DOST: more support for startups

WITH more funds, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) promised to enhance its support for technology-based startups and projects, and businesses centered on research and development (R&D).

In a press conference for the 1st Philippine Technology Business Incubator Summit yesterday, DOST Undersecretary Rowena Cristina Guevara said the department has been appropriated with increasing budget in recent years, which means science and tech-related developments in the country will receive more support.

“The budget for DOST has quadrupled,” the official said. In the last seven years, DOST’s budget has grown four times from P5 billion in 2010 to P20.8 billion in 2017.

On one hand, the R&D budget expanded by nearly six times, from P1 billion in 2009 to P5.8 billion in 2017.

“Allocation of a bigger budget for R&D indicates that any sector/industry in the country could set a direction and impetus towards addressing global demands and challenges,” DOST said in its website.

One of the newest programs of the DOST is the Startup Research Grant, where it has allocated P20 million to select startups this year.

Russel M. Pili, DOST chief science research specialist, said startups may get funding through the i2tech (Idea to Tech) and iScale (innovate and scale) programs.

i2tech is a pre-incubation grant for startups with early stage prototypes or those that require assistance in product improvement, market testing, data gathering, and business modelling.

Meanwhile, iscale is for “more mature” startups in need of matching funds and requires assistance in scaling up operations, testing of products for certifications and rolling out of services.

To date, Pili said 10 startups have been identified as ready for funding, while the agency is screening 40 more startups.

In addition, the two DOST officials announced the expansion of the Technology Business Incubator (TBI) program of DOST, which was first launched in 2009 and created 14 TBIs all over the country stationed inside universities.

Today, on the second day of the Incubator Summit at the Cebu Parklane Hotel, DOST is set to announce 20 more universities that will host a TBI. Pili said DOST will build more TBIs inside Cebu universities over the next two years.

In Cebu, the CebuinIT, now referred as “in IT UP Cebu” is the only DOST-funded TBI that has housed and graduated over 46 tech startups in the last seven years.

DOST will be spending roughly P10 million to form one TBI, said Pili. A TBI houses startup companies for at up to three years, where they receive mentorship and trainings during the given period.

Guevara said DOST wants to see more innovation in the country, one of the thrusts of the department. “Innovation needs entrepreneurship to benefit society,” the undersecretary added.

University of the Philippines Cebu dean Liza Corro said some of the startups produced by CebuinIT that have gained traction are taxi-hailing app MiCab, digital media firm Innopub Media, IT learning platform CodeToki, and medical information system Nimbal.

DOST is also pushing to secure 1,000 intellectual property rights (IPR) for Philippine products and inventions over the next two years. Currently, Guevara said the department has issued roughly 200 of them.
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