Innovation is key to attaining high-income status for PH

Published February 13, 2022, 12:02 AM

by Manila Bulletin

To progress from being a middle-income to upper-middle income country status by the end of the year – and attain high-income country status in one generation.

This is the lofty goal of the National Innovation Council (NIC), according to Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick T. Chua who presided over the first meeting of the Council last week.
The NIC was created as an offshoot of the Philippine Innovation Act (Republic Act 11293) that was enacted on April 17, 2019.  Its implementing rules and regulations (IRR) were promulgated on Feb. 7, 2020 just before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

Evidently, preoccupation with the national health emergency prevented an earlier convening of the NIC that is composed of the President of the Philippines as chairman, the socioeconomic planning secretary as vice chairman, 16 Cabinet secretaries; the director-general of the Intellectual Property Office; and six sectoral representatives nominated by the business sector; the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) sector; and the academic sector.
The Philippine Innovation Act declares that it is State policy, as mandated by the Constitution, to prioritize research and development (R&D), invention and innovation.  Innovation is defined as “the creation of new ideas that result in new or improved products, processes, and services which are then spread or transferred across markets.” Invention pertains to any patented machine, product, process, including implements or tools and other related gadgets of invention, utility model, and industrial design patents.”

Just how innovative is the Philippines compared to other countries may be gleaned from the Global Innovation Index (GII). In 2021, the Philippines placed 51st out of 132 economies. Using around 80 indicators, the GII ranks the countries in the world in terms of innovation capabilities.  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. In the latest GII report, the Philippines was cited as being one of five countries in the world that made significant progress in the GII over time, along with China, Turkey, Vietnam and India.

The NIC is now developing the National Innovation Agenda and Strategy Document (NIASD) to be launched within the year. This document will establish the country’s 10-year vision, long-term goals, agenda, and strategies related to innovation.

More purposive investments in research and development are decidedly key to a nation’s ability to innovate.  Latest figures indicate that the share of R&D spending to the Philippines’ gross domestic product (GDP) is only around 0.1 per cent – a far cry from the global average of 2.04 percent of GDP, and UNESCO’s norm for developing countries of at least one percent. According to the 2021 forecasts, China leads the world in R&D expenditure with investments exceeding $621 billion.

Another critical factor is the perennial brain drain of outstanding, world-class Filipino scientific and technological talent that has migrated out of the country into the proverbial greener pastures in first-world countries.
Meantime, the Philippines plods on and persists, with the NEDA, the Department of Science and Technology (DosT) and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) at the helm of earnest efforts to propel the country into the upper notches of middle-class countries.