MSME Clean Tech Businesses Provide Solutions to Climate Challenges
The Caribbean Climate Innovation Centre (CCIC) is extremely confident that Caribbean people can produce highly competitive, world-class enterprises that have built into them climate resilience and adaptation objectives.
Carlinton Burrell, Chief Executive Officer of the Jamaica-based CCIC, is on a mission to discover and prepare more of these entrepreneurs who are ready to operate on the global stage.
His vehicle? Enhancing the Capacity of Cleantech Entrepreneurs in Building Resilience to Climate Change - a highly interactive incubator project to develop business ideas for innovative products and services that address climate change challenges across a variety of sectors.
The project has received USD205,000 in critical support from the Caribbean Development Bank’s (CDB) Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) Unit in fulfilling these objectives.
Incorporated into a larger programme, the project takes the form of a competition with some 200 entrepreneurs from Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, St Lucia and Suriname developing business solutions to climate challenges in industrial technology, transportation, water, agriculture and food, energy efficiency, and renewable energy.
Burrell explained the process of selection: “The first activity within the programme was a three-day boot camp which followed an evaluation of those selected by a trainer prepared by CCIC.
“Out of the boot camp, there was a six-week pre- accelerator programme for participants from each country. At the end of this process, we have the national finals.”
The CDB-funded entrepreneurial pillar of the larger CCIC programme, runs from 2023 to 2024 and the top three businessowners from each country then move on to the next stage where they compete against Central and South American entrepreneurs.
Asked why a competitive programme was chosen as the process to deliver the project’s objectives, Burrell said simply that Caribbean entrepreneurs must demonstrate their ability to operate at the highest levels against companies anywhere in the world.
The CCIC official underscored: “It does not make sense going through a programme, whether it's an incubator, an accelerator or some other programme and you can't pitch to a potential investor in your business. At all times, you're required to pitch, whether it is formally or informally, and you're always as a businessperson, going to be in a competitive landscape. That’s why we are preparing these business owners at every step for real-world situations.”
While the programme is a competitive one, the CCIC official stressed all participants receive necessary business development exposure, training and mentorship.
“When it comes down to the national finals, it starts getting really competitive and that’s when we pick our top three winners to go on to the regionals,” he outlined.
The CCIC project is not all about fierce rivalry, as the Caribbean MSMEs learn when it is time to end the competition and begin forming alliances to present a stronger and more formidable force.
In this connection, Burrell disclosed regional competitors form teams when it was time to face off against their counterparts from Central and South America and have achieved success this way.
“This is how it works in the real world and the Caribbean can, and has, proven its worth,” Burrell contended.
Of CDB’s input, Burrell asserted the programme could not have been realised without the backing of the region’s foremost development finance institution.
“The CDB funding is critical to our success and the Bank’s technical support in helping to develop the proposal through the consultants assigned to us was also invaluable,” he added.
With no direct financial reward going to the winning businesses, Burrell asserts this has not diminished the enthusiasm of participants or significance of the project.
The majority of entrepreneurs who entered the programme did so because they believed their business ideas are worthy, innovative and, if developed, could make a positive impact on the environment.
The CCIC boss also dismissed the notion that clean tech was wlimited to the sectors of agriculture, food, water and energy. He said such narrow assumptions restrict innovative thinking about the impact of climate related activity and how to create solutions to the challenges.
“At the end of the programme, we expect to have shaped competent, confident entrepreneurs who know their businesses well and who have the skill set to pitch to an investor. They will know what is required of them and they can deliver a proper business plan. They can walk into any room and pitch to an equity or angel investor about the growth and development of their business,” he asserted.