A place where ideas are tested
World economies continue to change at an increasing, and possibly alarming, rate. Standing still and letting the status quo continue does not provide a solid platform to ensure future economic prosperity. It is known that the only thing that is constant is change itself. So how can Bermuda change to continue to position itself as an economic leader, and to continue to provide opportunities for growth and wellbeing of all Bermudians?
It was with these thoughts in mind that the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce engaged a group of internationally diverse students studying for their Executive MBAs at Cornell University and Queen’s University. This group of students were assisted in their detailed look at the workings of the island by chamber executive director Kendaree Burgess and the chamber economics committee, which took individuals around the island to visit numerous businesses, academics and interest groups.
Their conclusion was that Bermuda offers a unique environment to offer itself as a global innovation zone — to be a place where ideas are tested. The Cornell/Queens EMBA group offered some original and interesting ideas for local industries that would give us security in both food and energy.
It also recommended that Bermuda set itself up to be a test-bed for some of the latest discoveries and innovations that are being launched worldwide. Bermuda, which lacks a large university that could offer research capabilities, is unlikely to create new technologies. But its compact size, geographical remoteness, educated and diverse population, sophisticated technology infrastructure and openness to new ideas positions the island perfectly to be a test-bed for innovative and technological advances.
By offering a country “beta” site, Bermuda can position itself at the leading edge of technological advances — and expose its residents to the opportunities that these innovations create. Imagine living in a country where the latest inventions were being tested, and being the first country in the world to experience the advantages and benefits of scientific, technological and sociological advances.
This may take a change in the Bermuda mindset. Over its history, the island has benefited from new ideas from people who have had the advantage of being exposed to work and learning experiences from overseas that could be adopted to benefit Bermuda and Bermudians. Our captive insurance and reinsurance industries, which form the basis of our international business sector, are good examples of this.
We must be willing to set aside the existing or traditional ways, to set aside the “that is the way it is always been done” mentality and be open and willing to adopt and accept changes for the sake of progress and increased prosperity.
By offering Bermuda as a test-bed for new advances, the island opens a wide range of new and exciting opportunities for Bermudians to be involved and engaged in. The testing of new innovations, across a countrywide “laboratory” can provide Bermuda with access to the latest technologies that can make us the “greenest” eco-friendly country.
By positioning Bermuda in such a manner, by inviting and by welcoming those with innovations that need a broader scale of testing, we may be able to secure and obtain the infrastructure and country support in key areas of energy, food production, health and medical advances, data protection and production. Bermuda is moving in that direction already, with the opportunities inherent in the fintech and blockchain arenas being explored by the international business sector and the larger organisations relating to it. But, the study challenges us, why stop there?
Imagine Bermuda taking advantage of the abundant renewable energy resources of sun, wave and wind activity to be less reliant on imported fossil fuels.
By offering innovative firms in the “clean renewable energy sector” a large-scale “beta” test site, Bermuda could benefit from having, for example, solar energy panels on car roofs to:
• Fuel a fully electric car environment
• Be the testing ground of solar energy roofing panels to create community micro-energy grids
• Assist in pioneering complete waste to energy, carbon capture and other innovative technologies on a countrywide scale
We all used to watch in awe and wonder at Disney’s Future World — a view of things to come. Would it not be great if Bermuda was that land where the future is the present and Bermudians are living it? Can Bermudians extend their world-renowned hospitality to new ideas, concepts, innovations and inventions, and accept the associated risks to become that “Future World” that Walt Disney imagined?
These Cornell/Queen’s EMBA students could envisage that future. It represents a leap and a challenge to us all.
• John Wight is the president of the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce