This philanthropic organization, led by Guyanese, is commercializing cutting-edge research projects in Guyana

The benefits of research and new ideas in the Caribbean include the start of businesses that can diversify economies and create more job opportunities, especially in STEM. Groundbreaking endeavours are some of the exciting advancements taking place in Guyana today. This U.S. based philanthropic organisation is opportunely paving the way for the transformation of new ideas into businesses by supporting projects that contribute to developing Guyana’s economy and human resources. Its mission includes sponsoring innovation and talent development and fostering a startup ecosystem that enables the growth of new enterprises.

The Guyana Economic Development Trust (GEDT) was founded in 2018 and is an upcoming driving force behind Guyana’s economic growth, offering opportunities to invest in science and technology-based businesses. The GEDT is not affiliated with any political organizations. According to a Look Book shared with us by the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), the unemployment rate for working-age youth in Guyana between 2007 and 2017 was 22%. The Look Book also included that Guyana ranks 22 out of 24 regional countries for entrepreneurship activity. But the issue is not a lack of talent but a lack of resources for startups. With one of its ventures, the GEDT is embracing the opportunity to commercialize breakthrough research and innovative projects that are occurring at the University of Guyana in the Faculties of Agriculture and Forestry, Earth & Environmental Sciences, Engineering and Technology, and Health and Natural Sciences.

Oslene Carrington

“The future of Guyana is filled with possibilities. The Guyana Economic Development Trust (GEDT) offers a unique opportunity for Guyanese and non-Guyanese, in and outside of the country, to support independent projects that advance the society via economic and workforce development,” Oslene Carrington, CEO of GEDT, stated in the GEDT 2019 Look Book. 

Oslene was born in Guyana and has a wealth of experience spanning over 25 years in areas such as management, leadership, and launching businesses. Her professional roles include senior management positions at JPMorgan Chase and Mastercard, two of the Fortune 500 companies in the United States. Oslene is supported by a team of other skilled, experienced Guyanese professionals in Guyana and abroad, working with the GEDT.

Last year the GEDT debuted its first project, the Guyana Innovation Prize. In May this year, Dr. Dawn Fox and Lisa Dublin were announced as the winners of the first place prize, an annual cash prize of USD 10,000. The Guyana Innovation Prize involves the selection of promising research ideas based on a competitive application process. Once selected, Innovation Prize Venture Fellows (applicants with promising research ideas), are connected with mentors in Guyana and abroad for 12 months and receive assistance with developing business plans and revenue models for commercially viable, scalable businesses. This year, the winning research idea focused on water treatment using a low-cost activated carbon produced from coconuts. Communities lacking traditional water treatment technologies will benefit from this technology.

Lisa Dublin

Lisa Dublin currently works as a laboratory analyst in the Environmental Department of Guyana Goldfields where she monitors the ion chemistry associated with the effects of the mine site on the waterways. She graduated from the University of Guyana in 2017 with a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry. That same year she also presented her undergraduate research project at the McNair’s Scholar’s Conference for Undergraduate Research in Florida. Her project focused on developing cost-effective systems for water treatment using natural waste materials.

Dr. Dawn Fox is a senior lecturer in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Guyana and has a background in characterising sorbents with microscopy and spectroscopy, water and wastewater treatment, and water quality analysis. She became the first Guyanese to be awarded the Elsevier Foundation Award for Early-Career Women in 2018 from the Organisation for Women in Science for the Developing World (OWSD). She was awarded for her work in physical sciences. Dr. Fox also graduated from the University of Guyana. Her research involves converting local materials, especially waste materials, into value-added materials to solve environmental problems. She’s worked with her students to produce aqueous phase sorbents using a variety of materials found in Guyana, such as waste sawdust, coconut shell, and rice husk.  Dr. Fox is also involved with her community influencing the next generation of women in STEM. In 2016, she co-founded a group called Women in Science & Engineering (WiSE), to support, empower and advocate for girls and women to pursue and flourish in STEM  careers. 

Dr. Dawn Fox

Dr. Fox is passionate about her work and the effect that it has on the people in her community and country. 

“What I love about what I do is that ultimately it affects people and I’m going to make people’s lives better,” she proudly stated in a YouTube video featuring the winners of the 2018 OWSD-Elsevier Foundation Awards for Early-Career Women in Science in the Developing World.

Winners of the 2018 OWSD-Elsevier Foundation Awards for Early-Career Women in Science in the Developing World

The other research ideas were also based on issues currently present in Guyana.  One Venture Fellow, Rebecca Harris, based her research on fighting fungal infections using an inexpensive combination of synthesized metal and leaves from coconut and ochra plants. Another research idea by Tandika Harry focused on extending the postharvest life of mangoes by applying beeswax and cassava starch. There was even a research idea that involved using Computerized Cognitive Behavioural Therapy to address how students respond to academic failure. This research objective, created by Juanelle Marks, has the potential to benefit educators greatly. The fourth Venture Fellow’s research proposal is centered on using vinasse, a byproduct of bioethanol production, as a fertilizer.

“An inaugural cohort of Guyana Innovation Prize Venture Fellows is proving that with solid, reviewed research, as well as access to resources, top talent in Guyana have the potential to improve the productivity and diversification of the economy,” Oslene Carrington remarked in a message in the GEDT 2019 Look Book. 

The Guyana Innovation Prize, which is not a research grant or a business plan competition, provides a platform that connects investors with startup businesses to turn cutting-edge research ideas into new business enterprises, creating jobs in STEM and boosting the private sector in Guyana. Earlier this month the launch party took place in Brooklyn. The celebratory event brought together Guyanese in the diaspora including Canadian-Guyanese Grammy award singer Melanie Fiona, and Guyanese neuroscientist, inventor, and professor, Dr. André Fenton. Eric Adams, the Borough President of Brooklyn, also attended.

Guyana Innovation Prize: Awakening the Jaguar Reception 2019

To support and invest in Guyana’s economic development, visit theguyanatrust.org for more information.


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