Innovation Island report produced
The transformation of Bermuda into an “innovation island” could boost the economy, a report commissioned by the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce has predicted.
Kendaree Burgess, executive director of the chamber, said “we are in the right space to take ourselves to the next level”.
But she added: “We do need to have a commitment to innovate around education and immigration, as well as a change of mindset.”
The review, which the chamber has presented to the Bermuda Government and the Business Development Agency as well as unions, was compiled in February by a Masters of Business Administration team from Cornell University in New York and Queens University in Ontario, Canada.
The team of five executives surveyed the island last year.
Ms Burgess said: “It’s hugely exciting, and I believe that everybody ought to hear it.
“Our job is to present their findings to enough people to create a momentum on policy change and the creation of financial products that people can use to start new businesses.”
Proposals included “revolutionising” farming with aquaculture and new technology, investment in renewable energy, and the creation of new businesses in fintech and insurance technology, or insurtech.
Ms Burgess said: “One of the Chamber’s mandates is to create an environment in which business can prosper. After having this study done, it is absolutely doable. The real issue is getting it off the ground.”
She said the MBA team, tasked with increasing GDP and the creation of jobs, said Bermuda could be “a global innovation island — a place where new ideas can be tested”.
The report recommended that Bermuda should position itself as a “beta site” — a term derived from computer programming — when software gets tested before being released.
Ms Burgess said: “They believe that Bermuda is the perfect size. Every innovation requires real-world testing, and Bermuda is right for that because it can be used as a small version of anywhere.”
The study recommended Bermuda should pitch itself as “a refuge from global complexities and an engine for globally relevant business innovations”.
It proposed the creation of a public-private entity, a Global Innovation Zone Authority, to target growth in at least three sectors — insurtech, tourism innovation and sustainable agriculture.
The island was also encouraged to develop a more self-sufficient approach to fuel and food, most of which is imported and subject to unpredictable outside forces. The report said a 10 per cent switch to renewable energy would save $15 million a year in payments made overseas.
It also recommended major changes in the island’s transmission, distribution and sale of electricity.
The report added a 5 per cent boost in domestic food production would save $10 million a year in foreign exchange payments.
The report also underscored the island’s vulnerability.
It said: “As global outlooks suggest a future with political volatility, increased food demands, energy volatility and disruptive technological advances, Bermuda faces ominous challenges to sustain itself as a small global competitor.”
Michael Gonsalves, vice- president of private banking at Sun Trust in Atlanta, one of the MBA team members, said the group had been impressed with the closeness of the island’s community. Mr Gonsalves is related to a Bermudian but the others on the five-strong team were new to the island.
He said: “It’s a population that’s very engaged, whether for good or bad. Everybody has an opinion and an idea of a better Bermuda.
“It’s a question of harnessing that energy and getting it into an appropriate direction.”
The group interviewed more than 50 people during their visit, from taxi drivers to scientists at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Science.
Mr Gonsalves said that Bermuda had to become “an island not defined by a couple of industries — there’s opportunity for many industries, and they need help to develop”.
Grady Brain, fellow team member and a portfolio manager in fraud and security with Equifax, said he was impressed by the island’s “resilience and passion for change”.
Mr Brain added: “You’re far from the States, and you truly have to have it in your mind that you must be resilient. I enjoyed seeing that aspect of it.
“I think the path is there for Bermuda to develop — Bermuda absolutely has the keys, and it has to be a collective effort.”
The Chamber has not published the whole report, but has released segments.
• To learn more, contact Debra Carreiro on email@example.com