Medicinal scientist Professor Henry Lowe has charged that Jamaica is retarding its economic progress by not capitalising on its rich history in Science, Technology & Innovation (STI).
Professor Lowe, in delivering the Distinguished Lecture recently at the University of the Commonwealth Caribbean, argued that Jamaica has the potential to become a powerhouse in technological innovation to match its prowess in music and sports. However, he lamented the scarcity of funds to help local innovators, while suggesting that one of several entrepreneurial projects being pursued by him has the potential to earn US$1.5 billion in three to five years.
In describing Jamaica’s rich STI history, Professor Lowe pointed to the early works of several local scientists and the establishment of a core of scientific research institutions, such as the internationally recognised Jamaica Bauxite Institute.
The local scientists cited by Professor Lowe included Professor Louis Grant, who identified the cause of the deadly disease leptospirosis and the fact that the Dengue fever was spread by the Aedes Aegypti mosquitoes. Another local scientist Dr. Thomas Lecky developed the Jamaica Hope breed of cattle, while Professor Gerald Lalor isolated a chemical from the Logwood plant that became useful in identifying cancers through staining techniques.
In more recent times, Professor Lowe, along with Doctors Manley West and Albert Lockhart, conducted research and development work that resulted in commercial products from Cannabis to treat Glaucoma. Lowe also pointed to research and development work on cancers, diabetes, HIV/AIDS and other viral diseases such as Hepatitis C, which were conducted by him and colleagues at the University of Maryland Medical School in the United States.
“This represents only a few of the many great contributions to science by our institutions over the years, which for the size of our country and our population has been outstanding,” Professor Lowe told the gathering at UCC’s main campus in Kingston. His presentation was titled: It can be done -Mission Oriented Science, Technology and Innovation to Build and save Jamaica from a Very Challenging Future.
He implored educators to begin sensitising and preparing persons to operate in the rapidly changing technological environment of the oncoming Fourth Industrial Revolution. This period, Lowe posited, would result in the elimination of 75 per cent of known jobs and the creation of new ones.
The Professor suggested that the earning of a degree is like a passport for critical thinking to enter the future, and he advised members of the audience to “focus on what the world will be like not in 50 years’ time, which we can hardly comprehend because of the pace of technological movement, but what will the world of 2030 be like.”