Export Barbados (BIDC) Encourages Barbadians Entrepreneurs to Think Global

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Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Think beyond the boundaries. This was the advice of Mark Hill, CEO of Export Barbados (BIDC), to local entrepreneurs during his presentation at the BCCI’s virtual panel discussion ‘Turning Adversity into Sustainable Economic Opportunity’ held last Thursday. Speaking on the topic ‘Ideation to Income’, Hill stressed the need for innovative thinking and “a stretch of the imagination” when creating products aimed at building a new export economy which could drive foreign exchange.

“The reality is that ideas do not just fall out of a tree. Ideas come from something that is far more critical which is our human imagination. We need to explore and expand our imagination to create unbelievable products and services in the biotech space and create new value for the globe to experience,” Hill said.

Pointing out that Barbados’ contribution to the global value index had not only stalled but declined, he noted that the economic impact on the tourism industry due to Covid-19 urged the country to refocus on foreign exchange opportunities within the biotech space.

“During the peak of Covid-19, our exporters were still earning foreign exchange while tourism was in decline. Our exporters improved their performance during the pandemic. Exporters are the rockstars! We tend to put a lot of emphasis on tourism to earn foreign exchange . . . but export is also a very viable, sustainable way to pay our bills,” he said.

Making the call for a rethinking in our approach to wealth creation and value creation, Hill asserted that Barbados had “one real area for tremendous value creation” which is the biotech space. Pulling figures, he pointed out that 75% of current exports were bio-based making for a strong bioeconomy which could get the country closer to recognising its 2030 green economy goal.

Admitting that taking products from the idea stage to foreign exchange earners which can compete on the international stage was no easy task, Hill said he was confident in the country’s available human resources to achieve this goal, stressing that there was a yearly churn out of close to 500 Bio-Chemical graduates from UWI.

“Every year Barbados puts out about 300-500 Bio-Chemical students from UWI. 1500 students every cycle graduate with biology-based and bio-chemistry-based degrees,” Hill stated. Lamenting the fact that most of them “ended up working in supermarkets,” he pointed out that, “a few of them make it into the industry working for factories in the food sector, some may go into lab areas in government but the bulk of them are out there as entrepreneurs.”

Hill said this was evident during the recently concluded BLOOM Cleantech Cluster Barbados Incubation programme where four entrepreneurs and a team of students from the Samuel Jackman Prescod Institute of Technology received grants to fund their bio-based products and start-up opportunities.

With a new focus on building impactful investment and innovations utilising the country’s biological resources, Hill explained that the recent rebranding to Export Barbados emerged out of necessity to pivot towards a more sustainable, consistent focus on generating foreign exchange.

“We are still supporting small businesses, but we are asking entrepreneurs to think beyond local shores. Have a global mindset.”