SMALL BUSINESSES often face hurdles related to technology adoption, financial assistance, and the development of innovative products, according to the Department of Science and Technology (DoST).

This makes it imperative for research and development (R&D) programs to offer tangible commercial benefits,  DoST Undersecretary Sancho A. Mabborang said on Monday during the press conference of the agency’s “Regional Science, Technology, and Innovation Week” at the University of the Philippines Los Baños.

Programs are already in place to address the challenges faced by micro-, small-, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), he noted.

However, improvements must still be made to sustain the innovation ecosystem the department is working toward, he also said.

“We are focusing on how all these science and technology innovations can be transferred to the target beneficiaries,” said Teodoro M. Gatchalian, DoST undersecretary.

“Even if we develop state of the art innovations, if no interested commercial outlet can purchase, develop, and manufacture, all these R&D programs will just go to nothing,” he added.

“Our focus is to determine how ‘commerciable’ the development of the technology is, and how this technology can be adopted by the people — the transfer of tech.”

In the 2022 Global Innovation Index of the World Intellectual Property Organization, the Philippines ranked 59th out of 132 countries, with a weakness indicated in sustaining innovation efforts over time, particularly in knowledge and technology outputs. Among the pain points are new businesses and scientific and technical articles.

The country’s place lowered from 51st in 2021 and 50th in 2020.

The DoST is offering up to P5 million in financial assistance loan, an increase from the previous P3 million maximum amount, through its Small Enterprise Technology Upgrading Program (SETUP).

“In the past, we were only assisting MSMEs on very conventional and basic technologies, but at the moment, there are MSMEs that are ready to be transformed,” Mr. Mabborang said on SETUP providing e-commerce and automation technology aid for businesses.

SETUP supplies MSMEs with equipment and technical assistance they need for productivity and competitiveness.

“60% are into food processing, and about 20% are into metals and engineering, but there are also some sectors that would like to invest in health and wellness because of the pandemic,” Mr. Maborrang said on in-demand industries he is seeing.

Other DoST initiatives for MSMEs include technology business incubators (TBIs) and the development of knowledge, innovation, science, and technology (KIST) ecozones, which both foster unique local academic participation in business development to strengthen the ecosystem.

Anthony F. Genuino, mayor of Los Baños, noted the importance of localizing technology and R&D in provinces and municipalities according to its industry of strength, “We have to define our fixed direction to stimulate the entire ecosystem.”

The DoST has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) last March to conduct capacity building for MSME industry growth through a PCCI-DoST council. — Miguel Hanz L. Antivola