The government has been investing heavily in higher education institutions (HEIs) and innovation activities in key industries, expanding the collaboration between academia, industry and government, as well as developing research and development (R&D) projects in different provinces around the country.
Though funding for innovation falls short of global standards – amounting to 0.14% of GDP against UNESCO recommendations of at least 1% – between 2009 and 2013 R&D spending rose by 81% to hit P15.9bn ($314.1m). The private sector made the largest contribution to this total, at P5.69bn ($112.4m), or around 37%, closely followed by academia with P5.37bn ($106.1m), or 34%, and the state with P4.73bn ($93.4m), or 29.7%. However, the state’s contribution surged over the period, rising by around 240% against private sector spending growth of 13%. Public expenditure has continued to rise, hitting P5.8bn ($114.6m) in 2017, as the new administration pursues its focus on developing R&D capabilities to build the nation’s competitiveness.
The Philippines placed 73rd out of 128 countries on the 2017 Global Innovation Index, published jointly by Cornell University, Institut Européen d’Administration des Affaires and the World Intellectual Property Organisation, one place higher than in 2016 and up 10 places from 83rd in 2015. While the previous two years have shown improvement, the Philippines still lags behind its regional counterparts, with ASEAN neighbours Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand ranked 7th, 37th, 47th and 51st, respectively.
With this in mind, the Department of Science and Technology (DoST) has implemented four initiatives which seek to build capacity at R&D institutions across the country. The Niche Centres in the Regions for R&D, or NICER, programme seeks to provide grants towards science and technology schemes in regional HEIs, while the R&D Leadership programme will engage experts to be in charge of strengthening research and innovation at HEIs and research institutes.
The Collaborative Research and Development to Leverage Philippine Economy, or CRADLE, programme will help academia and industry work together to form new industries, enterprises, jobs and solutions to address significant regional and national problems with realworld solutions, while the Business Innovation through Science and Technology for Industry programme will work towards adapting foreign technology to the R&D needs of local businesses.
According to a 2017 study conducted by the Brookings Institution, the Philippines ranked eighth out of 18 low- and middle-income African and Asian countries in terms of the quality of health care governance. While there is still room for improvement, the ranking is indicative of previous advancements and suggests potential to attract investments. To this end, the DoST is embracing initiatives including the RxBox device, which allows diagnosis and monitoring of patients in remote areas; the eHealth Tablet, which provides realtime information for rural health units; and Bio-tek M, used for early diagnosis of dengue fever.
Because agriculture is one of the pillars of the Philippine economy, value addition to transform local crops into globally marketable products is a government priority. To date, the DoST has launched more than 10 food innovation centres (FICs) to aid product development. New technologies being implemented in FICs, such as vacuum-packaging machines, vacuum fryers and water retort machines, can transform agricultural crops into new value-added products.
In April 2016 the Philippines achieved a major breakthrough in space technology, as it launched Diwata-1, its first microsatellite, into space. Diwata-1 provides real-time, high-resolution images that can be used for crop and ocean productivity as well as meteorological imaging. A second microsatellite, the Diwata-2, is currently being developed by Filipino engineers in collaboration with Japanese scientists and is expected to launch in the second half of 2018.