The Science, Technology, Research and Innovation for Development (STRIDE) program collaborated with higher education institutions and the Government of the Philippines to increase the impact of science and technology on the Philippine economy.
With funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Science, Technology, Research and Innovation for Development (STRIDE) program strengthened higher education institutions, government programs, and the regulatory framework towards innovation-led growth in the Philippines.
STRIDE leveraged multi-sectoral collaborations and targeted technical assistance to increase the impact of science and technology. By improving research productivity at Philippine universities and promoting collaboration among stakeholders, a robust innovation ecosystem was fostered that drives economic development.
STRIDE engaged 125 Philippine and 54 U.S. higher education institutions (HEIs) while also helping mobilize $7.2 million in Philippine government funding towards an enhanced innovation ecosystem. When STRIDE started in 2013, the Philippines ranked 90th in the Global Innovation Index (GII) and by 2020 the country had climbed to 50th among 131 world economies, its highest-ever ranking. STRIDE was extended twice, each with additional funding from USAID, to help consolidate gains made by its strong network of Philippine partners.
The Philippines has one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, with annual growth increasing to 6.4% between 2010-2019. Part of the country’s success has been its focus on boosting science and technology research, increasing the capacity of universities to produce graduates with in-demand skills, and increasing collaborative innovation between and among universities and industry to better harness the intellectual capital of the country’s higher education system.
To support these endeavors, RTI has been leading the implementation of the Science, Technology, Research and Innovation for Development (STRIDE) program, funded by the United States Agency for International Development, since 2013. STRIDE supports key Philippine institutions in the creation and implementation of their own technology-based solutions to achieve the country’s development goals, in line with the Philippine Government’s 2017–2022 Development Plan.
Connecting Universities and Industry through Grants, Scholarships, and Industry-Engagement Mechanisms
In its first five years, the STRIDE program awarded 68 research grants, worth almost $5.5 million, to Philippine universities collaborating with Philippine businesses and U.S. universities. Fifty-seven scholarships were also awarded to Filipinos to study or conduct scientific research in the United States.
These grants and scholarships not only built research capacity but also served as models for collaborations in innovation and helped pave the way for a more open and cooperative approach to research and development. Local industries became involved in academic research designs and proposals and Filipino researchers were able to freely exchange ideas and share resources with U.S.-based research teams. And to further foster increased innovation and collaboration, the Philippine government has also established grant mechanisms that specifically encourage industry engagement in academic research.
STRIDE also established novel mechanisms that enable more industry engagements with higher education institutions (HEIs), such as through Professional Science Master’s (PSM) degrees that are patterned after those being offered in the United States. Such programs integrate industries into the development of specialized curricula with learning outcomes tailored to current industry needs. Companies that have helped develop PSMs include U.S.-based Texas Instruments, Moog Controls, and Knowles Electronics.
To improve the interaction of universities with industry recruiters and to help bridge competency gaps of graduates and improve employment outcomes, 27 Career Centers have been established in Philippine HEIs. Currently these centers are serving over 220,000 college students annually.
RTI Innovation Advisors have also provided trainings in technology transfer, research commercialization, and strategic foresight to over 100 academic and government staff.
Converging Philippine Innovation Stakeholders
Building on lessons learned during its initial years—from breaking university-industry barriers to enabling exchange of knowledge and best practices between Philippine and U.S. universities—STRIDE has focused on institutionalizing the most sustainable initiatives.
Working together with several government departments, STRIDE helped implement a jointly developed national innovation roadmap that defines policies and collaborative efforts between seven government agencies to make innovation drive economic growth. This is one of the many vital steps STRIDE is supporting toward fostering convergence among key players in the Philippine innovation landscape.
An important manifestation of this convergence is the establishment of Regional Inclusive Innovation Centers (RIICs) by government agencies with support from STRIDE. These centers offer a virtual confluence of various innovation programs and services across different agencies that are made more accessible to small industries in each region.
Already these centers have enabled local industry associations to provide innovation for business recovery services to its members, while also creating more opportunities for small businesses to access technical assistance from neighboring universities.
The demonstrations of success in these centers have garnered more support from government towards more RIICs. In December 2021, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary, Ramon Lopez, highlighted the agency’s commitment to sustain this initiative to benefit more micro-, small- and medium-size enterprises (MSMEs):
Together with the USAID STRIDE project, we have jumpstarted nine local RIIC innovation programs that link innovation and entrepreneurship efforts... [and] we shall be expanding this network as... it provides a chance for everyone, especially MSMEs, to have access to shared facilities, information, expertise, and resources for their improvement and growth, as well as to form partnerships with various stakeholders in the region.
Sustaining the Innovation Momentum
With support from STRIDE, the Philippines has strengthened the foundation for innovation-driven, inclusive growth. As the program moves into its last year of implementation in 2022, it is focused on building momentum to sustain the government’s commitment to innovation.
The country’s status as one of the world’s “innovation achievers”—ranking 50th in the 2020 Global Innovation Index among 131 countries—is a testament to the collaboration between government, industry, and private sector partners.
- U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)
- The William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan
- Rutgers University
- Philippine Business for Education