Cultivating a habit for innovation
By Richard James Thursday, August 30 2012
AS a recent I2I - Idea 2 Innovation contest awardee with a job at TSTT’s Mobile Call Centre, I didn’t even know about the call for inventors when the Automatic River Cleaner (ARC) started swimming around my head.
I was sitting in a maxi taxi on my way to work and, like most commuters, couldn’t turn away from the sight of a silt and debris-filled river along the Beetham Highway.
I thought to myself, “Somebody should clean this!”
The more I thought about it, it did not seem like anyone would want to do a job like that but the impact of the dirty river on the health of the residents, particularly the children who play near to it on a daily basis, played over and over in my mind.
I spent a great deal of time thinking about it and eventually came up with a rough design for my ARC and kept working at it until I was comfortable enough to share it with friends. I wanted the ARC to be a mechanism that could be central in cleaning rivers of floating solid waste materials such as plastic and rubber.
My friends told me two things when they saw the design, “Go for it and keep the idea closely guarded or it will be stolen.”
Admittedly I didn’t have the technical know — how to design or build the then unnamed device nor the finances to cover the cost of development. It was while seeking to patent the design that I stumbled upon the “I2I” advertisement on Facebook.
The competition, created by the Council for Competitiveness and Innovation (CCI), was established by the Government of Trinidad and Tobago in 2012, with goals including to increase Trinidad and Tobago’s rating in terms of our Global Competitiveness Ranking, where we presently rank #81 of 142 countries.
Entrants were asked to submit ideas that would improve products, services, system designs and processes; that were viable, sustainable and added economic or social value to Trinidad and Tobago and that were sourced from sectors including manufacturing, services, agriculture, creative industries, ICT and the Waste Management/Green Industries, of which my idea was one of the awardees.
Through the Facebook advertisement , I was able to connect with a co-ordinator of I2I, Mr Keston Perry, who encouraged me to enter the competition.
Feeling confident about the ARC idea, I got a group together, sourcing them from Facebook and the most popular local website, TriniTuner.com , to assist with the technical aspects of the design. The team consisted of Mr Vindachal Maraj (Mechanical Engineer), Mr Akil Peters (Graphic Artist) Ms Julia James (Administrative Manager), an environmental engineer and an electrical engineer.
I submitted my proposal in July but when I didn’t hear from the ‘I2I’ council in August when the results were scheduled, I thought it was unsuccessful.
A week later however I got the call I had been waiting for: our proposal was successful and contest awardees received a grant of up to $200,000 through CCI’s Funding Facility.
TSTT has been extremely supportive of my venture, as my immediate manager, Mrs Leslie Ann Ray Legerton was greatly enthused when I first spoke of entering the competition with her.
The support I have received from management and my colleagues is in keeping with the spirit of TSTT – we are all part of a big family.
My goal is to have the ARC ready by next year and I have full confidence in the team to make it happen. They are all as concerned about the environment as I am so we share the same vision.
As a father I want to do my part to leave a clean and safe world for future generations. The team’s future plans include partnering with like-minded individuals who may have innovative ideas that would assist in saving the planet. One may be surprised to know of the excellent ideas floating around but without proper encouragement and direction, sadly, they may remain just ideas.
At a recent grading ceremony for Purple Dragon Karatikas, Professor Don Jacobs said, “The person who thinks about doing something is usually passed by someone doing it...”. These words were very profound so I compliment the government and the I2I council on this initiative as it would help us attain the council’s goals.
Having said that, the ARC will not be limited to Trinidad and Tobago once it is launched. I see the ARC being used all over the world to clean affected rivers. I am sorry that I can’t share more details about it but when people see the ARC it will blow their minds!
It will take a lot of effort to bring the ARC to fruition and we are always grateful for corporate support which is absolutely necessary if this project is to achieve the wide success we believe it is capable of.
I can’t thank my team enough for all their hard work and support so far and I think it is safe to say that people could expect great things from us.