The University of the West Indies (The UWI) and the National Baking Company Foundation in Jamaica signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on March 7 to provide funding for the Centre of Excellence for Oceanography and Blue Economy.
According to a release from the university, the MoU provides for a grant of US$130,000 to help establish the Centre which will be based at The UWI Five Islands Campus in Antigua and Barbuda.
During the signing ceremony held at The UWI Regional Headquarters in Jamaica, The UWI’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Hilary Beckles applauded the company and its founder Gary “Butch” Hendrickson for supporting the university.
He said such partnerships fit into The UWI’s strategic plan to bring alignment to industry and academia. Vice-Chancellor Beckles also noted that partnership is particularly important to implement the development of the marine and blue economy, which is critical to the future of the region.
Principal of The UWI Five Islands Campus, Professor Densil A Williams, noted that the Centre of Excellence for Oceanography and Blue Economy will be a game-changer in the diversification of the economic sectors of the region as the Caribbean looks for economic transformation.
“It is important to note that the Centre will be at the forefront of leading research and innovation on all issues related to the blue economy, so that we can find new avenues for wealth generation using our vast ocean resources as we have in the Caribbean,” he explained.
He also lauded Hendrickson for extending his philanthropy to the wider Caribbean with this gift to The UWI, and the impact in shaping minds and innovative activities at the Five Islands Campus.
Director of the National Baking Company Foundation, Craig Hendrickson, who addressed the signing virtually, reaffirmed his organisation’s commitment to the Centre saying, “It brings us pride at National Baking Company Foundation to support the launch and early initiatives of the Centre of Excellence for Oceanography and Blue Economy at The UWI Five Islands Campus.”
He added that climate change affects all the islands of the Caribbean and will have implications for businesses — whether small enterprises or large corporations – all of which are users of the ocean in one way or another.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Social Transformation and the Blue Economy of Antigua and Barbuda, Dean Jonas, endorsed the partnership.
Jonas, who heads the International Steering Committee for the Centre, also pledged his government’s continued support for operations, noting that the Centre will bring crucial research and diversify the economies across the region, especially in a post-Covid era, through the use of ocean resources.
The Centre of Excellence for Oceanography and Blue Economy was established through a Memorandum of Understanding between the government of Antigua and Barbuda, the Association of Commonwealth Universities, and The UWI, which was signed in January 2021. It is scheduled to open on August 1 2022.