In its quest to strengthen small businesses, the Development Bank of Jamaica (DBJ) through its Boosting Innovation, Growth and Entrepreneurship Ecosystems (BIGEE) programme is looking to offer support to as many as 1,500 entrepreneurs by 2025.
BIGEE programme Manager Christopher Brown, speaking at a recent Jamaica Observer Business Forum, said of the US$11 million earmarked for grants and technical assistance over the first five years of the programme, about US$2 million has been spent so far in the last two and a half years to assist entrepreneurs in getting their businesses ready for growth.
“To date and through our interventions under BIGEE, be it grants, training, etc, we have supported over 600 businesses and based on current trends â€” we believe this could double or grow to about 1,500 businesses at the end of the first five years,” he said.
BIGEE, which is initially designed as a 10-year project, was spilt into two five-year sub-projects with the first cycle running from 2020-2025 and the second expected to run from 2025-2030. While objectives under the first cycle are now underway, plans for the second half are not yet finalised.
“We’re now in discussions with the Inter-American Development Bank [IDB] to redo targets based on what we have seen so far and from all that is being planned. While I can’t give a fixed number, we expect that our targets will grow in terms of the number of businesses to which we will offer support,” he added.
The programme heavily funded by the IDB also receives funding support from the European Union (EU). Branded among the flagship programmes of the DBJ, the project was established to spur economic growth by enabling a stronger business sector. Emerging also as a successor to the Jamaica Venture Capital Programme, BIGEE’s mandate is to build out a robust and sustained entrepreneurship eco-system locally.
“We provide grants for people to invest in growing their businesses and we also offer training through our intermediary partners including a number of business incubators and accelerators which work to build capacity for entrepreneurs while our main measure of success is the growth of their business,” Brown said while referring to companies which benefitted from the programme in the past including Breseh, Amazing Concrete, Blue-Dot, Edu-Focal, and One on One Education Services among its main success stories.
Highlighting a number of innovation and ideation grants from which businesses can access millions in funding to fuel their innovations and launch new ideas, he noted others including a recently added patent grant and an upcoming supply chain grant, as expanded offerings from which entrepreneurs can take advantage in order to secure greater investments for their businesses.
The more popular IGNITE grant, now about to engage its fourth cohort, channels the bulk of its funds to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) across business service intermediaries (BSIs) with which the DBJ partners, some of which include the Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC), Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association (JMEA), Kingston Creative, and the Technology Innovation Centre at the University of Technology, Jamaica.
The DBJ, in recently extending the deadline for applications under the upcoming iteration or IGNITE IV grant programme, announced a new date for January 6, 2023.
As the government institution responsible for broadening opportunities for entrepreneurship, the DBJ said it plans to, in the coming year, undertake a number of steps that will also see the entity increasing the level of focus that it gives to businesses outside of the corporate and metropolitan areas.
Brown indicated that a while a clear road map was not yet fully developed, interventions will likely take the form of monthly road shows, innovation clinics and other initiatives outside of Kingston.
“People are doing some good work and strong businesses do exist outside of the corporate area and we will be doing more to reach them,” he stated.