CFF and UWI Partnership for Innovation Through Eco-Friendly Economic Development

Sargassum on the shoreline of south east Trinidad

The Central Finance Facility Co-Operative Society of Trinidad and Tobago (CFF) has long sought to be the leader in the Credit Union Movement in fostering economic development through eco-friendly, sustainable, and productive environmental practices, by utilizing our nation’s human resources and creating economic ownership and wealth for its members. This is in keeping with our strategic goals to be a champion in facilitating the Green Technology, become the caring partners in the fostering an eco-friendly environment and have a closer involvement in the communities we serve especially in the lesser developed towns and villages where unemployment is high, and opportunities are few. An initial example was cited as in the community of Mayaro where tons of sargassum weed litter the shoreline yearly while scores of youths sit idly watching the sargassum. With these two idle commodities, the idea was to marry the two to create an eco-friendly product utilizing the readily available human resources in the area.  

The CFF reached out to The University of the West Indies (UWI) to ascertain if or what research work was being done with sargassum and to seek out a partnership with this reputable knowledge-based institution, to work towards bringing to market any research idea that can create a sustainable value-added product. UWI St. Augustine Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship [STACIE] responded almost immediately and was happy to share their expertise/research in this field and in several others market ready areas. With the blessing of the Director of UWI – STACIE the collaboration started with introductions to some research areas where sustainable products can be developed.

The UWI St Augustine Research Innovation & Entrepreneurship [STACIE] is that arm of The University of the West Indies that includes a network of special units, centres and institutions (UCIs), faculties, libraries and the Office of Graduate Studies and Research whose main focus is to “turn your ideas into action.” STACIE brings UWI knowledge and discoveries off campus and into the real world – where they can make an impact. The department promotes innovation, fund research and foster entrepreneurship. Their mission is to drive innovation and entrepreneurship within the University and beyond, to connect academia to industry, policy and decision-maker, bringing great ideas to life for the use and benefit of society. By funding, protecting and commercialising new innovations and generate solutions that shape the future of the region. STACIE work towards nurture research, advance innovations and promoting entrepreneurship. So that the big ideas generated at UWI can impact the wider society. It is with these values the CFF views a partnership with UWI as the ability to bring “innovation to market through the finances of Credit Unions”.

Eco-friendly and sustainable environment initiatives

The Central Finance Facility Cooperative Society Trinidad & Tobago Limited [CFF] was established by the local Credit Union Movement in May 2002, is built on the philosophy of “Cooperation Among Cooperatives” and its main business is to empower the member Credit Unions and non-financial cooperatives so they in turn can better serve their own members. In order to empower our members; CFF must constantly look for opportunities for continuous improvement of products and services for our members; include and promote to our members emerging technologies, developments, services and opportunities for investments. The CFF has been partnering with resource professional, leading institutions who have the technologies and knowledge and can steer CFF towards these new areas. The Vision of the CFF – “To be the Premier Financial Intermediary and Development Institution for Co-operatives” empowers the Society to lead in developmental areas, to lead the movement in rolling out new and improved products and services, lead in improving the well-being of under-utilized youths in under-developed areas and more so ensuring that the Credit Union Movement is instrumental in creating an eco-friendly and sustainable environment whilst leveraging economic returns for its stakeholders.

In September 2021, UWI and CFF signed a MOU which will allow us to collaborate on creating sustainable local product developments using the UWI storehouse of research and technology.   The areas of cooperation include the establishment of joint training and branding initiatives to further the commercialisation of UWI technologies and intellectual property under a collaborative partnership. Despite being is in its infancy stage, however the CFF and UWI are positive that this collaboration will brings together and perhaps brings to market local research, information, technologies, and local innovative products into the hands of the entire Credit Union communities. The Credit Union movement with its over 500,000 strong membership is the ideal vehicle to transport new eco-friendly products throughout Trinidad and Tobago.