Guyana positions itself to take advantage of advancing technological development - IAST and Trent University sign Letter of Intent
The Institute of Applied Science and Technology (IAST) and Trent University of Canada today signed a Letter of Intent in the Boardroom of the IAST, Turkeyen for collaboration in the areas of research and development and the training of students.
Director of the IAST and the Trent Centre for Biomaterials Research, Dr. Suresh Narine said the partnership is important in that “even as Guyana positions itself to perhaps pump oil and gas, we have got to train the people to take advantage of that opportunity.” He pointed to other countries where the local population is simply providing dumb labour to an industry which requires significant tertiary levels of education.
The Letter of Intent recognizes several complementary institutional goals and common interests between Trent University and IAST. It references the training and education of graduate students and the development of technology for the utilization of Guyana’s natural resources for the benefit of the people of Guyana. Possible programme areas are indentified in fields such as indigenous, sustainability and environmental studies, climate change, water management, green chemistry and biomaterials.
Attending today’s signing were Dr. Steven E. Franklin, President and Vice Chancellor of Trent University and Dr. Neil Emery, the University’s Vice President Research & International, while members of the private sector included representatives from the Guyana Sugar Corporation (Guysuco), BANKS DIH, National Agricultural Research and Extension Institute (NAREI), Guyana Livestock Development Board, Qualfon, Demerara Mutual Insurance Company, Queens Atlantic Investments Inc, Demerara Distillers Limited, University of Guyana and Alabama University of the USA.
Dr. Emery pointed out that the private sector is crucial for providing growth and education in Guyana and noted that the international economy is booming and will continue to boom in the future, pointing out that what impresses the population is being able to participate in something that would have resonance around the globe.
Dr. Emery urged those present to look to opportunities that can ‘…build on your own strengths.” He added that with the starting point of biomaterials, the bridge consisting of IAST, Universities of Guyana and Trent, is an opportunity that Guyana and Canada would want to take advantage of.
The Letter of Intent outlines the intent of the two institutions to exploit collaborative opportunities in the areas of research and development and the training of graduate students. It focuses on the sharing of resources, the training of graduate students, and joint research projects between the two institutions.
Vice Chancellor, Trent University Dr. Franklin, said the common goal of the two institutions is to prepare people and communities for brighter futures at local and global levels. He added that it indicates a promising collaboration between Trent University and IAST.
Dr. Franklin noted that Guyana’s leadership position on climate change through its celebrated Low Carbon Development Strategy provides a natural environment and valuable living laboratory for this opportunity. He pointed out that the recently enabled state of the art laboratories at IAST will provide scientific resources through which scholars from both institutions can seek solutions to problems related to sustainable utilization of Guyana’s renewable resources.
Dr Narine observed that IAST’s newest state of the art laboratory is probably one of the best in the Caribbean for an institution of its kind, adding that with that growth in infrastructure there has also been the growth of qualified personnel in the institution “… and a concomitant growth in our reputation and visibility in the public eye, all of this which has positioned us for the kind of partnership that we are signing today.”
The agreement seeks to share research resources, and research ideas for development and sustainability. It also proposes a model where IAST can play a role in enabling the training of highly qualified personnel, in particular graduate students from Trent. This unique concept would allow students enrolled at Trent, with all of its concomitant benefits to do all of their practical work at IAST, which means they can focus on projects that are of local relevance. The cost of a graduate degree would be significantly less than it would normally cost for students to leave Guyana to study.
The Trent University team expressed the hope that there would be additional benefits, one being that students can be trained on local challenges, and how to handle local issues and local problems and appropriate technology. This would ensure that they remain in Guyana and be engaged on issues relevant to the country.
Dr. Franklin observed that Trent University has one of the oldest indigenous studies’ department in Canada pointing out that indigenous knowledge is considered relative to western and science knowledge that has developed in more traditional ways. He noted that indigenous knowledge and studies will be one of the factors to strengthen the collaboration between the two universities. “The living laboratory in Guyana together with the laboratory in Canada will give a global perspective which is extremely valuable as it recognizes the importance of local knowledge and indigenous culture.” Dr. Franklin emphasized that the transmission of indigenous knowledge is through means that are sometimes less than formal. “We want to foster that line of thinking, that we are the leaders, to ensure we support environment, economic and cultural sustainability, with the recognition of the importance of indigenous knowledge.”
Private sector representatives noted that with the modernisation of their respective entities, the biggest challenge is the availability of professional expertise, and they would welcome with open arms, the initiative especially in the realms of research.
Fully supportive, they expressed excitement about the collaborative effort, and noted that it will make a significant impact, since international partners are always insisting that projects are environmentally friendly.
All students will be fully funded from Masters to PHD and will be from the Governments of Guyana and Canada, the private sector and Trent University.