Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Ode to Dreams Sciences Arts convergence in Moses' Promised Land


Ode To Dreams The Legacy of Maureen Mancouck was title of the retirement function of The National Institute of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology as it said farewell to its President of 30 years Mrs Maureen Manchouck.
But it was with soundly peppered reality of the challenges and changes facing the national and international science education community and her efforts to realise her humanist dreams for science popularisation that Mrs Manchouck said her farewells, including a final 'buff’ like appeal to authorities present that she not face the fate of the Biblical Moses leading his people to the Promised Land he would never enter.
Her ode was her dream to
see the National Science Centre for which she turned the sod last year completed and operationalised to become part of the development landscapes of Trinidad and Tobago. 
It is the Mrs Manchouck I have known for most of those 30 years as it was for her staff as described in all the tributes presented at the function. Frank, real and warm, she filled every office she held, including as a member of the National Commission for UNESCO which I now Chair. 
That would not have been a relationship I envisioned when I met Mrs M - who has remained a mentor and guide - even that many years ago as a cub reporter, fired by her dream and drive for science education and popularisation.
National Commission for UNESCO 
of Trinidad and Tobago (2011-2015)
As I transitioned from mainstream journalism to pursue developmental interests, Maureen - with her co-pilots, Joycelyn Lee Young, who is now left to steer the NIHERST craft, and Kala Sookhram who coordinated planning of the function - would enrol me to help conceptualise and develop outreach activities and materials for NIHERST's Science Popularisation initiatives. The challenge was devising materials that would appeal to and engage a range of interests from children to policy makers and all others in between.
A challenge indeed. Maureen is one of the rare individuals I know who fully understands, articulates and practices the essential synergies between the arts and the sciences and the possibility of the seamless integration between them. The title of her retirement function Ode to Dreams in itself recognises her vision if that seamlessness; that it is not only people in the arts who dream, scientists dream too, as the best science is indeed art.
That idea might just be creeping into public policy, but it was not in the national psyche; nor in the national systems and institutions that practice clear demarcations between these disciplines when I was in the quandary "choosing subjects" at school. The burden was on us to determine whether our lives will be in business, the arts or the sciences from three clearly demarcated subject groupings while all advocacy for a mixed pot of these fell on stony ground. We have for some time now been reaping the whirlwind of those education policies that overlooked the potential of an approach to  education that recognises that the best scientists are the best artists which make for good business too. How many potentially brilliant scientists or artists and indeed creative business people too, that system must have destroyed! 
It was as if at that time I was at the Hogsworth School of wizardry, given a hat from which to pick a profession and there I was hovering with an equal pull of forces between the arts and sciences and the pragmatic beaconing of the business world. The groupings did not offer us the option to mix matters and I followed the artistic call over the call of science or business by a hair's breath difference. 
But formal education only controls so much. Outside the school walls, the world is ours to command and pursuit of knowledge is not limited to scientists; nor innovation to artists; and commercial pursuit to others. From high school, the journalism wizard took first command of my career path. As I shifted gears from the daily newsroom grind after some two decades, in the fledgling reincarnation into development communications, Maureen, Joycelyn and Kala gracefully steered and supported as I crafted materials to present what were becoming some of NIHERST's flagship programme areas: the continuously expanding science festival SciTeknoFest (which - is it any surprise - showcases the arts as much as the sciences in the creative use of sciences; the science camp; the video series that I would always hold as one my best coined rhymes - Gene Scene - and the public awareness campaign around National Foresighting and Innovation initiative. These manifested in the articles on Agriculture, Energy and Fashion.  
How application of such Foresighting could have informed the world of mainstream journalism I was just then stumbling out off with its blind grasping for footing as the world of media poised precariously between the old world and the new communications technologies and techniques! What that fin de siecle in journalism failed to understand - and to which it still seems somewhat obtusely oblivious - was that the technologies were only the release valve for a world that would openly embrace the creative interweaving of knowledge sources and processes; that centres of knowledge and information, as education, and news, news making and news breaking, and even politics and governance, the arts and sciences, would no longer hold, not in the monopolistic grasp of a privileged few, but the Promised Land of opportunity for the popular many.
Indeed, though NIHERST has said goodbye to Mrs M, everyone knows that she has hardly retired. Her chiding for a National Science Centre, and National Science Policy would continue as would the stamp she has placed on the institution, although she may not, like the former President Frank Rampersad (not a relative) whom she said turned up everyday for the four years after his retirement to "help" her transition.
I am only one of thousands of women, and men, young and less youthful, whom Mrs M has mothered and mentored and befriended and guided. Her easy readiness to forgive and dismiss while correcting mistakes and focussing on the larger goals have been a life long model for emulation.
Like a Moses, knowing our society - even with its potential for being the Promised Land - is seafully surrounded  and full of silver sharp sharks and predators preparing pitfalls, all-too-willing to pound us down rather than pull us up as these recent years in public life has made so abundantly clear, Maureen is always there propping up, encouraging, inspiring, and allowing that matronly shoulder, ear, and helping hand, with too, the ready stern word and dry buff when required.
That she continues to exude the possibilities of pursuit of that singular dream of reaching one's Promised Land, whatever that might be, remains the Legacy of Maureen Manchouck.
For that I say, thank you Maureen, though it's not a farewell, but a broad grinning welcome because there is much for you yet to realise though the several hats you still carry and some new ones I am devising. And that's my Ode to Dreams. @krisramp @lolleaves @GlocalPot #Demokrissy #GlocalKnowledgePot #Leavesoflife #CaribbeanLiterarySalon www.krisrampersad.com


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PoS could recapture caribbean fashion hotspot


Article Date: 
Sunday, April 12, 2009
fashion.png
A model struts a local design on the catwalk. Guardian File PHOTO
Trinidad and Tobago has the potential to wow the fashion world as a new global player, using information and communication technologies (ICT) and new materials, as well as in becoming an international fashion centre with a “designers’ row” downtown of the country. This is one of the findings of studies done by Dr Michele Reis and Ian Ivey, of NEXT Corporation, in association with the National Institute of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology (Niherst) and a range of local expertise in business, IT, the creative sector, research and others, and the T&T Foresight and Innovations Network.
Trinidad and Tobago has the potential to wow the fashion world as a new global player, using information and communication technologies (ICT) and new materials, as well as in becoming an international fashion centre with a “designers’ row” downtown of the country. This is one of the findings of studies done by Dr Michele Reis and Ian Ivey, of NEXT Corporation, in association with the National Institute of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology (Niherst) and a range of local expertise in business, IT, the creative sector, research and others, and the T&T Foresight and Innovations Network.
“T&T already has a successful and innovative fashion and creative sector that provides a strong platform for ‘going global’ in a more proactive and ambitious way. “It is a sector that is in tune with a great deal of national passion,” said Dr Reis. Together with Ivey, she is helping industry stakeholders examine and invest in promising entrepreneurial initiatives in fashion.
fashionFashion future is markets of one
She noted that at the turn of the 19th century, downtown Port-of-Spain was the major shopping district in the Caribbean that attracted shoppers from throughout the hemisphere to buy from top local dressmakers and tailors, and European and US-imported clothing. Reis said: “Port-of-Spain has the potential to recapture the distinction of being the Caribbean’s foremost fashion and shopping centre. The city has already undergone a considerable amount of redevelopment, particularly in the waterfront area, and more is planned for the central city and surrounding areas.”
She identified the area bordered by Frederick Street, on the west; Duncan Street, on the east; Park Street to the north and South Quay as suited to becoming an international fashion centre. This would complement areas in Port-of-Spain already earmarked for redevelopment, and work well the Government’s plans to create a pedestrian mall in the area bounded by Woodford Square, Knox, Hart and Pembroke Streets.
The Niherst study was based on the local need to evolve globally competitive businesses, “not only to compensate for the inevitable decline in the country’s oil and gas resources, but also to provide higher quality and more stimulating knowledge-based employment opportunities in the future for the increasing numbers of students graduating from universities, both at home and offshore.”
Utilising foresighting as a tool to assessing future consumer needs, it identified trends shaping the global fashion sector through the next decade as:
• customers’ desire for clothing that reflects multi-ethnic and multi-cultural influences,
• demand for “intelligent materials” sensitive to the wearer’s needs,
• and the changing ways in which the world conducts business, driven by options for virtual design and new business models that can produce for “markets of one,” as opposed to mass production.
These findings were based on extensive analysis and interactive workshops with designers, market experts, policy-makers, entrepreneurs and IT professionals as well as the local fashion sector. Even though there ill be a need to expand technological expertise and research and development as well as revise attitudes to networking among designers, fashion was identified as a growth area that could be readily implemented in T&T.
This, given the country’s already existing base of clothing products that can be customised for many markets, especially the range of diasporic “niches” and heritage markets of India, Africa and China, along with the close Latin American market and the Caribbean diasporas in Europe, North America and elsewhere. Dr Reis said, “Trinidad and Tobago already has a successful and innovative fashion and creative sector, which provides a strong platform for ‘going global’ in a more proactive and ambitious way.”
Revitalising Port-of-Spain as an international fashion centre was one of three “best bets” in the local fashion sector voted as potentially most lucrative.
fashionDesigners could cut it globally with ICT stitch
The others were a T&T virtual design and marketing facility that responds to individualised fashion needs for E-suiting; and a “one-stop creative design portal” that matches individual wearer’s requirements to local and global fashion houses as desired. Dr Reis said: “The ‘best bets’ are all cutting-edge opportunities facilitating customised ‘design and build’ collections for sale to end-consumers around the world with e-commerce and Internet support. “They leverage on the potential of new technologies like the Internet, facilitated by large popular portals such as YouTube and MySpace, which are rendering mega conglomerate business models redundant, to give small operators and small countries with highly specialised and unique offers, a ‘global niche.’”
Reis said if you took the local pool of highly creative T&T fashion design skills and combined it with innovative designers from other parts of the world, T&T could go truly global with a highly customised and unique offer. The new opportunities allow designers to accommodate different tastes of consumers, including cost, choice of fibres, styles, and other needs, so much already in demand in today’s world and surely will become more so in ensuing years. “These enterprises will earn revenue by commission on design fees charged to customers and royalties on any finished products manufactured commercially using such designs,” said Reis.
Basic road maps of the route-to-success, with preliminary projections of investments, have been developed for each of the proposed “best bets.” They also have identified the need for further development of intellectual property regulations for the sector and skills training, particularly in IT and new marketing. (See http://niherst.gov.tt/s-and-t/projects/foresighting/fashion). Key to all of this is a forward-thinking entrepreneur who can stitch together the existing elements, source those lacking, including seaming alliances and partnerships locally, regionally and internationally and step into a successful future in fashion.
Positive existing fashion factors
• Well-developed pool of design and fashion skills and specialists
• Suiting plants and factories, such as Tobiki, da Costa’s, Janoura’s and Front Row
• Supportive creativity and research capabilities, testing laboratories, some locally developed technology, marketing and branding expertise, and institutional support from UTT, Cariri and UWI
• Experience in experimenting with prototypes, use of the Internet and expanding Internet connectivity
• Available training through the Fashion Entrepreneurs of Trinidad and Tobago—a national training project that aims to back the development of manufactured products with a “Made in TnT” label—and the developing UTT Caribbean Academy of Fashion and Design, among others;
• Government business sector development agencies such as Nedco, E-Teck and the Business Development Company.
Dr Kris Rampersad is a
media and literary consultant
- See more at: http://www.guardian.co.tt/archives/features/life/2009/04/12/pos-could-recapture-caribbean-fashion-hotspot#sthash.5Xnq4FAT.dpuf


Triple whammy to hit energy sector


Byline Author: 
Article Date: 
Sunday, April 19, 2009
• Rising resource costs • Rising energy costs • Rising food prices
It’s ‘business unusual’...
For the energy sector, it is not “business as usual,” not only because of supply factors, but also related to focus on more efficient and sustainable uses of energy and climate change-related issues. This is the message from energy researchers, ColinDale Marcelle and Ian Ivey, as heads of governments and policy-makers discuss the global financial crisis at the Fifth Summit of the Americas. “The energy sector does not operate in isolation. The major trends shaping its ‘big picture’ future are coming together for a ‘triple whammy’ effect—rising energy costs, rising food prices and rising resource costs,” said Ivey, of the research group NEXT.
For the energy sector, it is not “business as usual,” not only because of supply factors, but also related to focus on more efficient and sustainable uses of energy and climate change-related issues. This is the message from energy researchers, ColinDale Marcelle and Ian Ivey, as heads of governments and policy-makers discuss the global financial crisis at the Fifth Summit of the Americas. “The energy sector does not operate in isolation. The major trends shaping its ‘big picture’ future are coming together for a ‘triple whammy’ effect—rising energy costs, rising food prices and rising resource costs,” said Ivey, of the research group NEXT.
“T&T needs to become far more focused on the opportunities associated with the entire renewable energy sector, because it has invested heavily in the development of considerable expertise in the energy field. “Once the country’s oil and gas fields enter into a decline phase—which may be little more than a decade away—that investment will have little long-term value to the country, unless it is redirected towards future rapid growth opportunity areas in the ‘new energy’ scene. “It is clearly going to be difficult for a small country such as T&T to be an internationally cost-competitive player in renewable energy sectors, such as bio-ethanol and bio-diesel, as the land areas required are vast and the throughput volumes required to justify the capital investments needed are potentially large.
Along with Marcelle, Ivey is the co-author of the recently released Global Foresight Review on renewable energy and Renewable Energy Best Bets Opportunities for T&T (see Niherst.gov.tt), which focus on opportunities and alternatives for T&T outside the oil and gas sector. They were prepared by NEXT Corporation for the National Institute of Higher Education Research, Science and Education.
Increase by 2030
Foresight and innovation research identified several “best bets” for T&T’s energy sector that would lead to greater efficiency in use of existing energy sources and develop businesses built around alternative energy generated from environment-friendly renewable sources. Nine initial potential “best bets” were identified, including developing alternative energy sources by harnessing the power of wave, wind, solar and volcanic energy and growing business by tapping into existing research and technologies. “The potential ‘best bet’ opportunity areas identified could provide the basis of a significant new energy sector focus in T&T,” the authors say. The top three involved use of bio-gas, solar and energy-efficient technologies.
The Global Review cites trends and issues that have an impact on energy markets that point to higher prices for crude oil and natural gas, post the current slump and a 50 per cent projected increase in global energy demand by 2030. Sources referred to include the Annual Energy Outlook, the Medium-Term Oil Market Report of the International Energy Agency, Facing the Hard Truths About Energy Report of the National Petroleum Council and the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change, among others.
The review was prepared to stimulate thinking about how the global sector is likely to evolve over the next ten years, and thus identify associated threats and opportunities for T&T in the long-term, drawn from a big picture view of what the world may look like in the near future, so as to inform decisions that need to be made today with regard to sector opportunities and threats. Among its findings were that the energy sector’s development is being restricted primarily by traditional attitudes and short-term thinking. A lack of understanding of how quickly the “big picture” may change in future years is hindering change to more sustainable alternatives and limiting the amount of investments being made into innovative opportunities.
'Peak oil’
The energy sector is being forced to revise its directions as the result of a growing awareness that current sources of energy are likely to fail to keep up with future demand, as the capacity to supply world demand is almost already at its peak. This was fed by growing pressure for cleaner and more environmentally sustainable energy sources. “People are now starting to realise that ‘peak oil’ is just a few years away, if not already here. This increases the need to speed up moves towards renewable energy alternatives where favourable conditions apply,” say the authors.
Among these favourable conditions are advances in technology, innovators with creative solutions, growing investment into green and sustainable applications (long-term) and decentralisation of the energy sector, down to a point where we may see total sustainable energy solutions in place for communities, or even individual households and businesses. These already exist in European communities, such as Jühnde in Germany and Güssing in Austria. “The global energy scene is now reaching a ‘tipping point.’ It is changing the balance between ‘old energy’ and ‘new energy.’
“It is easy to become blindsided by short-term blips such as the current low prices in fossil fuel prices and reduced investment into renewable energy. But this is unlikely to last long. “Once the world recovers from the current economic downturn, the major underlying trends will be back in play and ‘old energy’ is likely to face a challenging future as the ‘triple whammy’ effect comes back into play and global policy changes adversely affect the competitive position of fossil fuels, particularly in response to climate change and reducing global emissions by up to 80 per cent (eg, the new goal in the USA).”
Dr Kris Rampersad is
a media and literary consultant.
- See more at: http://www.guardian.co.tt/archives/features/life/2009/04/18/triple-whammy-hit-energy-sector#sthash.WCxIN1gL.dpuf


Expert: Re-focus agriculture

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  • Byline Author: 
Article Date: 
Monday, April 6, 2009
Best bet to buffer financial crisis
agriculture.png
Two young men tend to their crops.
The Summit of the Americas can move closer to its goals for human prosperity, energy security and environmental sustainability by focusing on agriculture, an international expert has stated. Ian Ivey, of the New Zealand-based NEXT Corporation, said in an exclusive interview that positioning agriculture as a central focus on the Summit agenda could help the region find innovative approaches to the financial crisis, while addressing the food crisis.
The Summit of the Americas can move closer to its goals for human prosperity, energy security and environmental sustainability by focusing on agriculture, an international expert has stated. Ian Ivey, of the New Zealand-based NEXT Corporation, said in an exclusive interview that positioning agriculture as a central focus on the Summit agenda could help the region find innovative approaches to the financial crisis, while addressing the food crisis.
Million-dollar returns
His comments come in the wake of statements by US interests that the fifth Summit’s focus will be on the world financial crisis, and statements about the marginalised position of agriculture on the Summit agenda confirmed by the Summit Communications Co-ordinator, Felipe Noguerra, during a radio programme last week. Ivey is in Trinidad, spearheading a series of Caribbean-based foresight and innovation initiatives of the National Institute of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology and the Trinidad and Tobago Foresight and Innovation Network.
The initiatives have identified agriculture as one of the most promising “Best Bets” areas for economic growth and developing future-focussed high value enterprises based on local raw materials for export niche markets.
Ivey proposed that the Summit utilise an innovative approach called strategic foresighting to move ailing industries from their traditional bases to ones that are more future-focussed and responsive to the long-term trends now shaping business and investment decisions.
“In many Caribbean countries, the people and governments have almost given up on agriculture—just at a time when the future has never looked rosier.
The key is to move away from the commodity focus that has led to the sector’s decline and into areas that offer real value adding. “It is time to re-position agriculture as one of the most strategic portfolios and that can start with the Summit.” Among the new value-added areas for agriculture Ivey identified were those that feed the demands born through:
n increasing global focus on health and wellness;
n trends of “age defiance,” where people want to live longer, stay younger and continue to enjoy more pleasurable lifestyles and environmentally connected lifestyle;
n measures to reduce the high incidence of lifestyle diseases—obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
“Developing the sector to meet the needs for prevention rather than cure-based healthcare along with customised natural and healthy foods, organics and nutraceuticals, incentives for adopting healthy lifestyles, improved food safety through labelling of ingredients and nutritional can add up to a 1,000 per cent to the current values being received from specific agricultural resources,” he said. Ivey believes a Summit focus could be the impetus for governments of the region to take plans to their Cabinets to explore new potential in the sector and develop valuable public sector support by providing infrastructure, education and training, incentives and assistance, and a functioning regulatory and intellectual property regime for the sector.
“Private sector initiatives could focus on such areas as: raw material availability, production and quality assurance; packaging and labelling; branding and marketing; value chain management and development; investment and entrepreneurship. “In this context, enhanced research and development activities—including the development of new products and plant varieties, rating scales, enhanced production processes—should be a priority concern for both the public and private sectors.”
Said Ivey: “The agricultural sector could develop at least US$250 million in new businesses built around 21st century agritech and biotech models—with a strong health and wellness focus. “This certainly widens the economic and investments horizon for not just Trinidad and Tobago, but the OAS hemisphere as a whole. “It suggests that a more dynamic and visionary approach and outlook to the Food and Beverage sector for instance, can launch these sectors to new heights on the global marketplace.”
Giving details of specific research into developing the potential in Trinidad’s unique Trinitario cocoa, for which 11 new varieties with patent potential have already been developed in Trinidad, along with the fact that the Trinidad-based international cocoa gene bank holds 20 of the world’s premium varieties of cocoa, he said: “The global drift away from mega-conglomerate-type enterprises to entities catering to ‘markets of one’ has particular advantages to an industry that is offering as unique a product as Trinidad cocoa.”
T&T’s cocoa
He noted that although Trinidad and Tobago’s cocoa fetches a premium on the international market, investment in and development of the local cocoa industry has been severely restricted because of the low status agriculture as a whole occupies among national economic priorities, which have focussed on energy production. “Trinidad cocoa is ripe for the picking by forward-thinking entrepreneurs who can exploit the full value of the crop on the world market, and this beyond the income that can be derived from patenting the 11 locally developed varieties of cocoa.”
The Niherst studies, which had inputs from a cross section of national players in research, business, education and training, and policy-making and included analyses of potential high value business niches, concluded that there was “tremendous opportunity for enterprises that respond to consumer demands for products that meet health and wellness considerations along with environmental sustainability.
“This can provide entrepreneurs and innovators with a real competitive marketing advantage in the global marketplace. It opens up a whole lot of opportunities that, if backed with science and biotechnologically-driven research, could add a substantial amount of value to the agricultural sector,” it stated.
Dr Kris Rampersad is a media and literary consultant.
- See more at: http://www.guardian.co.tt/archives/news/general/2009/04/05/expert-re-focus-agriculture#sthash.bibUTLlI.dpuf