By Patricia B. Mirasol
The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) is set to release the guidelines for a program that provides interest-free loans to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) looking to establish technology-based enterprises in the country.
Launched in May with an initial funding of P5 million, iFWD PH (Innovation for Filipinos Working Distantly from the Philippines) will first be available in the National Capital Region before being rolled out to other regions.
The program will be implemented in two phases: a “Capability Building for the Development and Management of Technology-Based Enterprise” phase, and an “Innovation Funding for Technology-based Enterprise” phase.
Other strategies include technical consultancy and advisory sessions, access to DOST facilities, linkages and networks with existing clients of the Department, pitching of DOST-developed technologies including presentation of business opportunity packages and instructional videos, and access to business core training modules through the iFWD PH e-portal system.
DOST’s Regional Offices will be involved in the funding, management, and monitoring of the projects to be provided with the innovation-enabling fund (iFund), which has a ceiling of P250,000 per project. Part of DOST’s annual budget will be allocated for the second phase of the program.
Projects funded under Phase 2 should be completed within a period of three to five years, depending on what was agreed in the Memorandum of Agreement. Ownership of the equipment shall be transferred to the OFW-beneficiary through the issuance of a Certificate of Completion and Ownership including the Property Transfer Report duly signed by the DOST Regional Director.
In an e-mail interview with BusinessWorld, Bianca Canlas, iFWD PH science research specialist, answered questions regarding eligibility and funding:
Eligible to apply to the program are OFWs who came home within the last three years, with or without contract. If with a contract, they need to have a representative who shall co-sign a certification for the Program. OFWs who have been repatriated since March 2020 are eligible. OFWs who will qualify will be validated with the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA).
The maximum amount of funding is P250,000. As mentioned above, the iFund is covered by Phase 2 of the program. It will be used exclusively for any or all of the following:
a.1. Entrepreneurship and technical training
a.2. Product development and market testing
a.3. Operational consultancy services
a.4. Initial laboratory testing
a.5. Packaging and labeling design and execution for market testing
a.6. Equipment acquisition
30% of the iFund will be allotted for a.1 to a.5, while a maximum of 70% may be for equipment acquisition. The fund allotted for equipment acquisition shall be refunded to DOST with no interest for 3–5 years.
This funding will vary depending on the proposed business. At the end of Phase 1, the OFW should present a business plan indicative of the amount s/he needs for the tech-based business.
The OFW has to highlight innovations in the chosen business for it to qualify as a technology-based enterprise. The program shall cover the following sectors:
• Food processing
• Gifts, houseware, decor
• Marine and aquatic resources
• Horticulture and agriculture
• Metals and engineering
• Health products and services/pharmaceuticals
• Information and communications technology/electronics
• Science-and-technology services (technical consultancy, IT firms, engineering firms, etc.)
Thus far, DOST has received proposals from OFWs pushing the following businesses:
• Information technology/systems development
• Cacao processing
• Seedling propagation for forest trees
• Metal fabrication for boat propellers
• Hybrid bikes
The office officially began receiving applications yesterday, July 7. The program’s first phase (Capability Building Phase) will start in August; the pilot run will run until December.
“While we have not yet started, we have OFWs who are already engaged in technical consultancy with DOST’s Regional Offices and Research and Development Institutes for advisory sessions on the particular businesses they have in mind,” Ms. Canlas said.