The Philippines has one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, expected to grow from the 44th to the 16th largest by 2050. To keep up with this rate of growth, the nation’s industries will have to define more clearly their need for science and technology services, while enhancing the capacity of universities to train graduates in high-demand skills.
Similarly, collaborative innovation between and among universities and industry should be encouraged through new initiatives. Such measures contribute to harnessing the intellectual capital of the country’s higher education system that will sustainably and efficiently support Philippine prosperity.
Connecting Universities and Industry through Grants, Scholarships
To address these needs, RTI leads an eight-year effort, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, known as STRIDE—Science, Technology, Research and Innovation for Development.
Launched in 2013, STRIDE works in support of the U.S.–Philippines Partnership for Growth with Equity, a White House initiative that promotes broad-based and inclusive growth. The program helps form partnerships between universities and industry to enhance the nation’s capacity for innovation-led economic growth.
Using a number of initiatives, STRIDE seeks to
- improve research qualifications of faculty and staff
- boost research capacity in key disciplines
- strengthen university-industry links in high-growth economic sectors
- bolster policy and management capacity of higher education institutions in science, technology, and innovation
By 2017, the Philippines had placed innovation as a key component of national development plans, recognizing its importance in driving self-sustaining economic growth. With this development, in 2018, STRIDE was extended for three additional years by USAID. The extension allowed STRIDE to build on its prior initiatives in support of the Philippine government’s journey to self-reliance.
Building on lessons learned in its first five years—from breaking university-industry barriers to enabling exchange of knowledge and best practices between Philippine and American universities through joint research and scholarships—STRIDE is now focusing on institutionalizing the most sustainable initiatives.
Working together with several government departments, STRIDE helps implement a jointly developed national innovation roadmap that defines policies and efforts required to make innovation drive economic growth. This is one of the many vital steps STRIDE is supporting toward fostering stronger convergence among key players in the Philippine innovation landscape.
As an example, STRIDE recently participated in the Inclusive Innovation Conference, organized by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in partnership with the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), and various other innovation stakeholders. At the conference, DTI’s Secretary Ramon Lopez highlighted the importance of fostering stronger collaboration among government, academe, and the private sector in creating inclusive innovative industries:
“Our Inclusive Filipinnovation and Entrepreneurship Roadmap aims to increase the country’s ability to innovate. In partnership with the DOST and other agencies, we are building RIICs [Regional Inclusive Innovation Centers] in different parts of the country,” Lopez said. “For this initiative, we have technical assistance from USAID’s Science, Technology, Research, and Innovation for Development (STRIDE) program. The RIICs consist of a network of innovation agents that collaborate in order to commercialize market-oriented research towards competitiveness in the regions.”
STRIDE is working closely with the Philippine government and higher education institutions to develop Professional Science Master’s degrees and providing advanced technical training for research professionals. In addition, the project is supporting a network of Knowledge and Technology Transfer Offices and Career Centers in Philippine universities, all which aim to sustain linkages with industry.
Local universities are also being assisted to manage research more efficiently through diagnostics that will lead to interventions that can improve institutional processes. U.S.-based experts from RTI, along with government partners, have co-developed new strategies and policies to better capture the benefits of science and technology research. This includes establishing monitoring and evaluation mechanisms that measure societal impacts of government-funded R&D projects and implementing communications efforts to better inform the public of such positive outcomes.
Building a Foundation to Strengthen the Science, Technology, and Innovation Ecosystem
In its first 5 years, the STRIDE program awarded 68 research grants, worth almost $5.5 million USD, to Philippine universities collaborating with Philippine businesses and U.S. universities. Fifty-seven scholarships were also awarded to Filipinos to study or do scientific research in the United States.
To improve the policy environment on innovation, STRIDE conducted assessments of the Philippines’ overall innovation ecosystem, along with more specific studies on the innovation space around agribusiness and priority technology sectors of the government. Various innovation workshops, organized by STRIDE, provided a forum for industries and academia to identify collaborative ideas in alternative energy, translational medicine, electronics, chemical industries, agribusiness, and information technology.
By building institutional structures to support and sustain a system where industries become active stakeholders in university research and universities become market-driven providers, STRIDE is playing a dynamic role in facilitating economic development in the Philippines. Along the way, STRIDE has helped build a professional workforce with world-class science and technology research experience, equipping more Filipino graduates and their faculty to readily participate and contribute in a global economy increasingly driven by rapid technological advances.
With the Philippines’ inaugural inclusion as one of the world’s “innovation achievers” in the 2019 Global Innovation Index, STRIDE will continue to focus on the Philippine government’s growing commitment to innovation as the country further strengthens the foundation that it has built over the years toward innovation-driven, inclusive growth.