In a bid to jumpstart the nascent startup scene in the country, the national government ? through the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) ? has partnered with tech incubator IdesSpace Foundation to launch Silicon Valley-type ?Innovation Hubs? in Intramuros, Manila and in the University of the Philippines Diliman.
At a media luncheon held at the sidelines of SlingShot MNL 2015 startup event at the PICC, DOST and DTI officials gathered together with executives from Idea Space and UP Diliman to formally unveil the tech facilities that will be housed ? at least temporarily ? in Palacio del Gobernador in Intramuros and in the National Engineering Center in UP Diliman.
DOST undersecretary Rowena Guevarra said the science agency, through its attached unit PCIEERD (Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development), has allocated P35 million, which UP adding P5 million as counterpart fund and IdeaSpace pitching in another P5 million.
Taking cue from the rise of innovation districts around the world ? the likes of Silicon Valley in the United States, Block 71 in Singapore, and MaGIC in Malaysia ? the Philippine innovation hub will aim to foster the advancement of technology and innovation in the country with critical support from the government, the academe, and the private sector.
The collaboration represents the first-ever public-private partnership (PPP) in the country that is focused on growing the local innovation ecosystem as the country aims to improve its positioning in the emerging global digital economy.
?Today, we realize the dream to create Philippines? own innovation hub with our initial collaboration with the government and the academe where startups and high-potential research can get the support they need in order to grow and thrive,? Earl Martin Valencia, president and co-founder at IdeaSpace.
Valencia, who worked for Silicon Valley firms in the US, said the funding for the initiative will cover the operations for two to three years. He said the project expects to produce at least 12 working startups by yearend.
Guevara said that aside from the five DOST-supported Technology Business Incubators (TBI), the Innovation Hub is an addition to DOST’s continuing program of encouraging innovative and entrepreneurial spirit among academic institutions, in partnership with the private sector.
Moreover, the DOST envisions the Innovation Hub, a public-private partnership, to become not just a hub for startups but also a strategic focal point for Technology Transfer Offices (TTO) of the DOST and academic institutions to promote products and facilitate transfer of their R&D results, and establish connections with the investment community.
“It has always been DOST’s thrust to support technology transfer of R&D output, either through commercialization or deployment for public good. The Innovation Hub, we believe, will be a critical and effective agent in delivering R&D results to the people,? Guevara said.
DTI undersecretary Nora K. Terrado, meanwhile, said tech startups present a growing spectrum of opportunities for Filipinos to compete in the international stage as they create new solutions to pressing social and environmental problems.
?In the process, this will spur economic activities resulting from the value and employment generated. Innovation hubs are essential elements in building an innovation culture for the present and future generation,? said Terrado, a former software executive.
For its part, the DOST?s ICT Office said it is currently working on the Philippine Startup Roadmap 2020 in collaboration with the Philippine Startup Roundtable. The roadmap, which is scheduled to be launched during the 2015 “Geeks on a Beach” event in Boracay next month, will provide a national roadmap for the development of the Philippine startup ecosystem that we hope will position us to become a leading hub for digital startups.
IdeaSpace, DOST, DTI, and ICTO said it has laid out the groundwork for establishing innovation hubs in strategic locations including in Intramuros in Manila, which is within the vicinity of the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (PLM), Colegio de San Juan de Letran (CSL), the Lyceum of the Philippines and the Mapua Institute of Technology; together with the entire University belt; as well as in Diliman in Quezon City where the University of the Philippines and Ateneo de Manila University are situated.
Valencia said it is critical to locate the innovation hubs near key academic institutions to imbibe the spirit of innovative and entrepreneurial thinking among students, to tap into a wellspring of engineering and technology talent from these universities, as well as to address the growing interest of students in founding their own startups– the way the likes of Stanford University has fostered the same environment for notable startups in Silicon Valley.
?We can?t do it alone, so we?re calling on more partners in the industry, the government, and the academe that believe in the Filipino innovator’s potential to help us push this initiative forward,? he added.
The creation of the innovation hub will be a critical component in the drive to boost the Philippines? ranking in the Digital Evolution Index (DEI), which ranks countries in terms of their readiness for the quickly expanding digital economy.
The Philippines is one of the so-called ?break-out? nations in the recent global DEI study conducted by the US-based Fletcher School at Tufts University, using data from 2008 to 2013. The country stands alongside China, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam as one of the ?rapidly advancing countries? in the global digital topography.
IdeaSpace, along with the PLDT Group, had earlier called on private and public industry players to help in pushing the country?s DEI rankings through key strategic digital initiatives and key infrastructure investments that will help more Filipinos participate in the growing digital economy.
To date, IdeaSpace has invested in 38 local startups as part of its P500 million five-year commitment toward growing the local startup ecosystem. Of the previous IdeaSpace startups, seven have received follow-on funding from IdeaSpace and other investors.