A gala evening in Kingston on November 24 saw the launch of Jamaica’s national Innovation Awards for Outstanding Achievements in Science and Technology. Philip Paulwell, the Minister of Commerce, Science and Technology, presented prizes for the winning entries in 10 categories, following a three-stage assessment by a panel of judges.
The triennial Awards Programme is the latest initiative in the Jamaican government’s push to raise the profile of science and innovation in a country traditionally better known for its music. By show-casing the contribution of Jamaica’s innovators, the Awards seek to foster better understanding of how innovation boosts national development, and to inspire the upcoming generation.
The development angle was prominent in the entry criteria. To be eligible for consideration all entries had to address a problem of national, regional or international importance; to offer a long term social or economic benefit; to demonstrate the economic use of locally available or indigenous materials; and to be environmentally friendly.
First prize went to the Fire Stream Media Distribution System (FSMDS), an integrated visual and data distribution system which seeks to extend the reach of distance learning in developing countries. The FSMDS is billed as a new solution for delivering voice, video and data for mass communication in places where Internet is not easily or cheaply available. "What we have sought to do," explained David Cassanova, one of the three co-inventors, "is to use what is most available in Jamaica, the cell phones and the TV set, and fuse both technologies." The FMDS technology is being used by the Jamaica News Network in the area of cable broadcasting. And the University College of the Caribbean will test the system to deliver two new degree courses under its distance education program. Cable and Wireless Jamaica Ltd. will provide classroom support by sending content to cell phones, while a television link facilitates real time interaction between students and teachers anywhere.
Second place in the Awards went to an advocate of healthy eating, Georgia Jefferson. A traffic engineer by trade, Ms. Jefferson developed a non-chemical process for the preservation of juice and drinks using a widely available local fruit. Her process has been in commercial use since 2004. The third prize was won by Frank Haughton for his Hybrid Solar Dryer system, designed for drying spice...