By Estrella Z. Gallardo
Department of Science and Technology Secretary Fortunato de la Peña addresses the National R&D (Research and Development) Conference held at Crowne Plaza Hotel, Manila Galleria on October 21, 2016.
Secretary dela Peña, after greeting and thanking everybody in the hall expressed his appreciation for the support and cooperation that the stakeholders have extended to the Department and to their programs and projects saying they would not have accomplished much without their support and active participation.
He called on their assistance once again as they commence the process of validating and updating the country’s R&D plans over the medium and long-term. (Here in the following lines I have quoted him verbatim).
The Philippines is reported to have fallen 10 notches in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report for 2016 — 2017. I understand that this is the first time in a decade that the country slipped in the said competitiveness ranking.
Based on the said report, the Philippines declined in seven of the 12 pillars used to determine the competitiveness of economies covered. These are institutions, infrastructure, goods market efficiency, labor market efficiency, technological readiness, business sophistication and innovation. Specifically, the country’s technological readiness ranking fell 15 places to 83rd and innovation 14 places to 62nd.
According to the World Economic Forum, “although 13 of the 15 economies covered consecutively since 2007 have been able to improve their GCI score over the past decade, this year sees reversals for some of the larger emerging markets in the region: Malaysia drops out of the top 20, falling seven places to 25th place; Thailand drops two notches to 34th; Indonesia falls four places to 41st, while the Philippines drops 10 places to 57th. A consistent theme for all the region’s developing countries is the need to make inroads into the more complex areas of competitiveness related to business sophistication and innovation if they are to break out of the middle-income trap.”.
Thus, it is imperative for us, stakeholders in the country’s STI ecosystem, to work together to reverse this downtrend. While we may have made strides in building our capacities in some STI areas, other countries are doing things more effectively and efficiently and consequently made significant impact in their economic sectors. The work starts with fine-tuning the directions of our R&D efforts which is important in charting the development of the country’s STI ecosystem. Needless to say, we will build upon what has been planned and accomplished over the past years and hone our existing capabilities and resources to enable us to do more. Moreover, planning activities should already take into consideration the Philippine Development Plan for 2017-2022 which, as you may be aware of, is already being prepared. The PDP will be generally anchored on President Duterte’s 10 point Socioeconomic Agenda. It will also factor in
“Ambisyon Nation 2040” which enunciates the 25-year vision for the country as follows:
“By 2040, the Philippines shall be a prosperous, predominantly middle-class society where no one is poor, our peoples shall live long and healthy lives, be smart and innovative, and shall live in a high-trust society.”
This goal is a result of a series of nationwide public consultations and survey which have concluded that the Filipinos’ vision for themselves is that:
“In 2040, we will all enjoy a stable and comfortable lifestyle, secure in the knowledge that we have enough for our daily needs and unexpected expenses, that we can plan and prepare for our own and our children’s future. Our family lives together in a place of our own, and we have the freedom to go where we desire, protected and enabled by a clean, efficient and fair government.”
The critical and strategic role that science, technology and innovation play in making/ our peoples’ aspirations become a reality cannot be over emphasized. STI is recognized as one of the drivers of economic growth and key to addressing the present and future challenges to our country. It can provide new approaches and radical solutions to improve lives, transform our industries, and safeguard our environment, among others. As a result, countries now focus on laying down policies that will foster innovation and knowledge-driven economic growth.
We start by laying down a cohesive, inclusive and realistic plan that all of us will participate in crafting beginning today. We are fortunate that we will not be starting from scratch as we already have the Harmonized National S&T Agenda as take off point. The sectoral plans and programs of various government agencies and universities will all be considered, noting the possible changes in priorities and new opportunities that are coming our way.
As an initial input to this planning exercise, allow me to enumerate 11 areas or strategies that I believe should be included in our R&D agenda:
1.R&D to address pressing problems such as promoting health self-sufficiency, food and nutrition, and R&D on priority agricultural commodities, transport and mobility, national security and human security
2.R&D for productivity – Examples under this area are developing technologies that are needed to support agricultural productivity and support development processes for gums, resins and oils from plants endemic to the Philippines such as microwave extraction, and their industrial applications.
3.R&D to tap and manage resource potentials such as renewable energy like solar, ocean, wind, hydro and biomass. We may also need to venture into energy storage researches, specifically by learning novel engineering designs, modelling, assessment tools and development of renewable energy systems. Biodiversity and sustainable development researches need also to be pursued.
4. R&D to apply new technologies such as genomics, nanotechnology, ICT, artificial intelligence and space technology across sectors for our benefits.
5. Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction – DOST initiatives under this area will be sustained and expanded to cover, for example, severe weather forecasting and warning, climate monitoring and prediction system (CLIMPS) and advanced data collection, enhancement of web and dissemination including mirror forecasting and other efforts towards disaster preparedness and risk reduction.
6.Maximize utilization of R&D results through technology transfer and/or commercialization – We need to develop efficient and operational models for facilitating inter-department collaboration and engaging the private industry sector to roll out or adopt technologies developed from our R&D systems.
7.Assistance to the production sector address the requirements for metrology, calibration, testing and analytical laboratory services, packaging and labelling, food safety and quality, and machine and equipment development, among others. In this regard, the capabilities of our laboratories and research institutions in these areas should be strengthened to meet world-class standards. Performance metrics shall likewise be developed.
8. Upgrading of facilities and strengthening of S&T services -Necessary infrastructure should be built to support our R&D initiatives while fulfilling the needs of industry and the various communities that we serve. This includes strengthening of R&D and S7t services in the regions through infrastructure, facilities, HRD and R&D funding.
9. Human Resource Development for Science and Technology -This refers to various scholarship programs to equip our people with technical skills, scientific knowledge and expertise that will make them more competitive and prepared for the future. We need to develop people that will nurture and sustain innovation in the country.
10. Capacitate and Utilize Institutions in the Regions – To promote inclusive growth, we need to develop S&T institutions outside the country’s urban centers by engaging them in national R&D programs, equipping them with the needed facilities, increasing the pool of experts in STEM, the social science and humanities, among others.
11. Collaboration with Industry, academe and international institutions – We need to expand further our networks and seek global partners as well to harness the wealth of available information, capabilities and resources in the world.
There is much work ahead of us. I encourage all participants to actively participate in this Conference by being generous with your comments, suggestions, criticisms, and recommendations. I am optimistic that we are on the right track in developing a good plan with your quality inputs from you, our participants. After all, this is our plan, he said. Finally, I would like to congratulate the organizers led by the office of Usec Guevara. The work will not end with today’s activity but will be continued through follow-up consultations and information exchanges.
I wish you a productive day ahead. May we be inspired and motivated with by our work, knowing that this is geared towards giving a better future to our people.
Maraming salamat po.