Since 2021, Export Barbados (BIDC) has embarked on a renewed mission to transform Barbados’ industrial and export landscape through science. This mission is timely, given the health-related challenges Barbados faces. Over the past few decades, it has become increasingly apparent that purposeful investments in health and well-being are vital to combating the growing incidences of lifestyle diseases among our population.

Treatments for diabetes, strokes, heart attacks, cancers, respiratory disorders, and other non-communicable diseases continue to dominate our Government’s annual health-care spend. Because investment enables economic development, it is therefore critical to allocate funds strategically for the common good.

The rapidly expanding global life sciences industry offers numerous opportunities which are being designed for investment, innovation and collaboration. These opportunities include research and development, manufacturing of pharmaceuticals, biotechnology-based foods and medicines, medical devices, biomedical technologies, nutraceuticals, cosmeceuticals, and food processing. Focusing on this growing global industry ensures Barbados is at the vanguard of health equity, economic resilience, circularity, and sustainability.

This view is underpinned by the concept of sustainable investment, which is the amalgamation of traditional investing with environmental, social, and governance-related insights to improve lasting outcomes (CFA Institute, n.d.). Put simply, it is an investment strategy focused on benefiting the environment and society.

Our island also has a long-established history in food science, from the production of rum to today’s proliferation of seasoning blends and condiments, and it is poised to grow this sector further. The country is also skill-abundant - we churn out approximately 1,500 science graduates annually.

With the existing and potential life sciences-related opportunities available locally, investments in this industry can establish Barbados as a life sciences hub in the Caribbean. To guide this process, Export Barbados (BIDC) engaged the services of Deloitte Barbados to assist in formulating a life sciences industry development road map.

Lenstec – manufacturer of intraocular lenses

Export Barbados (BIDC) sought to assess the local commercial landscape to identify high-potential areas for industrial development, export growth, and economic diversification. This assessment revealed a commercial context primed for science-driven advancement.

Following comprehensive stakeholder engagements, econometric analysis, and strategic opportunity prioritization, a final road map was devised around three broad themes: wellness, agribusiness and blue economy, and biopharma and medical technology.

Prime opportunities identified for further development within the wellness industry included women’s health, medical education, recovery and rehabilitation, and plastic surgery. For agribusiness and the blue economy, opportunities included nutraceuticals, mariculture, diabetes management and sargassum seaweed, and sea moss. Biopharma and medical technology opportunities included vaccine manufacturing, data analytics, and optical lens manufacturing.

Following the Deloitte consultancy, one of the measures being undertaken is the transformation of Newton Industrial Estate into a Life Sciences Park. The work on this front has commenced. The first stage was completed in November 2022 with the launch of the Export Barbados (BIDC) International Food Science Center (IFSC). The IFSC is a contract manufacturing and laboratory testing services facility intended to enhance local manufacturing and export capacity significantly.

Guided by the life-centric approach to sustainable investment, Export Barbados (BIDC) will continue its efforts to advance this initiative in 2023. It will engage key strategic partners and create an enabling environment for the industry’s growth and development. To do so will require supportive infrastructure; sustainable talent development for STEM expertise; incentives; policies; regulations; and marketing.

It is envisioned that the life sciences industry will emerge as a central and resilient pillar for the Barbados economy, driving new levels of high-value job creation, export product and service diversification, foreign exchange earnings and population health and wellness for the common good.