A high-level delegation from the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) recently met with officials from the BLOOM Cleantech Cluster incubator program for an update on its progress over the last five years. 

Established in 2019 through a partnership between Export Barbados (BIDC) and UNIDO, the BLOOM Cleantech Cluster has quickly become a local hub for clean technology innovation and sustainable practices. In fact, Dr. Terrell Thompson, Manager of BLOOM, disclosed that they have awarded more than $100,000 in grants to local start-ups to assist them in developing their business plans and prototypes. 

Additionally, he said they have connected incubatees with angel investors and venture capitalists, helping them to raise over $750,000 in cash and technical services. He made the disclosure at the start of an innovation tour for the UNIDO delegation, which started at Export Barbados’ International Food Science Center (IFSC) at Newton, Christ Church, one of the facilities used by the incubatees.

Although BLOOM initially faced challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it has made significant progress since 2021. According to Dr. Thompson some notable achievements included the development of a cleantech policy platform for Barbados in partnership with Atom Solutions, the establishment of partnerships with SAGNA, a Caribbean accelerator program, and collaboration with the London Royal Academy of Engineering to provide training and mentorship for incubatees. Additionally, BLOOM has created a cleantech industry vision statement and logo in collaboration with Ernst and Young.

The BLOOM Manager further disclosed that several bioenergy projects are in the pipeline, including a 250-kilowatt biogas plant located in the Newton Industrial Park. This plant will power some of the manufacturing in that area and produce fertilizer for local farmers. Additionally, he said they are also working on developing green hydrogen and activated carbon, commonly called biochar. 

“Bloom is the first incubator of its kind in a SIDS [Small Island Developing States] and the first of its kind in the region, and it has been very successful. UNIDO and other implementing agencies are interested in replicating this model, first regionally, then globally. The Barbados cluster will be the hub for SIDS. A virtual network will be established in the region, and all parties will work with the Barbados cluster to replicate the model globally. The team in Barbados will facilitate this process,” Dr. Thompson stated.

UNIDO’s Director General Gerd Müller commented that UNIDO is dedicated to supporting SIDS like Barbados and praised the country’s efforts in embracing renewable energy. He emphasized the need for SIDS to enhance the resilience and productivity of their AgroTech sectors and to develop the agro-processing industries, which would create job opportunities.

Mr. Müller also highlighted the importance of increased private investments in the AgroTech sector due to its vulnerability to climate change, stressing the necessity of investing in resilient new seeds.

In his remarks, Mark Hill, the Chief Executive Officer of Export Barbados (BIDC), the corporation responsible for BLOOM, commended the program for its achievements. He noted that BLOOM has an important role to play in the country’s efforts to become a 100 percent renewable energy economy by 2030.

“It’s not just a fancy idea; we know that it is doable. We know it is also bankable. We also know that the investments and finance capital are there, but it is the will to push through and to do it. What we at Export Barbados focus on is doing, not just talking,” CEO Hill said.

He also mentioned that Export Barbados has invested in biomass from the land and ocean to produce energy, explaining that renewable energy is key to moving industry in this country forward.

During the tour of the IFSC, the group saw first-hand how the shared-use facility, which includes a commercial kitchen, bottling and labelling machinery, and a laboratory, is helping to improve production for small and microprocessors. The group also visited Export Barbados’ Seamoss Project in the North of the island.