The priorities of innovation policymakers in the Philippines
Better technology and research commercialisation
Technology commercialisation from research is the most notorious bottleneck in the Filipino innovation ecosystem; much of the blame is directed towards university technology transfer offices (TTOs) for failing to steer publicly-funded technologies developed in their universities beyond the walls of the campus. Training for TTOs is provided by many different agencies. However, the training focuses on legal and technical issues, with little emphasis on the process of commercialisation.
Meanwhile, academics cite poor university support and entrepreneurial knowhow as key factors in the lack of research commercialisation:
- Collaboration with industry is often perceived as detrimental to academic success because of its complex and time-consuming nature.
- Unrealistic expectations of university intellectual property (IP) revenue often cause technology transfer negotiations to collapse, which disincentivises further forays into commercialisation.
Greater availability of resources (e.g. money and staff) for those in the innovation system – including policymakers
Managers tend to look after all aspects of a project and report feeling overwhelmed – they’re balancing daily office/administrative tasks with managing and training staff, as well as managing service delivery itself.
Beyond solving challenges related to realistic budgeting and staffing for the impact sought and tasks undertaken, it’s essential that policymakers are able to work efficiently, prioritise which projects to fund, and ensure as little overlap as possible with other agencies.
“I have been performing the tasks of a whole division all by myself.”
Sourcing resources (e.g. time and funds) for staff training to increase skills
There are some training opportunities available for policymakers but they are not comprehensive, and are difficult to obtain. This means that managers in innovation policy agencies and ministries often have to train their team for the job themselves. This presents another challenge: retaining senior team members who can help in upskilling.
Having sufficient resources for policymaker training is important to motivate young people working within government, prepare a competent pool of civil servants for future policymaking, and create the conditions for successful programme implementation.
“I’ve seen it happen: young people will work for government if they are motivated by an inspiring manager. […] It’s not part of my job, but when I got this post I made the career development of my team a priority.”
Accessing more training and support
Balancing obligations as an innovation agency or ministry manager with the vital task of upskilling team members is another challenge, as is balancing the desire to train oneself with the need to be in the office to deliver the service.
Managers need to obtain:
- More technical knowledge on innovation policy, especially best practices in other countries, including specific areas such as agritech and determining which technology/research projects are ready for commercialisation.
- Leadership and management skills, particularly HR-related.
- Project management training, especially around evaluation and impact assessment.
- Research skills for team members.
There are broad programmes for training in policy and strategy but there is no training for innovation policy or strategy specifically. More training in the technical aspects of innovation could help policymakers understand currently available data being presented, and translate these into effective policies.
Stakeholder engagement and alignment
Rallying support for policies from other members of the ecosystem (who often have vested interests) is a challenge. Balancing multiple stakeholder interests vis-à-vis current agency priorities, e.g. building relationships between agencies, academia and industry, means there is a reported need for brokering skills, including advocacy, communication, marketing and negotiation.
This means knowing how to engage stakeholders, articulate a common problem, and set shared priorities. The capacity to focus on the same problems and solutions, and shared prioritisation, is a major positive driver in innovation systems.
These skills also apply to internal matters, such as managing directors’ expectations and sharing information effectively between departments to ensure that research is not carried out in silos (and not duplicated or overlooked in policy design).
Inclusive policymaking knowhow
There is great demand across the ecosystem to ensure that innovations benefiting from public funds reach Filipinos, especially the poor. The perceived or actual social impact of an innovation project is already becoming a required metric in public investment proposals.
However, people who evaluate these proposals often do not have training in assessing the social impact of innovations. Currently, there is no available training for inclusive innovation in the Philippines targeted at the public sector.
Better linking innovation investments to effective social outcomes as well as economic ones is important, as reports of positive success metrics of GDP may not be meaningful to the majority of Filipinos, leaving most with a feeling of dissatisfaction, even during a boom in economic performance.
Finally, there is little evidence that people across the public system in the Philippines believe innovation is their mandate. Moreover, even when they try to innovate, they are not sure whether they are doing it correctly. There should be a proper policy in place for departments to champion innovation as well as to share their success stories with other departments.
One suggestion put forward was the development of a best practice / operational flow manual, which includes innovation as a metric for success, for each department to build innovation capability.