PH regions get 66% R&D budget boost through DOST's Science for Change Program

Regions across the country received a 66 percent boost in its budget for research and development (R&D) thanks to the Science for Change Program (S4CP) of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) which sought to address various challenges and limitations in rural areas, helping them provide long-term solutions to existing socioeconomic problems.

Under DOST-S4CP, one of the projects that have created a significant impact is the NICER on Seaweed of MSU-TCTO based in Bongao, Tawi-Tawi. The problem being solved by the project is to improve the quality of seaweed being generated by the community and sold by local traders. The NICER on Seaweed is working to optimize the seaweed value chain and create and promote a commercially sustainable cultivated seaweed industry in BARMM. (Photo courtesy of DOST)

According to DOST, before the program was launched in 2016, 80 percent of the government R&D budget was concentrated in Metro Manila and adjacent regions leaving the remaining 20 percent to be shared by 14 other regions. “We observed the disparity in R&D funding across regions with the lion’s share going to NCR and nearby provinces. MSMEs shy away from doing R&D for value adding and competitiveness due to the perception that R&D is a risky activity,” former DOST Undersecretary for Research and Development Dr. Rowena Cristina L. Guevara shared.

Meanwhile, in a DOST Report episode, former Secretary Fortunato T. de la Peña expressed his belief that the country has tons of talented and well-equipped scientists, engineers, and researchers in various provinces of the country.

According to him, most of them are motivated and inspired to find the appropriate solutions to several challenges and limitations that exist in their local areas. “These local scientists and researchers know the root cause of all the problems of their communities. Most of them have decided to become engineers, medical doctors, and agriculturists, among others, just to have the opportunities to be part of the solutions.

Dela Peña added that they are willing to help; they just need a sustainable program that would allow them to maximize their knowledge, expertise, and experience for the benefit of the people in their areas.

These are the gaps that S4CP is addressing by offering sustainable infrastructure and mechanisms for different regions in the country to provide equal opportunities in achieving inclusive development through R&D.

Guevara shared that DOST’s master plan for S&T Human Resource Development has been receiving about 25 percent of DOST’s yearly budget. From producing less than 20 MS graduates in 2007, DOST produced 400 to 500 MS and Ph.D. graduates each year in the past six years.

“In the Philippine Development Plan 2017 to 2022, DOST target was to reach 300 researchers per million population in 2022. Four years ago, we already had 356 researchers per million Filipinos. These graduates are all over the country,” she added.

Guevara explained that S4CP enables an inclusive innovation ecosystem by creating R&D opportunities for stakeholders and key industry players which address societal problems that translate to community transformation and regional and national socio-economic development.

S4CP has four sub-components that play vital roles, targeting specific sectors namely the Niche Center in the Region for R&D Program (NICER); the Collaborative R&D to Leverage the Philippine Economy Program (CRADLE); the Business Innovation through S&T for Industry Program (BIST) and the R&D Leadership Program (RDLead)

All of these are geared toward changing the R&D landscape in the country by making it more inclusive; strengthening the capabilities of our higher education institutes as well as supporting the industry sector to enhance the competitiveness of its local products and services.

De la Peña shared that he personally saw the changes in science and technology as experienced by the different sectors, both from public and private institutions.

“As I conducted project visits to different regions, I heard testimonials of our beneficiaries reaping benefits from the science and technology interventions provided not only by the S4CP-funded projects but from all the DOST-led initiatives at the national and regional level. I am happy that the beneficiaries are recognizing the assistance of the S&T programs of DOST across the regions,” he added.

S4CP recently won in the prestigious 2022 United Nations Public Service Awards (UNPSA), an international recognition of excellence in public service.