Second Phase of Support to Jamaica’s Ignite Fund for Promoting Innovative Firms

The Compete Caribbean Partnership Facility is exploring avenues for supporting Jamaica‚Äôs Innovation Grant from New Ideas to Entrepreneurship (IGNITE) Phase II. The IGNITE Programme is managed by the Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ) and was designed through support from the Inter-American Development Bank to support the creation and growth of new firms in productive sectors. Selective business service intermediaries (BSIs) work with competitively selected innovative entrepreneurs in accessing grant funds and training to develop and commercialize their products. The first phase of the IGNITE program provided bank provided funding of between JMD$1 million and JMD$4 million to 27 entrepreneurs under IGNITE’s 18-month pilot. The program reports that during the first 12 months of IGNITE’s pilot, 215 full time jobs were created; $225 million in investments were generated; and entities realized approximately $109 million in revenues from the domestic market and exports.

Stemming from the success of Phase I, the second phase of the program was launched on April 27th. This second phase will continue to focus on building a strong innovation ecosystem that supports development of innovative ventures that contribute to employment and economic growth. A foundational element of such an ecosystem is developing a pipeline of startups and embedding mechanisms for supporting their development and growth. Demonstration effects encourage others to become entrepreneurs, know-how is transferred, employment is generated, and an ecosystem for promoting more innovation and growth is inculcated.

Beyond seed funding, accelerators have grown in prominence, yet they are distinct from other early-stage support mechanisms such as incubation. Cohen and Hochberg (2014) define a startup accelerator as a fixed-term, cohort-based program, including mentorship and educational components, that culminates in a public pitch event or demo day. According to Juan Carlos Navarro, Science and Technology Principal Technical Leader of the Competitiveness, Technology and Innovation Division of the IDB, accelerators are further down the road than incubation. Accelerators support growth-oriented entrepreneurial ventures in developing their client base, increasing contact with potential clients downstream or upstream, accessing expertise critical to growth such as IP management advisory services, and providing strategic connections to mentorship and networks. Accelerators essentially accelerate the learning-by-doing process all entrepreneurs have to go through (Hathaway 2016).

It is critical for countries to build innovation-led competitiveness by creating high-quality domestic accelerators that can produce a critical mass of sustainable local startups and attract super-connected international accelerators to access global networks of knowledge and resources. Interconnection between ecosystems is critical in less mature ecosystems which cannot provide the quality mentorship and funding needed for their startups to compete internationally. Accelerators also connect ecosystems to each other, allowing entrepreneurs in less advanced ecosystems to access the talent, mentors, and funding networks unavailable domestically. This project will thus assess whether there is space to create and/or strengthen acceleration activity in an institution in Jamaica and to devise and implement a strategy for doing so. Complementarily, institutions in Jamaica interested in/undertaking acceleration activities can be connected to international accelerators outside of Jamaica in order to transfer the experience, network and know-how back home.

Discussions will continue to take place with local counterpart DBJ to flesh out what this support will look like. Ultimately, the project will strengthen local capacity for developing a pipeline of early/stage innovative ventures, mostly technology based, that contribute to catalyzing firm productivity gains. Specifically, the project aims to support capacity to design, implement and evaluate innovation programs within the framework of IGNITE II. We look forward to the partnership with the DBJ.

To read on the support of the second phase of the IGNITE program please click here.

To learn more on innovation-led competitiveness click here.