DOST to sustain assistance to startups, OFWs to help rebuild nat’l economy

The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) will continue to assist startups, including overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), through its existing programs as part of the government’s efforts to rebuild the economy, DOST Secretary Fortunato de la Peña said in a virtual presser

He said “startups are important as they will generate employment, and we have programs to assist micro, small, medium enterprises (MSMEs), especially the marginalized, and even for LGUs development planning for their provinces.”

Research and Development Institutions, centers and other platforms are also there to assist the startups, he added.

Dela Pena said the DOST also has the Small Enterprise Technology Upgrading Program (SETUP), which helps improve the MSMEs’ productivity and competitiveness by providing them loans that are payable in three years. The program aims to encourage them to adopt technological innovations to improve their products and operations.

“We target to assist 781 companies this year,” he said, adding that 781 is a combined figure of startups that will be assisted through SETUP and SETUP 4.0.

SETUP 4.0 which will be implemented this year, is an enhanced version of SETUP to align the program with the industry 4.0. Through it. MSMEs could secure innovation enabling fund amounting to as much as P5 million loan assistance for equipment procurement and training which they could pay back in three to five years.

DOST data show bared that yje agency has assisted more than 12,000 firms and entities in 2020.

Startups are encouraged to undergo incubation. There are 48 technology business incubators (TBIs) or hubs across the country. These were funded by the DOST, and were provided with equipment for manufacturing technology, information and communications technology, among others.

There are also TBIs that cater to feed production, animal breed upgrading; food/meat/milk processing; vacuum packaging/labeling and wood processing. The DOST chief said he eyes the establishment of 12 more TBIs this year.

Dela Pena said they encourage other firms to partner with institutions for research and development (R&D) via the DOST’s Collaborative Research and Development to Leverage Philippine Economy (CRADLE) program.

Through CRADLE, the DOST provides funding for approved R&D proposals from higher education institutions (HEIs), R&D institutions and their partner industries.

The partner industry identifies the problem, while the partner HEI or RDI will do the necessary R&D to find solutions. The DOST will provide funding assistance of up to P5 million per approved project, but it also requires the industry partner to shoulder at least 20 percent of the total project cost.

In 2020, the DOST has approved 38 CRADLE projects for a total budget allocation of P178 million.

In terms of helping OFWs who would like to put up a business in their provinces, de la Peña said the DOST’s Innovation for Filipinos Working Distantly from the Philippines (iFWD PH) has had positive responses.

Launched last year, the iFWD PH aims to provide returning OFWs with no-interest loans and training. Some 119 have enrolled with the iFWD PH, and 59 of them have already completed Phase 1 of the program, and are about to start Phase 2 or materializing their business, he said.

Businesses may also reach out to the various R&D institutions and centers of the DOST, among which are the Electronics Product Development Center, which houses hardware and software tools for companies and schools to use for the design, development and testing of electronics products.

The DOST likewise recently inaugurated the Advanced Manufacturing Center that showcases 3D printing, promoting R&D in additive manufacturing.

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