Sir Hilary Beckles, vice-chancellor of the University of the West Indies (UWI), says a memorandum of understanding MOU) that has been inked by the regional university and Sophia University in Tokyo, Japan, will lead to the production of growth-oriented data for which the private sector has been clamouring.
Beckles and Takashi Hayashita, president of the Sophia University, signed an agreement at Jamaica House yesterday, moments after Jamaica’s Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and Shinzo Abe, prime minister of Japan, held bilateral talks in Simpson Miller’s office.
Simpson Miller said the signing of the MoU by both universities, as well as a $57 million grant to the Institute of Jamaica for the improvement of the exhibition and audiovisual equipment at the state-owned museum, is a demonstration of Japan’s “steadfast commitment to Jamaica”.
Prime Minister Abe announced that Japan would fund a technical project in the area of energy security and energy efficiency. The details of the project, which will see three other CARICOM states being beneficiaries, has not yet been worked out, officials said.
Abe said Japan recognises “the importance of (promotiing) … exchanges in a variety of areas such as sports exchanges, with Jamaica, the super-power nation of track and field, and academic exchanges between Sophia University and the University of the West Indies through their signing of the MoU and Japanese language education”.
As it relates to the MoU with the universities, the UWI vice-chancellor told The Gleaner that it is hoped that it will be mobilised through the exchange of students, especially research students, as well as the exchange of professors and other researchers
Beckles said in addition to collaborating on research in a number of areas, such as climate change, the marine environment, as well as in cultural studies, the UWI would be seeking to explore the issue of business and innovation, which, he said, were critical to economic growth.
“I believe that we are now poised to make a greater contribution in a new area. That area is innovation and entrepreneurship. We have made great contributions in agriculture, mining, culture, a whole range of areas,” Beckles said.
He said Japan’s academic contribution and presence in the Caribbean was important, noting that they had a very strong footprint in their commercial products that we consume and that academic research in that area was important.
“All of our Caribbean countries are poised now at the moment where we need to innovate. We need to diversify our economies; our entrepreneurial class needs access to a greater research material; they need to take onboard scientific information in their corporate planning. These kinds of situations focusing on research and innovation will add a new element to what the private sector is calling for,” Beckles said.
“We have been involved in many levels of contributions over the decades, but now we are poised to do the thing that our private sector has been calling for – more research information, big data, hard data, and connecting research to innovation and the connection of science and technology to innovation. This is an area that we are well positioned to do. So this kind of MOU, which we have with other universities, will also help that process,” the vice-chancellor said.