A year after the COVID-19 pandemic struck the country by surprise, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) has remained steadfast and is still on high gear as it continues to implement innovative projects and programs that will address, not only the health crisis but, also help boost the efforts of the national government on its economic recovery program. 

Taking off from the “Bayanihan to Heal as One” initiative of the government, the DOST has now put into maximum overdrive several projects to support the NEDA-led Task Group on Recovery dubbed as the Recharge PH program that involves three sub-task groups composed of different government agencies.

For its part, the DOST will contribute to this initiative on national economic recovery through the following areas: enhancement of people’s livelihood, community empowerment, industry development, startup research grants, financial and technical assistance for returning Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), and continued services through innovation hubs, technology centers, and regional laboratories.

Livelihood Enhancement for MSMEs

One of the DOST’s flagship programsthat assists micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs)isSETUP or Small Enterprise Technology Upgrading Program thataims to upgrade their technological capabilities and improve their productivity and efficiency. 

SETUP provides technological interventions such as provision for innovation-enabling fund, technology transfer and commercialization assistance, consultancy, technology trainings, and testing and calibration services to empower MSMEs to innovate, move up the technology scale and become more competitive.     

Accomplishments for the period January to December 2020 were as follows: 

  • Number of firms/other entities provided with S&T assistance – 12,810
  • Number of employments generated – 5,642
  • Number of technology interventions provided – 13,113
  • Number of projects assisted – 624
  • Funds provided – PhP652.381M 

Moving forward, the DOST Regional Offices will embark on new intervention modalities that will focus not only on enterprise level assistance but also on the industry level to address the economic, social and environmental spheres of development. SETUP 2.0 shall continue to provide both S&T and financial support to enable MSMEs to become SMARTER (Socially-Responsive, Market-Oriented, Agile, Resource-Efficient, Technology-Intensive, Environment-Friendly, Resilient) and be locally and globally competitive. The Innovation System Support Fund or ISSF will be renamed as Innovation-Enabling Fund or iFundthat will particularly focus on industry level interventions.

Collaborative R&D to Leverage Philippines Economy (CRADLE) Program

The CRADLE Program in CY 2020 had a total of 38 approved/endorsed projects with budget allocation of PhP178M. 

Under the CRADLE program, an industry partner identifies their problems requiring R&D to be performed by a Higher Education (academe) or the R&D Institution (RDI).

This strategy ensures that R&D provides solutions that exactly meets the need of the sectors and industries that include agriculture and fisheries, nutraceuticals, electronics and semiconductors, energy management, food processing, mining, and automation.

Pushing regional growth through S&T

To spread the benefits of science and technology in the regions, the DOST startediSTARTor the Innovation, Science and Technology for Accelerating Regional Technology-Based Development Programin August 2020thataims to support the development of local government units (LGUs) by accelerating regional growth through science, technology, and innovation.  

The DOST will assist LGUs in developing a technology-based development plan for the agri-based, manufacturing, and services sectors.  These efforts are intended to achieve inclusive growth, equitable distribution of wealth, and rural prosperity by developing areas outside of the NCR (National Capital Region) and other metropolitan cities through increased investments that will support the growing population, including increased migration to the regions.

A total of 222 personnel of DOST, NEDA, PGUs/LGUs were already trained on the formulation of settlements development model for new growth areas.

Consultations/FGDs/MOU signing were conducted and project plans were identified with PGUs/LGUs in target areas (i.e., Pangasinan, Camarines Sur, Leyte and Agusan del Sur).

On the other hand, the Community Empowerment through Science and Technology or CEST program is being implemented in the regions to strengthen and empower communities through the 5-entry points: health and nutrition, water and sanitation, livelihood and enterprise development, education and literacy, and disaster risk reduction and management.

Technology Business Incubation (TBI) Program

From January 2019 to December 2020, 22 new TBIs and eightinnovation hubs were established, bringing the total to 44 TBIs and 17 innovation hubs.  

TBIs funded by the Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development (DOST-PCIEERD) produce a wide variety of technological solutions such as software applications and hardware devices for use in agriculture, education, health, food service industry, market research, environmental monitoring, and e-commerce.

Among the technologies featured in the TBIs funded by the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (DOST-PCAARRD) are on farm production; feed production; disease diagnostics, prevention and treatment; animal breeding/breed upgrading; food/meat/milk processing; vacuum packaging/labelling; equipment production; and wood processing. Products are from the various commodities across the agriculture, aquatic and natural resources sector.

Startup Research Grant Program 

In 2017, DOST-PCIEERD launched the Startup Research Grant for startups to translate their early-stage technologies into market ready products through research and development (R&D) activities. It was established to help startups overcome R&D roadblocks, strengthen intellectual property, establish initial market traction and refine their business model and to enable them to access funds, access to S&T network and access to the DOST Technology Business Incubators (TBIs) services.

Fifteen (15) technology-based startups from the different DOST TBIs received a total grant of P64M which covers their prototype improvement, field and validation tests, product market fit studies, certification procedures, provision of experts beyond the startup team and acquiring new customers. From 2019, a year after their funding up to October 2020, the 15 startups have collectively accomplished the following: created 142 jobs, raised P45M in capital/investment, acquired 328 clients and generated P85M in revenues. 

iFWD PH (Innovations for Filipinos Working Distantly from the Philippines) Program 

The program provides opportunities for returning OFWs and their families to establish technology-based enterprises in the country through trainings, technology pitching, and technical consultancies. 

A total of 119 Overseas Filipino Workers applied for iFWD PH Phase 1 in August 2020 and 98 were accepted in the program. Furthermore, already presented were 96 DOST-developed / funded technologies with six DOST Research and Development Institutes and one sectoral council. To date, 59 OFW already completed Phase 1 of the Program.

Examples of technology-based enterprises the OFWs can embark on are those in food processing, metal working, electronics, ICT, horticulture, aquaculture, and technical consultancy. Each OFW beneficiary/group may be entitled to a package and support not exceeding PhP250,000 subject to counterpart funding requirements. The portion of the fund to be used for equipment acquisition will require repayment without interest over a three-to five-year period. 

Support for industry growth

The DOST also implemented several programs that address the needs of industry and the business sector to enable them to become more competitive both in the domestic and international markets amid the pandemic.

BIST or Business Innovation through S&T for Industry Program is designed to assist Filipino-owned companies to innovate and develop their competitiveness through acquisition of new and appropriate technologies - hardware or software - for research. 

As of August 2020, the BIST Program continued to engage the business sector and has conducted 21 industry consultations and received six proposals. Consultations are ongoing for the entire year to better prepare private companies in the drafting of their proposals and comply to the eligibility requirements of the program.  

The Philippines’ first 3D printing R&D institution will soon rise in the country. Called the Advanced Manufacturing Center (AMCen), it will promote research and development in Additive Manufacturing commonly known as three-dimension (3D) printing technology. 

The AMCen will feature two state-of-the-art research facilities that allow rapid fabrication of various three-dimensional objects ranging from small parts to structures as big as bridges. It has limitless potentials—from aircraft and automobile to medical and fashion applications.

Moreover, the DOSTopened up the Electronics Product Development Center(EPDC) thataims to house hardware and software tools that can be used by companies or schools to design, develop, and test hardware and software for electronics products. 

EPDC is the country’s first electronics design facility that will provide design, prototyping, and testing facilities for printed circuit boards (PCB), which is the primary electronics component that mechanically supports and electronically connects electronic components

Lastly, there is theOneLab, a network of laboratories that provides customers, particularly in the regions, with convenient and easy access to laboratory testing and calibration services. The OneLab Referral System allows seamless handling of samples from receiving, referral, transport, analysis to the prompt delivery of calibration and testing reports, wherever the customers are located.

As of December 2020, the OneLab network has 54 member laboratories that include 23 DOST laboratories (RSTLs and RDIs), 23 local non-DOST laboratories (private and government), and eight (8) international member laboratories from Southeast Asia, Middle East and Australia. 

Eight (8) international member laboratories are the following: Intertek Thailand, SGS Thailand, Intertek Vietnam, Malayan Testing Laboratories (Malaysia), Australian Food Microbiology (Australia), Codina Farms (Australia), Geoscience Testing Laboratory (UAE), and the International Rice Research Institute.

From January to December 2020, 23 laboratories of DOST received 127,672 samples for analysis and provided 188,618 testing and calibration services among the 19,795 firms served during the period. Notably, about P 119.4 M fees were collected from the services delivered for the whole year. 

A total of 69 DOST Provincial S&T Centers (PSTC) are now capable of receiving samples wherein 67 of which were able to receive and refer samples to their respective Regional Offices in 2020. For the whole year, 362 samples were referred by the PSTCs, equivalent to 923 tests conducted by the laboratories.  (S&T Media Service)

Editor’s Update: The original article was titled “DOST spearheads ReBUILD PH! Program for economic recovery” was changed to “DOST supports PH economic recovery program” to reflect that it is a multi-agency economic recovery program as a whole-of-government approach.  

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