The framework for a European Union workshop was launched this week to promote more innovation on St. Eustatius. When all details are worked out by stakeholders, the resulting recommendations will be presented to government
Sponsored by Horizon 2020 EU Innovation, the workshop looked at the many ways innovation can be harnessed and the barriers to its realization. The leadership role at the event came from Milan Jezic von Gesseneck, whose EU task is to inspire innovation within European Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs)
Given the change in political administration on the island, such a project may well seem doomed from the start. “Not so!” according to Von Gesseneck. “Government or no government, it is the role of those who control the public purse to build systemic innovation in OCT’s by creating an enabling environment for innovation, implementing all required measures and actions and promoting innovation implementation.”
These words were clearly not lost on Roy Hooker, Island Controller and former Director of Economy and Infrastructure. “Necessity may be “the mother of invention”, he told the meeting, “However, sometimes, such a need to be more creative in society has to be screamed from the rooftops.”
Such a scream has already been heard and heeded in Bonaire, where an EU-funded scheme has resulted in the innovative cultivation of an algae farm. Called AlgaePark, the facility produces algae products that can be used as a replacement for soy oil, soy protein or fishmeal. “This project contributes to sustainable economic development, creates jobs and also will lead to a better environment,” insists Von Gesseneck.
Dr. Teresa Leslie, Director of St. Eustatius Foundation, who chaired and facilitated the innovation workshop, agrees. “There are a thousand ways by which we can put our imagination to work on this island. As individuals and a community on Statia, we must leave our fears and explore the excitement of a “can-do” mentality. By working in small groups behind the scenes and cooperating through the human and Internet web, we can reprogram our collective desires.”
Von Gesseneck endorsed this conclusion. “You do not need a lot of money from the EU or elsewhere to transform the economic climate. There are countless platforms for fascinating improvements, be they in marketing for tourism, cuisine, food production or the field of information technology. Creativity can be generated anywhere in the world by anybody who dares to dream and imagine a capacity for realizing that dream.”
He referred to an EU project on the remote British Falkland Islands that sponsor as many as 100 students through the Erasmus Student Exchange Program. “The realization of such a dream makes a major contribution to learning, the economy and local community pride through involvement.”
Cooperation was viewed by the workshop as essential for the progress of innovation. Its many participants were drawn from a wide spectrum of commercial and government activities. “Innovative future steps are expected to be announced within days, rather than weeks. And some will be mind-blowing,” Leslie said.
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