The Department of Science and Technology (DOST), despite dropping one rank at 51st in the Global Innovation Index (GII) for 2021 from last year’s 50th, maintains its strong bearing that “it remains committed in bringing science closer to society, empowering Filipino-made breakthroughs and innovations to increase productivity and drive prosperity.”
World Intellectual Property Organization Assistant Director General Marco Aleman, emphasized that the country’s 51st ranking puts the Philippines “together with China, Turkey, Vietnam, and India as part of the group of the only five countries, which made significant progress in the GII innovation rankings overtime.”
Aleman added that the country continues to lead among the developing countries in setting innovation as a national priority.
In the GII 2021 report, the Philippines ranked 4th among the 34 lower middle-income group economies and 11th among the 17 economies in Southeast Asia, East Asia, and Oceania. With roughly 80 indicators, the Philippines considerably performed well as the GII ranks the countries in the world with their innovation capabilities.
In the last three years, the innovation inputs or the investments for these activities in the Philippines remain low, ranking at 72 compared to 70 in 2020 and 76 in 2019. However, despite the low input, the ranking for innovation outputs or the resulting programs and technologies from such investments, is rising, with the Philippines at rank 40 in 2021, a step higher from the 41st ranking in 2020. This reflects the efficient implementation of R&D programs that resulted in high outputs despite limited funding.
For his part, DOST Secretary Fortunato T. de la Peña underscored that the Science Department’s R&D priorities have shifted due to the COVID-19 pandemic and has refocused its efforts on the development of diagnostic or test kits, biomedical devices, disease modelling and surveillance applications, among others.
He added that “the world seemed to be in a halt,” describing the early months of the pandemic during the virtual presser held on 21 September 2021 in time for the launch of this year’s global innovation report. “But despite the negative impacts in the implementation of [its] Science, Technology, and Innovation activities,” said de la Peña,
“the Department became flexible enough and has adopted timely strategies, enabling the country to respond to the situation at hand.”
Despite the challenging times, de la Peña also mentioned that several initiatives were done to ensure food security with programs and projects geared at improving crop, livestock and fisheries production. In addition, the Department strengthened its collaboration with stakeholders that allowed value adding activities to ensure food resiliency in the new normal. DOST also fast tracked its health research and development efforts and brought in the intensified Tuklas Lunas Program to support the country’s drug discovery and development efforts.
Moreover, the science chief disclosed that in the last four years, DOST’s scholarship programs produced over 500 MS and PhD graduates in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics fields at different level per year and “awarded more than 10,000 MS/PhD scholarships across the country from which more than 4,000 scholars already graduated.”
To sustain its pool of S&T experts, the DOST continuously engages 577 Balik Scientists across the 16 regions of the country, further strengthening the R&D efforts through the Science For Change and Balik Scientist programs.
And to ensure equitable R&D funding across the country, the DOST is strongly pushing for the passage of the Science For Change Bill to lawmakers which will “allow the establishment of more R&D and Innovation centers in the regions,” revealed de la Peña.
This was affirmed by DOST Undersecretary for R&D Rowena Cristina L. Guevara who said that “the DOST is lobbying for the passage of the Science for Change (S4CP) Bill. Approval of the said bill would mean the continuation of the inclusive, equitable and sustained efforts for innovation, given the optimal use of our resources for R&D.”
On a positive note, the House of Representatives recently approved in third and final reading the creation of the Virology and Vaccine Institute of the Philippines to serve as the country’s premiere R&D institute in the field of virology and vaccine development. This health system infrastructure will contribute to the country’s efforts in addressing possible future health issues.
In another front, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Ramon Lopez shared that this year the country continues to perform better in terms of innovation output compared to the innovation inputs.
He explained that the country is “able to produce more and higher quality innovation output despite our limited innovation resources and pandemic induced setbacks.”
This development reflected GII’s observations that the Philippines continues to be among the countries that perform above expectations given its current level of development.
Lopez further emphasized that the Philippines rank first in the world in both high technology exports and imports as percent of trade while maintaining the 10th place in the creative goods export as percent of trade. He also pointed out that the domestic market scale, trade openness, firms offering formal training, and ICT services exports continue to be the country’s strengths.
“The 2021 GII highlights that many industrial competitiveness indicators remain to be our strengths,” Lopez continued. Incidentally, the DOST has established strategic partnership with the DTI to jointly pursue harmonized initiatives to achieve economic development by using science, technology, and innovation.
The GII is an insightful data published by the World Intellectual Property Organization to help countries evaluate the innovation performance each year and help stakeholders map out plans for economic improvements and developments. It ranks the innovation ecosystem performance based on 80 key development indicators as its metrics. (By Joy M. Lazcano, DOST-STII)