Senate passes Philippine Innovation Act on final reading

The Senate passed on Tuesday, May 2, a bill which seeks to adopt innovation as a vital component of the country’s development and use it to promote the growth of micro, small and medium enterprises, through programs and initiatives which include the creation of a new interagency national innovation council.

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Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, principal author of Senate Bill No. 1355, otherwise known as the Philippine Innovation Act, said the measure seeks to make innovation a major driver of economic growth in accordance with the Ambisyon Natin 2040 long-term plan laid out by the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda).

“Realizing our economic potential as a people will depend largely upon our ability to develop and maintain an innovative, strategic, and adaptive economy that is fully capable of sustaining inclusive growth over the next couple of decades,” Gatchalian said.

“The Philippine Innovation Act will be the driving force behind a Philippine innovation renaissance over the next few decades. It is a smart investment we need to make today in order to secure the bright high-income future of the Philippines,” he added.

Under the proposed measure, a new government body — the National Innovation Council (NIC) would be tasked to prepare a long-term roadmap based on innovation and coordination of such efforts in both the private and public sector through a National Innovation Agenda and Strategy Document.

The NIC will be headed by the president as chair and the Neda director-general as vice-chair, with secretaries from various executive departments as members.

Under the bill, the council would be tasked to strengthen partnerships among different actors — from the public and private sectors, to the academe, the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), research and development institutions, and local communities “towards improving the quality of life through innovation.”

To help achieve this, the NIC would be tasked to administer an approximately P1-billion Innovation Fund, “from which grants would be issued to strengthen entrepreneurship and enterprises engaged in developing innovative solutions benefiting the poorest of the poor.”

“It compels us to place innovation at the center of our development policies to enable the country to move as a coherent whole. We cannot anymore afford to take half-steps, or sporadic efforts, in our bid to fuel sustainable and inclusive growth,” Gatchalian stressed.

The bill identified food security, education, health, clean energy, disaster resilience, community development, infrastructure, traditional knowledge, and governance as some of the “key areas for innovation.”

“We need to finally develop a culture of innovation that will propel our nation to an economic success,” Gatchalian said.

Sen. Loren Legarda, co-sponsor of the measure, said the country needed a “well-defined, explicit vision for the country that places innovation in the context of where we want to be in the mid-to long-term.”

“Our innovation agenda needs to transcend the term of political administrations,” she said. She noted that in the country, at least agencies pursue their respective innovation programs “with very weak coordination,” pointing out the lack of coordination and convergence between and among government agencies.”

She said the measure intended to provide support and protection to Filipino inventors, so that intellectual theft against the likes of Dr. Abelardo Aguilar, who discovered the antibiotic erythromycin in 1949 but died in poverty and without recognition, “will not happen again.”

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