Pushing the local micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) towards smarter and resilient industry players, the Department of Science and Technology-National Capital Region held the virtual kickoff for the Small Enterprise Upgrading Program (DOST-NCR SETUP) e-Caravan, a week-long series of virtual and face-to-face activities to promote the upgraded services of SETUP 4.0.

The SETUP e-Caravan presents the various technology assistance for the MSMEs which include capacity building, technology upgrading, consultancies, and manufacturing enhancement assistance, especially during this time of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A number of DOST SETUP proponents were not spared from the negative effects of the pandemic, as they struggled to keep afloat by using science, technology, and innovation.   According to a study by the Asian Development Bank presented by DOST Secretary Fortunato T. de la Peña, 70.6% of MSMEs in the Philippines were forced to temporarily close due to the COVID-19 pandemic. De la Peña continued that “over 70% of local 

MSMEs had cash flow problems,” forcing owners to borrow from friends and family to keep their business going.

He lamented the same report that out of the 2,581 SETUP cooperators, about 68.8% or 1,594 have stopped operations while of the 724 firms that sustained operations, 413 or 57% earned between Php0 to Php50,000 only.

As part of its contingency to soften the blows to its cooperators, DOST implemented a moratorium on SETUP refund payments for five months in 2020 and six months for this year.

Last June, National Economic and Development Authority Secretary Karl Kendrick T. Chua shared that the government is accelerating its economic recovery package to support local businesses for them to continue their operation and sustain local employment. He revealed that the recovery package consists of a combination of fiscal, monetary, and financial instruments totaling about PHP 2.8 trillion or 15.4 percent of the country’s gross domestic product. 

Similarly, DOST is now focusing on reintroducing its SETUP program as SETUP 4.0 to include industries within the Department’s priority sectors. SETUP 4.0 will not only help the MSMEs survive the challenges of the pandemic but also to prepare them and their respective industries in the advent of the Industrial Revolution 4.0, which is characterized by the massive use of emerging technologies such as automation, Internet of Things, 3D printing, robotics, and artificial intelligence, among others.

Under SETUP 4.0,” de la Peña underscored “DOST’s interventions will not only benefit the individual firms. We will also be providing industry-level interventions, making sure that each industry under our priority sectors is following a set roadmap that is directed towards transitioning to the fourth industrial revolution.” 

DOST-NCR Director Jose B. Patalinghug III shared that in spite of the enhancement of the MSME’s competitiveness, it has been affected by several factors such as consumer demands for products, rising costs on materials and production, policies, and emergence of health protocols brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. “Kaya kinailangan ng mga MSMEs ng makabagong pamamaraan at teknolohiya upang makasabay sa pabago-bagong sitwasyon na patuloy nating kinakaharap. Ito ay nagsilbing pagkakataon para sa DOST-NCR upang mas makatulong sa ating mga MSME sa pamamagitan ng SETUP,” Patalinghug expounded.      

(That is why the MSMEs needed to be capacitated on the newest capabilities and technologies to sustain their competitiveness amidst the ever-changing conditions that we are facing. This is an opportunity for us at DOST-NCR to help our MSMEs through the SETUP.”)

SETUP is the banner program of the DOST that was established in 2002 to help enhance the competitiveness of the local MSMEs by introducing science and technology-based interventions. It provides a wide-range of S&T solutions including technology transfer, commercialization, consultancy services such as productivity improvement, food safety, energy audit and cleaner productivity, training, laboratory and testing services, and packaging services, among others. 

In the last 15 years of its implementation, DOST Region VI Director Rowen R. Gelonga shared that based on their assessment, the program should also look into the development needs of the respective industries. “That is why we developed the industry S&T roadmaps to address the identified gaps,” stressed Gelonga.

Furthermore, SETUP 4.0 is a response to the rapid emergence of IR 4.0 and the debilitating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in the local industries. He mentioned that through this enhanced service, MSMEs will receive a calibrated assistance or service that put into consideration the type of assistance, size of the MSME, the level of technological needs and so on. “Dati kasi parang one-size fits all, the tool in assisting, like for food safety, will be used for an MSME employing two to three employees and will also be the same tool for MSMEs employing 170 employees,” explained Gelonga. “We have to calibrate the response according to the level of growth.”

The assistance will be extended to firms and industries to transform these MSMEs into smarter enterprises using more advanced technologies.

The DOST-NCR SETUP eCaravan will run from 5 October until 3 December 2021. To join the virtual activities, click on the link to register. Incidentally, this initiative by DOST-NCR is just one of the many pre-events leading towards the virtual celebration of the 2021 National Science and Technology Week (NSTW) to be held from 22-28 November 2021. For more details on the 2021 NSTW, kindly visit its website at (By Joy M. Lazcano, DOST-STII)

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