Opportunities for policymakers in the Philippines
The general outlook for innovation is positive, with growth in interest and funding
The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) R&D budget has increased by more than 40 per cent from 2011 to 2015, opening itself up to more projects and uses for its funding. This has increased the number of R&D projects and other services such as technology business incubators (TBIs) that it can support throughout the country.
The total private sector investment in the Philippine startup ecosystem since 2017 is $37.4 million.
Creating a culture of entrepreneurship
There is growing support for startups in the Philippines. Launched in the 1990s, TBIs are facilities where startups with viable business propositions are hosted and given business development support. There are 14 TBIs across the country, funded by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST). For example, QBO Innovation Hub is a private-public partnership with DOST, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), JP Morgan, and Ideaspace. QBO is hosted from the offices of the DTI building, connecting entrepreneurs to the services and support they need.
Other business support initiatives include:
- Another spinoff of DOST TBI, the Startup Research Programme (launched in 2017), provides funding for startups to complete the R&D stage of their ventures.
- Slingshot MNL, an event led by the Foreign Trade Service Corps (FTSC) of the DTI and the Filipino startup community, in partnership with IdeaSpace Foundation. Widely considered as the launch of the Philippines as a startup hub, Slingshot has been held annually since 2015 as the national summit for startups and innovation.
- Go Negosyo, a private-sector supporter of the Philippine Center for Entrepreneurship (PCE), a non-profit organisation that advocates a positive enterprise culture among Filipinos through roadshows, a TV show, a website portal for entrepreneurs, and bestselling books, as well as providing mentoring, networking opportunities and access to funding/investors.
Opportunities in the diaspora
The diaspora plays an important role in the Philippines’ economic growth. There are several programmes aimed at harnessing this group’s potential for innovation, for example:
- Established in 1975, the Balik Scientist Program (BSP), run by DOST, is a repatriation assistance programme to bring Filipino scientists, experts and professionals back into the country to share their knowledge with local partners to accelerate scientific, agro-industrial, and economic development. The programme recruits more than 15 scientists a year for short-term projects and 1-2 scientists for long-term engagements.
International sharing via USAID STRIDE (and elsewhere)
The Science, Technology, Research and Innovation for Development programme (STRIDE) shares the experience of several innovation systems in the US. The programme supports innovation strategy-making for various aspects of the Filipino innovation ecosystem, aiming to stimulate economic growth by boosting science and technology research. The programme sponsored a recent study tour, where government officials visited innovation facilities in America.
Regional dynamics: smarter policymaking
The Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) integration initiative pushed the Philippines to approach innovation systematically. Specified in the ASEAN 2025 blueprint is a strategy to enhance innovation, along with better R&D and technology commercialisation. Specific strategies include: developing partnerships between academia and the private sector; strengthening the small business sector; and promoting an environment that nurtures innovation.