THE Davao Region has continued to promote enterprise-based innovation in a bid to produce more resilient and responsive entrepreneurs.

With the help of the Science, Technology, and Risk-resilient based Initiatives toward Knowledge Economy Davao Regional Inclusive Innovation Center (iSTRIKE Davao RIIC), this goal has been strengthened and reinforced.

The iSTRIKE Davao RIIC is composed of the regional offices of the Department of Trade and Industry, Department of Science and Technology, Department of Information and Communications Technology, Commission on Higher Education, National Economic Development Authority, Department of Agriculture, Department of Education, Department of Labor and Employment, Food and Drug Administration, Philippine Information Agency, and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, the Davao City Government, the Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc., the Food Processors Association of Davao Inc., higher education institutions, particularly the Ateneo de Davao University, University of the Philippines Mindanao, University of Southeastern Philippines, University of the Immaculate Conception, University of Mindanao, Holy Cross of Davao College, Malayan Colleges Mindanao-A Mapua School, and Philippine Women’s College of Davao, and civil society organization Help Davao Network.

Since the implementation of iSTRIKE Davao RIIC’s Innovation for Business Recovery (IBR) Plan project, a total of 36 micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in the region benefitted from it in 2020. They were provided with necessary guidance on how to pivot and improve their operations to mitigate the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The MSME beneficiaries were specifically assisted in coming up with tailored strategic innovation plans to fit their businesses. Some experts from the academe were partnered with them to research on their businesses and give thereafter an analysis, suggest action steps, and assess the plans’ feasibility.

“Business owners should realize that introducing innovation needs to be well-planned and data-driven to maximize chances of success, considering that resources are limited. This is where the academic expertise is most beneficial as it provides crucial insights for MSMEs on what particular operational areas need to be prioritized,” DTI-Davao Regional Director Maria Belenda Ambi said.

The IBR Project was borne out of the need for an immediate intervention for MSMEs grappling with the sudden economic shift at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in early 2020.

“We need to come up with a swift response so that businesses stay afloat and not close down. We cannot afford losing too many MSMEs, or else, our economy will bleed out given that they comprise more than 99 percent of businesses in the Philippines,” Ambi said.

The University of the Philippines (UP) Mindanao School of Management and Ateneo de Davao University (ADDU) Centre for Business Research Extension prepared the first two batches of IBR plans. This team of reputable universities has since grown to include five more higher educational institutions, to wit: Holy Cross of Davao College, Malayan Colleges Mindanao, Philippine Women’s College of Davao, University of Mindanao, and University of the Immaculate Conception. The local trade official shared that this initiative is expected to continue in 2022 given the positive feedback of the participating MSMEs, majority of whom were successful in improving their businesses as they implemented their respective recovery plan.

Collaborative Innovation

According to Ambi, the IBR Project’s success can be greatly attributed to the collaboration among government, industry, and academe, a first in the region.

“It has been our commitment to push for innovation through resource sharing, close collaboration, enhanced networking, and alignment of programs and projects. This is anchored on maximizing the impact and benefits that these will have to our stakeholders, especially the MSMEs. All of these led to the project’s success,” said Ambi, citing the reason for the project’s wide acceptance and early success.

Ambi further noted that this was the first time that the government, private sector, and schools came together and offered a streamlined program for MSMEs that identifies their needs, and refers them to the appropriate government agencies for step-by-step assistance. This convenient and complete intervention was key for many businesses to successfully operate despite the challenges in the new economic environment.

Enterprises interested to participate in the project are required to answer the Business Impact Survey for proper assessment of their current situation. The qualified respondents are then referred to the partner academe for the Rapid Needs Assessment (RNA) interview to verify their responses to the survey and obtain more context of the present challenges and opportunities. The RNA will be the foundation of the IBR, subject to validation and enhancement through academe-industry one-on-one sessions as the project progresses.

The draft outputs are presented to the MSMEs, DTI, and iSTRIKE Davao technical working group for approval and revisions, if any. The final outputs are sent to the MSMEs and partner government agencies after a week for adoption and appropriate action.

Adopting Innovation

The MSMEs that went through the program introduced innovation in varying degrees, with recommendations depending on their identified priorities and challenges.

One was provided with an inventory and sales system by the University of the Philippines Mindanao. Through the IBR referral, the beneficiary was assisted and was even given access to financing through the Small Enterprise Technology and Upgrading (Setup) Program of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).

In the meantime, some MSMEs were able to modify their product packaging and social media marketing strategies with the help of ADDU. Meanwhile, numerous MSME beneficiaries are currently facilitated to access financing, and for further research and development (R&D) through programs such as the Collaborative R&D to Leverage the Philippine Economy (Cradle) program of the DOST. All IBR beneficiaries with identified marketing needs were enrolled in the different market development programs of the DTI slated in 2022.

“There are really a lot of initiatives going on right now within the iSTRIKE Davao RIIC, and we want to keep everything moving. We, therefore, encourage our MSMEs to avail of our programs for their business. We are also open for suggestions on projects and interventions needed by the industry to expedite innovation,” Ambi said.

Interested MSMEs may visit the official website of the iSTRIKE Davao RIIC at www.riicdavao.ph for more information about the collaboration. (PR)