Thompson; IDB County Representative Mrs Daniela Carrera-Marquis (online); Chair of the UB Board of Trustees Mrs. Allyson Maynard Gibson; UB President Dr. Rodney D. Smith and Campus President of UB-North Dr. Ian Strachan.

University of The Bahamas (UB) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) have formalized a partnership aimed at sparking innovation and entrepreneurship in Grand Bahama and developing capacity in digital technology for small business persons. Officials of UB and the IDB have signed a technical cooperation agreement, commencing a three-year project for which the IDB is contributing a $500k grant and the University is matching that commitment. As a result, a Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and business incubator will be established at University of The Bahamas-North (UB-North) in Grand Bahama where entrepreneurs will be trained, mentored and facilitated in using digital technology to increase their resilience.

IDB Country Representative Mrs. Daniela Carrera-Marquis said during the official announcement on Friday 4th February that many more Bahamian businesses will have the opportunity to develop the skills and ideas to thrive in a global digital arena.

“This partnership with University of The Bahamas aligns perfectly with our Vision 2025 and this vision for the IDB including Latin America and the Caribbean aims to support a more resilient recovery by focusing on five priority areas all of which are actually touched in this partnership
that we are establishing with the University – regional integration, support for small and medium enterprises, promotion of the digital economy and prioritization of gender and climate change response.

“This technology focused project has the potential to impact all of these areas and we are very proud to support this endeavor. The contribution of $500k further cements our commitment to drive innovation for inclusion while improving the social, economic and environmental
conditions for the most vulnerable,” she said.

Campus President of UB-North Dr. Ian Strachan explained that participants in the programme will be empowered to confidently start businesses or to expand the reach, versatility and resilience of their existing businesses.

“The boot camps, incubators and courses offered will make available to our citizens, at a crucial moment of high unemployment, much needed opportunities to retool; to gain valuable skills that will allow them to participate in the fast changing global economy.

“They will allow them to become more marketable, more competitive and to be masters of their own fate through entrepreneurship. The skills gap and lack of diversity are key weaknesses of the Bahamian economy and this initiative seeks to tackle these head on,” Dr. Strachan said.
The goal is to establish UB-North as the STEM Campus of the UB System, drawing students from across the archipelago, the region and the world to centres of academic excellence, he added. A business incubator will also be created along with programmes in Entrepreneurship,
Computer Science, Operations Management, Electrical Engineering, Civil Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Marine Science, Environmental Science, and Sustainable Innovation.

The lingering effects of Hurricane Dorian as well as other devastating storms and the COVID-19 pandemic have exacerbated the economic sluggishness of Grand Bahama, the country’s industrial mecca. However, the technical agreement is a part of a larger effort to stimulate an
economic transformation.

Chair of the UB Board of Trustees Mrs. Allyson Maynard-Gibson also heralded the impending transformation. Through the project, 600 participants will be trained and equipped with enhanced digital skills, 300 persons will be directly assisted with starting their own businesses, 25 new courses in digital entrepreneurship and innovation will be offered at UB-North and an annual Grand Bahama Tech Expo will be hosted.

“The partnership that we celebrate today, created by a half million dollar grant from the IDB and matching commitment from UB will transform UB-North, Grand Bahama and The Bahamas.

The Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at UB-North will stimulate micro-, small- and medium-sized business ownership and increase the capacity of Bahamians to soar in the digital realm, ensuring our competitiveness nationally and internationally,” she said. UB President Dr. Rodney D. Smith thanked the IDB for a longstanding partnership with the University and acknowledged that creating a robust environment for entrepreneurship has been a longstanding goal.

“I must thank the IDB for this current project on behalf of the university and for the people of Grand Bahama. We at the university have long envisioned a business and entrepreneurship incubator at the UB-North campus, as a part of that campus’ growth and for the benefit of Grand Bahama. The creation of the Centre of Entrepreneurship and Innovation is our vision realized – it will become the birthplace of innovation,” he said.

Senator the Honourable Kirk Russell heralded the government’s commitment to making the island an epicenter for innovation.

“For the Grand Bahama community, this signing further demonstrates the commitment to transform challenges into innovation. By introducing an environment where the nation’s brightest minds can embrace emerging technologies, the government demonstrates its commitment to remaining focused on the challenges ahead. COVID-19 and the economic fallout have taught us as a nation that paying attention and seeking opportunities to expand our thinking about what is ahead is critical to survival,” he said.

University leaders affirmed the institution’s critical role in the transformation that Grand Bahama is destined to experience.