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Exclusive! Charting the Future: PCIEERD’s Strategies for Global Technological Leadership

As a vital arm of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), the Philippine Council for Industry, Energy, and Emerging Technology Research and Development (PCIEERD) holds a pivotal role as one of the three sectoral planning councils within the organisation.

Founded on 29 June 2010, PCIEERD is distinguished by its unique commitment to driving research and development initiatives, particularly in the industries, energy, and emerging technology sectors.

Functioning as a pivotal agency, DOST-PCIEERD takes a central role in crafting policies, plans, and programmes, along with implementing strategies in the designated sectors. The execution of these initiatives is facilitated through a spectrum of Science and Technology (S&T) programmes designed to promote innovation and progress.

Encompassing a broad spectrum, DOST-PCIEERD extends research and development (R&D) support across 21 sectors, broadly categorised under industry, energy, emerging technology, and special concerns.

The council plays a crucial role in disseminating and promoting S&T information, undertaking sustained programmes for information dissemination. This proactive approach aims to enhance the accessibility and utilisation of information and research results by the diverse array of customers and stakeholders associated with the sectors.

In its commitment to fostering growth, DOST-PCIEERD dedicates efforts to developing and enhancing R&D and support capabilities. This forward-looking perspective ensures the fulfilment of present and future human resource and institutional requirements.

Moreover, the council actively contributes to technological advancement by adopting, transferring, and commercialising available technologies. In doing so, DOST-PCIEERD plays a vital role in propelling the nation’s scientific and technological landscape towards greater heights.

Driving Innovation and Industry Development

In an exclusive interview with OpenGov Asia, Dr Enrico C. Paringit, Executive Director of DOST-PCIEERD, sheds light on compelling projects that underscore the council’s significant influence on research and development in the realms of industry, energy, and emerging technology.

At the forefront of catalysing research and development in the Philippines, DOST-PCIEERD has been a driving force behind diverse programmes and initiatives. Launched in 2015, the Infrastructure Development Programme (IDP) has emerged as a cornerstone, playing a pivotal role in the expansion or modernisation of academic and research institutions.

Under the Infrastructure Development Programme (IDP), DOST-PCIEERD has actively spearheaded initiatives encompassing the acquisition of cutting-edge laboratory facilities, state-of-the-art equipment, and specialised software. Between 2015 to 2023, this strategic investment, totalling Php234.4 million (S$6.31 million), has yielded transformative outcomes, facilitating the establishment and enhancement of 49 laboratories across the nation. This concerted effort reflects the commitment to fortify research capabilities and foster innovation within academic and research institutions.

In line with the DOST Halal Policy, the DOST Halal S&T Programme was initiated to support the development of the Halal industry. This programme focuses on research and development, technology transfer, human resource development, and Halal verification through laboratory testing. Additionally, efforts have been directed towards fortifying the Filipino Halal sector to meet global benchmarks, enhance competitiveness, and improve research and development.

Dr Enrico explains that the Food Safety Programme, Food Innovation Centres, and Natural Dyes facilities have been established to strengthen the food industry and improve the living standards of Filipino people. The commitment extends to bolstering the country’s manufacturing industry by providing cutting-edge facilities for specialised testing, designing, and research and development in key sectors like food, electronics, and materials.

Under the OneLab Programme, regional testing facilities have been consolidated into a unified network, providing easy access to a global network of public and private laboratories for analytical and calibration needs. This initiative promotes collaboration among students, researchers, and industry stakeholders, with information accessible through the onelab.ph website.

The National Metrology Laboratory (NML) leads metrology efforts in the Philippines and has achieved international recognition. However, continued support is required for the expansion of Calibration and Measurement Capabilities (CMCs) to maintain competence globally.

Dr Enrico reveals that the establishment of the Advanced Device and Materials Testing Laboratory (ADMATEL) marks the country’s first electronics design facility, aimed at reinforcing and upgrading failure analysis and materials testing facilities to attract potential investors and promote a conducive business environment.

The Electronics Product Development Centre (EPDC) serves as the national testing facility, providing design, prototyping, and testing facilities for printed circuit boards. The goal is to support companies and schools in developing hardware and software for electronics products.

The Advanced Manufacturing Centre (AMCen), on the other hand, has been established as the national centre of excellence in additive manufacturing, focusing on areas like Aerospace and Defense, Pharmaceutical/Healthcare, Novel Electronics, Agriculture, and Automotive.

In addition, the renewable energy projects include a micro-hydro turbine research and testing facility in Morong, Rizal, supporting off-grid electrification for communities. The Mindanao Renewable Energy Centre (MREC) focuses on Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) and Ocean Renewable Energy (ORE) facilities, aiming to harness energy from solar power and simulate tidal and wave characteristics.

To serve as a bridge between R&D and commercialisation, the Funding Assistance for Spin-off and Translation of Research in Advancing Commercialisation (FASTRAC) Programme supports technologies such as USHER, CharM, FISH_I, Smart Surface, CATCH-ALL, Marine Nanocoat, Monascus Red Colorant, Fruitect, HormoGroe, Gitara ni Juan, X-LIPAD, MapX, Vigormin, and others.

Embedded in the ethos of DOST, a circular economy mindset takes centre stage, underscoring a dedication to initiatives that champion environmental stewardship and optimal resource utilisation. Positioned as a key tenet within the DOST framework, this pledge manifests in the backing of projects geared towards converting waste materials into valuable and sustainable resources.

A notable example is the successful initiative led by the Industrial Technology Development Institute (DOST-ITDI), wherein an in-depth analysis of dredged material from the Tullahan River was undertaken to investigate alternative applications. This project exemplifies a forward-thinking strategy in tackling environmental issues by repurposing materials that would otherwise contribute to waste, showcasing a commitment to sustainable solutions and resourcefulness.

The University of Mindanao is leading another remarkable sustainable initiative, centring on the transformation of durian rinds into 3D printing filaments. This inventive project not only addresses waste reduction but also taps into the potential of agricultural by-products, underscoring a steadfast commitment to sustainability and resource optimisation.

“At the core of our mission, we prioritise environmental sustainability, ensuring that our operations, activities, and programmes are conducted with a steadfast commitment to minimising adverse impacts on the environment,” Dr Enrico states.

Recognising the importance of ecological responsibility, PCIERRD incorporates environmental considerations as a pivotal metric in the assessment of proposals. This approach underscores its unwavering commitment to nurturing initiatives that adhere to the principles of environmental conservation and responsible stewardship.

Dedicated to environmental stewardship, the agency proactively pursues a science and technology roadmap for tackling and mitigating challenges related to waste management. Under the leadership of Dr Enrico, PCIERRD aims to assume a pivotal role in shaping sustainable practices that advocate for the responsible use and disposal of resources.

Demonstrating a responsible use of resources through its life cycle, PCIERRD fulfils its mandate to actively support the Clean Air Act (RA8749). By championing the implementation of this key legislation, the agency contributes significantly to promoting clean air standards and mitigating air pollution, aligning its efforts with broader initiatives that prioritise the health of both the environment and local communities.

“Through these multifaceted approaches, we strive to be proactive stewards of the environment, integrating sustainability principles into the fabric of the industrial operations; thereby promoting responsible practices within the realm of science and technology,” Dr Enrico emphasises.

The success of PCIERRD can be attributed in part to its ability to develop talent and inspire upcoming researchers and innovators to advance the country’s technological frontiers. In 2017, the country witnessed the launch of the Young Innovators Programme (YIP), designed as an inclusive platform for highly talented high school students aspiring to gain research experience.

The programme invites these young minds to gain experience in research under the guidance of mentors, facilitating hands-on learning and fostering a spirit of scientific inquiry. The objective of YIP is to equip and prepare these young researchers to undertake independent research endeavors, supported by funding allocated to innovative research projects.

Since its inception, the Young Innovators Programme has made significant strides in cultivating a new era of scientific exploration and inventive breakthroughs within the country. A total of Php37 million (SG$1 million) in funding has been disbursed across 56 approved projects, providing vital resources for these young innovators to bring their ideas to fruition.

The programme’s impact extends beyond financial support, contributing to the development of a vibrant community of budding scientists and researchers who are poised to make meaningful contributions to the scientific landscape in the years to come.

Nurturing Ingenuity Through Partnerships

According to Dr Enrico, engaging with diverse stakeholders is at the core of their approach as they strive to meet the evolving needs of the 21 sectors under its support. Through focused initiatives such as focus group discussions and consultation, they actively seek input from industry stakeholders, research institutions, and government agencies.

“This collaborative process allows us to gain valuable insights into the specific requirements and challenges faced by each sector, informing the direction of our research and development endeavours,” Dr Enrico explains.

Beyond external engagement, PCIEERD places considerable emphasis on internal feedback mechanisms. Tools such as the Research Fairness Survey and the R&D Customer Preference Survey serve as valuable means to directly collect insights from researchers. This two-way communication approach ensures that the perspectives and experiences of those actively engaged in the research process are taken into account, fostering an environment of continuous improvement and responsiveness within the organisation.

Collaboration remains a cornerstone of their strategy, and they actively cultivate partnerships with industry stakeholders. Through a range of programmes, such as the Expert Intervention for Scientific Engagement (ExperTiSE) programme, Regional Research Institutions (RRI), research attachments and expert visits, PCIEERD creates avenues for meaningful cooperation.

These collaborative initiatives not only enhance the effectiveness of the research but also contribute to the broader goal of fostering innovation and sustainable development across diverse sectors.

Furthermore, DOST-PCIEERD recognises the pivotal role of international alliances and partnerships, strategically emphasising their significance in advancing research and development in the fields of industry, energy, and emerging technology.

This concerted effort is driven by a commitment to contribute to the growth of scientific knowledge, facilitate technology transfer, spur economic development, and enhance the capacity to address global challenges effectively.

International partnerships provide a crucial avenue for knowledge exchange, where foreign counterparts and experts bring expertise that exposes Filipino researchers to cutting-edge technologies, methodologies, and the sharing of best practices.

Such exposure not only enhances the skills of local researchers, rendering them more competitive on the international stage but also unlocks new opportunities for commercialising innovative technologies in the global market. Consequently, it bridges the gap between research and market application, facilitating technology pathways that contribute to economic growth through income and job creation.

Several notable international engagements exemplify the commitment of DOST-PCIEERD to fostering global collaborations. Among them, the e-ASIA initiative stands out – a multilateral international joint effort involving public funding organisations from East Asia Summit (EAS) member countries.

Additionally, the Southeast Asia-Europe Joint Funding Scheme for Research and Innovation (SEA-EU JFS) facilitates joint funding of bi-regional, multi-lateral research and innovation projects, fostering cooperation between Southeast Asia and Europe.

Joint efforts such as the UKRI-NERC initiative address specific challenges, exemplified by the “Sustainable Mineral Resources in the Philippines” programme. This collaborative effort aims to fund research that offers a comprehensive perspective on mineral production in the Philippines and address environmental issues associated with legacy and abandoned mines.

Another noteworthy effort is the UKRI-JST-DOST ‘Science, Technology and Action’ Nexus for Development (STAND) Collaboration, which seeks to foster international research interaction and exchange among researchers in Japan, the United Kingdom, and Southeast Asia. This collaboration focuses on projects contributing to sustainable development in Southeast Asia, aligning with the broader goals of knowledge sharing and capacity building on a global scale.

Public-private partnerships have also contributed to the advancement of industry, energy, and emerging technology in the country. In June 2023, PCIEERD took a significant step forward in fortifying its collaboration with the mining industry by signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines.

This partnership encompasses three key areas aimed at fostering advancements and sustainability within the mining sector.

Firstly, there is a focus on the collaborative drafting of a nickel roadmap, with active consultation involving both mining industries and key government agencies. This initiative aims to chart a strategic course for the nickel industry, ensuring alignment with industry needs and national development goals.

Another crucial facet of the partnership involves an increased emphasis on research related to green minerals, particularly in anticipation of their translation into components for Electric Vehicles (EVs). This forward-looking approach aligns with the global shift towards sustainable and environmentally friendly technologies, positioning the mining industry to play a pivotal role in the emerging green economy.

Additionally, the collaborative efforts extend to the improvement of energy efficiency and the promotion of renewable energy within the mining sector. By addressing these critical aspects, the partnership endeavours to enhance the sustainability and environmental impact of mining operations, aligning with broader goals of responsible resource utilisation and energy conservation.

PCIEERD maintains an ongoing and fruitful partnership with the Philippine Technological Council (PTC), a non-stock, non-profit private organisation. The collaboration with PTC unfolds through its accreditation service, serving as a mechanism to facilitate capstone projects and promote STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) initiatives.

This sustained partnership underscores PCIEERD’s commitment to advancing technological excellence, education, and innovation within the Philippines, fostering a collaborative ecosystem that transcends industry boundaries for the greater benefit of scientific and technological progress.

Unveiling Key Strategies

Dr Enrico reveals the key strategic priorities and initiatives he is focusing on as the Executive Director of PCIEERD to foster innovation and drive industry development in the Philippines.

Guided by the Harmonised National Research and Development Agenda (HNRDA) for the period 2022-2028, our research initiatives are intricately woven into a framework that aligns with the broader vision encapsulated in AmBisyon Natin 2040,” Dr Enrico highlights.

Envisioning a promising future for Filipinos, the HNRDA is anchored in the pillars of Malasakit, Pagbabago, and Kaunlaran, which collectively advocate for inclusive growth, a resilient society, and the cultivation of a competitive knowledge economy.

In pursuit of these aspirations, PCIERRD has embarked on pioneering programmes aimed at revolutionising the local transport systems. Spearheaded by the ELECTROMOBILITY R&D Centre, and R&D Centre for Advanced Batteries, these initiatives focus on the development and implementation of electric vehicles and enhancing advanced battery technology.

These efforts align with the priorities of the Comprehensive Roadmap for the Electric Vehicle Industry (CREVI). Additionally, PCIERRD has several initiatives on maritime transport on the electrification of boats and ferries.

“This strategic move reflects our commitment to advancing sustainable and eco-friendly solutions in the domain of transportation,” Dr Enrico furthers. “Our commitment extends to the empowerment of local governance through the implementation of the Smart Cities initiative.”

Significant transformations have been realised in cities such as Baguio, Cauayan, Iloilo, and Butuan, where the integration of smart technologies has contributed to improved urban living. The success of these endeavours has prompted an expansion of the programme beyond cities, reaching into various communities as part of our ongoing efforts to create more inclusive and technologically empowered environments.

Recognising the critical role of startups in driving innovation, PCIERRD actively supports the startup ecosystem through the Startup Grant Fund. The comprehensive programmes assist startups throughout their journey, from the initial ideation phase to full commercialisation. By nurturing and facilitating the growth of startups, they contribute to the dynamism of the entrepreneurial landscape and the overall economic development of the region.

Dr Enrico underscores in the domain of Artificial Intelligence (AI), the DOST endeavours are guided by a comprehensive 2019-2029 R&D Programme Framework. This strategic blueprint delineates a path to ensure the Philippines remains a frontrunner in the global evolution of AI technologies.

The primary thrusts of this initiative span across National Infrastructure, where the DOST has distributed nine High-Performance Computing (HPC) machines to higher education institutions, catalysing the commencement of new AI projects.

The groundwork laid in 2014 with the establishment of the Computing and Archiving Research Environment (CoARE) further bolsters these efforts, providing free access to HPC and Cloud services. The overarching goal is to enhance connectivity and expedite digital transformation by 2024, with a specific target of elevating the PH e-government index to 0.85 by 2029.

The DOST’s dedication to AI extends beyond infrastructure to encompass Capacity Building, where initiatives are undertaken to nurture the skills and expertise necessary for meaningful AI contributions. Simultaneously, the focus on Research and Data initiatives accentuates the commitment to advancing the knowledge frontier in AI.

Additionally, the department actively engages in developing Policies and Stakeholder relationships, ensuring a holistic and forward-looking approach to AI development within the country. This multi-faceted strategy underscores the DOST’s commitment to positioning the Philippines as a key player in the dynamic landscape of AI innovation and progress.

“In our pursuit of ensuring the Philippines’ prominence in technological innovation and sustainable development globally, DOST-PCIEERD employs a multifaceted approach encompassing various strategic initiatives. One pivotal effort involves bridging the gap between academic research and industry through the establishment of Technology Business Incubators (TBIs),” Dr Enrico asserts.

With 54 members in the DOST TBI Network, including 32 industry-based and 22 agriculture- and aquaculture-focused TBIs across Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) and State Universities and Colleges (SUCs), the investments since 2018 have totalled Php411 million (SG$11.1 million).

These TBIs have incubated 1,359 startups, generated 5,696 jobs, attracted over Php1.87 billion (SG$50.49 million) in private investments, and produced Php907 million (SG$24.49 million) in startup revenue. Additionally, the TBIs themselves have secured Php118.3 million (SG$3.19 million) in private investments from various partners.

To promote science education in Geographically Isolated and Disadvantaged Areas (GIDA), they fund projects such as the Philippine Science Centrum Travelling Exhibit. This initiative, spanning 26 GIDA districts across Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao, has reached 300,000 students and instructed 4,000 teachers in basic science experiments, enhancing education in these remote areas.

Acknowledging the vital role of women entrepreneurs, initiatives like Women-Helping-Women: Innovative Social Enterprises (WHWise) aims to support and acknowledge women driving economic growth and sustainable development in their communities.

Strategic planning is another cornerstone of the approach, with formulated roadmaps and sectoral strategies for the 21 supported sectors. These roadmaps not only guide the development of specific research programmes but also contribute to the realisation of sustainable development goals.

Collectively, these strategies underscore the commitment to enhancing the country’s competitiveness and productivity in the global landscape of technological innovation and sustainable development, fostering a comprehensive and impactful approach to propel the nation forward.

Nexus of Innovation by 2040

“Our forward-looking vision is rooted in becoming the Nexus of Innovation by the year 2040,” Dr Enrico shares his vision for PCIEERD’s position in the global context in the next three years. “Positioned as a leader in the country’s competitiveness and productivity, we aim to enable science and technology solutions across the industry, energy, and emerging technology sectors, all while upholding the principles of good governance.”

To realise this vision, global collaboration stands as a cornerstone of this strategy. They envision strengthening international partnerships and collaborations with funding institutions worldwide. By engaging with global counterparts, they seek to foster knowledge-sharing, promote cooperation and teamwork, facilitate mutual learning, and collectively drive innovation in the realms of industry, energy, and emerging technologies.

An essential aspect of their approach involves a dedicated focus on investment in Research and Development (R&D). By prioritising R&D investment, they ensure that PCIEERD remains at the forefront of technological advancements in the Industry, Energy, and Emerging (IEE) sectors. This commitment contributes to global innovation efforts and positions the nation as a key player in addressing pressing global challenges through technological solutions.

Their commitment extends to robust mechanisms for technology transfer and commercialisation. By effectively translating the R&D findings and innovations into practical applications and marketable products, they strive to bridge the gap between research outcomes and real-world impact.

“Knowledge dissemination forms another crucial element of our strategy. We are committed to sharing our S&T outputs, technological advancements, and success stories in technology transfer and commercialisation, both locally and globally,” Dr Enrico says emphatically. “This proactive approach ensures that the benefits of our innovations reach diverse audiences, contributing to the broader global knowledge pool.”

In all aspects of their operations, sustainability is a guiding principle. They are committed to using sustainable practices in everything they do, from research to innovations, technology transfers, and commercialisation.

Through their actions, they actively support the preservation of the environment on a global scale and are consistent with larger sustainability objectives, exemplifying a responsible and comprehensive approach to scientific and technological advancement.

“Embracing the role of a scientist is to willingly confront the mysteries of the unknown, and it is this very challenge that captivates me,” says Dr Enrico, who completed his doctorate at the Tokyo Institute of Technology and served as the principal scientist for DOST Project NOAH and the DOST DREAM LIDAR Programme.

Seeking out interesting and meaningful challenges brought him joy. His work at PCIEERD is similar to a large-scale experiment in which he develops theories and verifies them against reality.

He believes that this dynamic process fosters continuous innovation by pushing boundaries and revealing new possibilities. The core values of high integrity, innovation, and excellence serve as guiding principles, propelling the entire PCIEEED led by him to strive for excellence in all that they do.

“We are committed to exploring new ground in science and are constantly looking for ways to offer significant discoveries and solutions that have a long-term impact for the benefit of the whole nation,” Dr Enrico concludes.

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