Ash Product Challenge Ceremony Speeches

Wednesday, August 4, 2021
Opening Remarks by Mr. Mark Hill, CEO of Export Barbados (BIDC)

Stepping Outside the Box

​​​​​​​The Ash Products Competition is representative of my leadership as CEO of this fine establishment that is now known as Export Barbados (BIDC). As the ash fell, Barbadians looked on in despair thinking what else could possibly happen to our fragile economy. First a pandemic and then the loss of time, infrastructure and productivity due to volcanic ash.

From my very first day at Export Barbados three months ago, I have challenged all its employees that it cannot be business as usual. We must think outside the box and operate outside the box, to get the results that our Minister and Board are expecting from us to help our people through these grave economic times. 

Export accounts for $224m  of our foreign exchange earnings. When tourism came to a grinding halt, it was our exports that helped the country to keep its proverbial head above the water. Therefore, we at Export Barbados have a big job on our hands and we must step up to the plate to stimulate and facilitate more exports from this island. 

To do so, I have been encouraging the employees of Export Barbados to step outside their comfort zone and challenging them to do more and be more creative. This must be done if we are going to fulfil our country’s mandate.  

The ash products competition, therefore, is a manifestation of our internal challenge to be more innovative – to see and create new opportunities. Opportunities that can be presented to the public of Barbados, as we call on them to also think outside the box. In so doing, we encouraged the public not to view ash with despair, but as an opportunity, as we do. 

As we move forward as an organisation in our new paradigm, we have decided to focus our efforts and build opportunities for innovation, entrepreneurship and exports in three core areas – the Biotech-Economy, Design Economy and the Ocean Economy.  

I, therefore, congratulate the winners here today who took up this unique challenge.  You dared to step outside the box, to step outside your own comfort zone and conceptualize products from a source that has been a national nuisance. I also acknowledge the employees of Export Barbados, who are themselves stepping outside the box and creating opportunities for entrepreneurs in new areas.  

As CEO, I will continue to push the organization forward as we strive to be the entity that is recognized as the facilitator for innovation and exports on the island. I thank you for joining us on this journey that has only just begun.

Feature Remarks by Minister of International Business and Industry – The Hon. Ronald Toppin

Members of the Board, Chief Executive Officer, management and staff of BIDC, project team, Challenge winners, specially-invited guests; members of the media, ladies and gentlemen, good morning.

I am pleased to be with you here today at this awards ceremony for the first BIDC National Innovation Challenge, utilizing volcanic ash. I want to heartily congratulate the creators and innovators who entered the challenge and submitted their ideas. Your efforts to turn our challenges into opportunities is laudable. The pursuit of ingenuity, creativity, innovation, and the manufacture of well-made products, coupled with a knowledge of standards, intellectual property and international business savvy, can provide a much needed platform to share our legacy of Barbadian pride and industry with the world.

The negative impact of volcanic eruptions are well known – death and destruction of property, plants and livelihood, not to mention the heavy expense to government to cover the costs for clean-up of the ashfall from these explosive eruptions. But we have learnt, time and time again, that problems are the creative space for new products, services and breakthrough inventions to be made. So whilst many of us wish we didn’t have to bend our backs scraping piles of ash from our cars, houses, and everywhere you can think of, we can see here today that it unlocked the creativity of all of the winners in this room and added new products to the pipeline for refinement and market entry.

Let me hasten to add that opportunities like this, where we are innovating out of a problem, also present a platform for us to emphasize how important it is for us to put the focus on sustainability, and to make it a very practical part of our lives. Very often, words like resilience and sustainability take on global appeal and they sit well within our strategic plans, but life has shown us that any effort to build a robust economy, whether it is in the bio, oceans or design space, the focus must be on sustainability; – how are we designing and creating that product – can it be reused, or will it end up in an incinerator, landfill or in our ocean? Are we designing and building with resilience in mind?

When we create with this in mind, we see waste, ash and the seaweed that strangles our beaches every year, not as problems but as new materials that can be upcycled into valuable commodities and products for export.

I believe that by matching research and innovation with entrepreneurship and commercial acumen we can bring forward more new, innovative products and processes, and give them a greater chance of success. And that is why I want to commend the BIDC and the Barbados National Standards Institution (BNSI) for their commitment to support the winners of this innovation challenge through access to services and resources within their remit.

And now to our challenge winners – Challenge one (1) focused on ‘…Reusing volcanic ash from La Soufriere eruption, to create new or improved products’ while Challenge two (2) encouraged the creation of ‘…Equipment, machinery or technology products to clean up volcanic ash’. I offer the heartiest congratulations to the winners in both challenges. You have the power to imagine how your solutions can transform the lives of people around you and how they can earn valuable foreign exchange for our country. The hard work of pursuing, refining, prototyping and producing what you have imagined, begins now.

I also want to commend all of the other entrants who responded to the challenges posed by the Volcanic Ash Competition. Your ideas and efforts to create solutions may still be realized if you pursue them. While your product may not have won today, it does not mean that your idea is not worthy of further work and pursuit.

This challenge is just the beginning of my Ministry’s effort to unlock the ingenuity and creativity of Barbadians from all walks of life. The task of building a strong economy belongs to all of us who call Barbados home. I am, therefore, issuing the challenge to everyone who knows there is an ember of creativity burning inside of them to participate in the series of Innovate Challenges which BIDC will be rolling out in the weeks ahead.

As we seek to expand the potential in our Bio-economy, we are paying significant attention to opportunities in our pharmaceutical and nutraceutical sector with the view that we can harness tremendous benefits from the natural resources we already have here in Barbados. And with that in mind, we are happy to announce the Next Innovation Challenge – the “Barbados Aloe Vera Product Challenge”.

Today however we salute the creativity and ingenuity of the winners of the Ashfall competition! Congratulations!

I thank you.

Response & Thanks – Mr. John Rocheford, Chairman of Export Barbados (BIDC)

Minister of International Business and Industry, the Honourable Ronald Toppin; CEO, management and staff of Export Barbados (BIDC); Director, Barbados National Standards Institution (BNSI), Hadyn Rhynd; specially invited guests, members of the media, ladies and gentlemen, good morning.

On behalf of the Board of Export Barbados, I take this opportunity to offer congratulations to the winners of the Ashfall Competition. It has been a privilege to be a part of this effort to unearth new innovative products that bolster the list of offerings Barbados gives to the world.

My Board stands committed to the support of efforts to uncover new vibrant sectors, products and services. Today, we commend Team Export Barbados for its extraordinary efforts in sensitizing Barbadians of their need to be a part of the effort to grow our country’s product list through initiatives such as this one which forms part of the national ‘I-Export’ thrust.

I-Export seeks to bring awareness to Barbadians in all walks of life of the need to view exports as a primary vehicle for the earning of foreign exchange and the development of a stable Barbadian economy. This initiative serves to bring awareness to the notion that all of us are potential exporters and must be invested in the national export effort, using our skills, gifts and abilities for our nation’s good. When Barbados benefits, we all benefit.

As we prepare to conclude today’s event, I wish to take this opportunity to extend gratitude on behalf of the Corporation to all those persons who assisted in making today’s event a success.

To the Minister of International Business and Industry, the Honourable Ronald Toppin, we greatly appreciate your presence and participation in the presentation of awards. We especially thank you for the commitment of your Ministry to unlock Barbadian ingenuity and creativity and take special note of the challenge for Barbadians to innovate. I believe that today’s event is a significant starting point for that journey and will function as a springboard for many other innovative initiatives.

CEO and members of Team Export Barbados, we applaud your resilience and response to the ash fall, particularly viewing it as an opportunity instead of a threat. This must be the attitude of the Barbadian people, making lemonade from the lemons of life. In particular, we appreciate the efforts of Director-Lewis and members of the Bio-Economy team, in hosting the Ashfall Competition and for planning and executing today’s event.

To the innovators and product developers who participated in this competition, we thank you for thrilling us with your creativity, your concepts and your potential new export products.

We recognise and thank the Judges of the competition for sharing with us their knowledge, expertise, time and support.

To the product and service companies that have contributed to the execution of this event, thank you for your professional service.

To the media teams, photographers and videographers that have documented and will publicize this occasion, we thank you.

My Board welcomes future collaborations with all the parties gathered here today as we work together to realize our goals and develop the industries and export businesses that will allow Barbados to thrive.

Thank you.