Significantly greater application of science will be pivotal to the country’s quest for economic and technological transformation and development. The positioning of science as an enabling force for economic growth and development requires a strategic focus that cuts across sectors. The Ministry is putting its support behind activities that will support the development of science and how best to leverage our capabilities to advance our national development agenda.
A renewed focus had been placed on the science sector with priority given to the development of the National Science Technology and Innovation Policy and greater emphasis on a research and development agenda that will drive the science sector to attract investments.
The finalization of the ST&I policy will be a priority as the development and growth of the science sector is hinged on a strong policy framework. The Science portfolio will continue to facilitate the various sectors including, the agricultural and export sectors through the provision of technical assistance, training, the use of lab and plant facilities, assisting in certification or FDA filing for entities. Although it facilitates growth and employment, it has much greater potential to transform the economy.
International Centre for Environmental and Nuclear Sciences (ICENS): ICENS is a multi-disciplinary research centre whose work is based largely on applications of the “peaceful uses of the atom”. The main programmes at present are in environmental geochemistry and health.
Based on the findings in previous crop studies, ICENS, in collaboration with the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries (MICAF), has sought to examine the elemental content of newly introduced crops to determine the heavy metal loading and their possible impacts on human and animal health.
Recently, ICENS/UWI has collaborated with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and was reviewed with the intention of establishing it as an inter-regional Resource Centre. The inter-regional project aims to support human and institutional capacity building in human health, nutrition, food, agriculture, water management, marine environment, safety and security.
ICENS was also able to increase the radiation protection service from 1,700 to approximately 1,800 clients in hospitals, X-ray clinics and engineering companies in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) region. This means better protection for workers working with equipment emitting radiation.
Some of the studies currently being conducted by ICENS includes: determination of greenhouse gas emissions in urban spaces (urban ecology), digital soil carbon mapping and estimation of national soil carbon stock, determination of greenhouse gas emissions from soils to the atmosphere, hazard risk reduction, and toxic site identification.
ICENS continues to pursue the use of radioactive sources for beneficial purposes in different industries, as well as, medicine, agriculture and research.
National Commission on Science and Technology (NCST): Instituted in 1993, the NCST is mandated to enable the society to maximise the benefits to be gained from the strategic uses of science and technology (S&T) applicable to the national, social and economic developmental goals of Jamaica. This will be utilised to maintain food security, enhance agricultural practices, exploit natural resources, maintain a profitable and competitive business environment, create wealth and educate the populace on how to be scientifically and technologically capable and competent.
The implementation of the recommendations from the Hazardous Laboratory Waste Clean-up Ad-Hoc Committee (HALWAC) was overseen by the NCST, which saw the removal and disposal of stored obsolete equipment and chemical waste, and to prevent a recurrence of the present situation. The NCST was also integral in Establishing a Framework for the formalization of the National Nutraceutical Industry (NNI).
The NCST has spearheaded the Scientific and Technological bilateral cooperation between Jamaica and the Republic of South Africa – Promoting cooperation for the development of Science and Technology in Jamaica, from which a joint call for research proposals between the two (2) countries was materialized. The NCST has also reactivated the Technology Investment Fund (TIF), which was a special fund established to finance investments in commercial activities and research and development (R&D) to enhance competitiveness in commercial enterprises.
Scientific Research Council (SRC): Established by the Scientific Research Council Act of 1960, the SRC is mandated to foster the development of scientific research; be a repository of scientific information; and facilitate the development, application and transfer and/or the improvement of technology of such research for the benefit of all of Jamaica.
The SRC-led Caribbean Climate Innovation Centre expanded its services throughout the region, aimed at bolstering the entrepreneurial base and stimulating climate-related innovations. One major outcome of the project in FY 2017/2018 was the establishment of a Business Incubation centre at the SRC to support and facilitate business development and entrepreneurial support. The facility can accommodate up to 13 entrepreneurs at any given time with adequate facilities and support services to ensure business success.
The SRC continues to assist businesses with Manufacturing, Product Scale-up and Standardisation. Over 60 MSMEs utilized the Food Pilot Plant over the period, to produce over 600 metric tonnes of products (60 different types). Products included jams, marinades, sauces, and beverages, from raw materials such as lemongrass, pineapple, Aloe vera, cinnamon, coffee and roots. Fifty of these clients are selling their products locally and internationally, mainly in North America and England.
The SRC continues to play a major role in development of the NNI, with the generation of Certificates of Analysis (CoAs) for oil and oleoresins, to support product registration with the local MOH and overseas regulatory bodies. They also are making major strides in Agriculture and Agro-processing using biotechnology for the generation of cleaning plant materials, the development of value added food products, as well as determining the quality and nutritive value of food being produced and consumed locally.