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Interview with Valerie Tappin

Since its inception the Technology Innovation Centre (TIC) at the University of Technology is providing support start up businesses. Valerie Tappin, senior director, TIC speaks with Jobsmart on the goals, achievements and the future plans of the centre.

1. Overview of TIC & it's activities

The Technology Innovation Centre (TIC), formerly the Entrepreneurial Centre, was established in 2002 as a result of a joint funding arrangement between the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and the University of Technology, Jamaica (UTECH). The TIC is a specialized unit at UTECH, which provides support services to micro and small businesses. The centre provides a forum for start-up businesses to continuously access best practices and new technologies.

2. What are your goals & objectives

The goal of the TIC is to promote Jamaica's economic growth by supporting the development and commercialisation of technology within Jamaica. The purposes are three fold, to foster the development of start up technology companies, to promote increased entrepreneurship in UTECH and Jamaica and to develop technology linkages between UTECH and the Jamaican Industry.

Mission Statement - To positively impact the economy of Jamaica through the transformation of small & medium enterprises into profitable sustainable entities by promoting entrepreneurship through the infusion of technology and innovation.

3. How do you propose to achieve them

The core service that the TIC offers is business incubation and its primary market is comprised of start-up technology-based enterprises. A business incubator may be defined as an organisation which offers a range of business development services and access to small space on flexible terms, to meet the needs of new growing firms. The package of services offered by a business incubator is designed to enhance the success and growth rates of new enterprises thus maximising their impact on economic development.

4.What have been your on-going programmes?

We provide affordable office space that are configured to client needs, the centre has a full time Incubator Manager who performs daily coaching activities with the client companies as well as individual consultations on a monthly basis.

We also hold business development training sessions, in areas such as strategic planning, human resource management etc is offered to client companies. We also provide shared services like receptionist, document processing equipment, meeting facilities this assists the incubated companies to significantly reduce their operational costs.
We also provide networking, establishing business-to-business linkages, bringing the entrepreneur into the commercial community and also facilitating networking amongst entrepreneurs.

5. What have been the recent successes?

To date the incubation programme of the TIC has positively impacted the development of twenty-four small businesses. Five companies have graduated since 2002, two of which won national awards for innovation from Ministry of Commerce, Science & Technology in 2005 Aura Technologies won the National Award for Best Innovation and the category award for Popularization of Science & Technology.

Educate Jamaica Network won the category award in the Informational Communication Technology for their website

Zed Jamaica is currently producing a movie entitled 'Black Kissinger' starring Fred Williamson. Zed has been very successful in bringing this movie to production and they have secured financing both overseas and locally for the project.

This is a testament to the quality of the companies that join the incubator programme and the level of success that they attain.

On October 10 & 11, 2006 the TIC hosted the Caribbean's Inaugural Forum on Business Incubation entitled 'Business Incubation and it's Impact on National Development'. The main objectives of the event was to:

To develop a greater understanding of the unequalled value of business incubation to small business development

Seven overseas presenters from India, United States, Columbia, Australia, United Kingdom and St. Vincent and the Grenadines along with 11 local presenters participated.

6. The future plans of TIC

The TIC would like to become the flagship Incubator in the region, to provide a greater level of business support to clients within the CSME and to build an advisory network comprising experienced professionals and business people willing to lend their skills to provide support and guidance to entrepreneurial enterprises. We would also like to guide policy and decision makers to explore new paths towards business development and nation building.

7. Tips & suggestions for Entrepreneurs lessons learnt

I had my own small business, a fashion boutique catering to full figured women, in addition I managed two small businesses.

A Business Plan is absolutely essential to operate a business, gut feeling simply is not enough, but road map is a must. It is not enough; to get someone to prepare your business plan, the entrepreneur should ensure that the business plan incorporates his vision for the enterprise. A buy in is very important

Failing at one business doesn't mean failure forever; the business might fail but not you. Do not feel intimidated to start another enterprise.

- Amitabh Sharma
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