The long wait is finally over. The Philippines rose to rank 50th in the Global Innovation Index 2020, a symbol of hope for the country that is currently fighting the pandemic brought about by COVID-19.
This is indeed a remarkable performance for the country considering there were 131 economies ranked in 80+ indicators grouped into innovation inputs and outputs and the Philippines was in rank 100th way back in 2014.
Moving up four notches from 54th in 2019 and scaling up by 23 steps from the 73rd ranking in 2018; the GII 2020 report shared that the Philippines performed on innovation above expectations for its level of economic development for the second consecutive year.
The country ranked 41st in terms of innovation outputs from 42nd in 2019 and 68th in 2018. Also this year, the Philippines jumped to rank 70th in innovation inputs from 76th in 2019 and 82nd in 2018.
The Philippines, likewise, scored high in all seven (7) GII pillars which are above average for the lower middle-income group, coming in at rank 4th among the 29 lower middle-income group economies. The other pillars and their respective ranking of the Philippines are the following: knowledge and technology outputs (26th), business sophistication (29th), creative outputs (57th), infrastructure (63rd), market sophistication (86th), human capital and research (86th), and institutions (91st).
Furthermore, the Philippines, together with other three economies namely China, Vietnam, and India, made the most significant progress in the GII innovation ranking over time.
Innovation in various fronts
According to the GII 2020 report, the Philippines stood out in the areas of innovativeness of its business sector and the innovation outcomes produced by its investments, with the levels of outcomes that even surpassed some high-income economies.
Compared to other economies in Southeast Asia, East Asia, and Oceania, the Philippines performed above average in the pillars of Business sophistication and Knowledge and technology. This overall performance earned the Philippines rank 11th among the 17 economies in the said region.
The Philippines was also cited to be well-integrated into the global trade, being tagged as top 1 in rank in High-technology imports, 3rd in High-technology exports, and 8th in ICT services exports. Further on, the Philippines was rank 10th in the Creative goods exports.
As the tale of the tape unfolded, the report disclosed that the country performed beyond expectation as it grabbed rank 6th in Productivity growth, rank 7th in Firms offering formal training, and rank 8th globally in the area of Utility models by origin.
For the Human capital and research pillar, the Philippines posted rank 22nd in the category of tertiary education in terms of graduates in science and engineering. The DOST may be considered as vital contributor to this pillar with its scholarship programs like the Accelerated Science and Technology Human Resource Development Program (ASTHRDP) and the Engineering Research and Development for Technology (ERDT) being implemented by the DOST-Science Education Institute.
The country’s innovation profile shows top 25 rankings for other indicators like market capitalization, research talent in business enterprises, and high-technology manufacturing. Under these indicators, the DOST exhibited tangible initiatives as it continuously strengthened one of its flagship programs, the Small Enterprise Technology Upgrading Program (SETUP), geared at providing technical and financial assistance to micro, small and medium enterprises in the regions. Records revealed that from 2017-2019, the total budget amounting to $213.2 million was shared by SETUP, the Science for Change Program, and the DOST Grants-in-Aid.
R&D as catalyst of change
In hindsight, the creation of the Science for Change Program (S4CP) in 2012 was somehow providential as it now carries the torch for the DOST in its thrust to push innovation to the limits through research and development.
The S4CP has a unique strategy that involves the adoption of science, technology, and innovation (STI) by proportionately spreading financial support across all regions in the Philippines and by implementing capacity-building initiatives in partnership with academic institutions and industry stakeholders, thus creating a vibrant innovation ecosystem.
The Science for Change Program (S4CP) is composed of four major components, namely: Niche Centers in the Regions for R&D (NICER) with total R&D investment of P856 million already as of the first semester of 2020; Collaborative R&D to Leverage Philippine Economy (CRADLE) with total investment of P 200 million as of July 2020; R&D Leadership (RDLead) Program with 32 RD leaders composed of scientists, researchers, and engineers now working in 14 regions and hosted by 30 research institutions; and the Business Innovation through S&T (BIST) for Industry Program that has already financed one (1) project involving production of pharmaceutical grade ingredients worth P 11.7 million and established 18 industry consultations in the first half of the year.
A notable achievement for the Department of Science and Technology in relation to the GII 2020 was the inclusion in the report of an article by Secretary Fortunato T. de la Peña as Chapter 8 with the title, “Filipinnovation: Financing Science for the People”.
In that particular chapter, Secretary de la Peña enumerated the different R&D projects under the Science for Change Program and other flagship programs being implemented with primary focus on funding grassroots innovation; promoting regional capacity building; fostering symbiotic collaboration between the academe and R&D institutes and industry stakeholders; and strengthening knowledge transfer and technical assistance to micro, small, and medium enterprises.
The innovation initiatives particularly of the DOST will prove futile if not fully backed up by legislation, thus the enactment of Republic Act (RA) No. 11293, or better known as the “Philippine Innovation Act” helped put muscle to the country’s innovation agenda.
The law was passed with the aim of boosting the Philippines’ global competitiveness by harnessing the power of science, technology, and innovation.
It also paved the way for the establishment of the National Innovation Council (NIC) that works on a whole-of-government approach involving the coordination and collaboration of the different agencies of government to greatly improve the country’s innovation governance and create synergy.
Lastly, under Section 28 of the Act, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), in close coordination with the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), were mandated to prepare the Philippine Innovation Act’s Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR).
The Global Innovation Index ranks world economies according to their innovation capabilities. The Global Innovation Index (GII), which is on its 13th edition, is co-published by Cornell University; INSEAD, one of the world's leading and largest graduate business schools; and the World Intellectual Property Organization (a specialized agency of the United Nations). The report provides an annual ranking of the innovation capabilities and performance of different economies around the world. (Rodolfo P. de Guzman/S&T Media Service)