THE Department of Trade and Industry (DTI)-Cebu said it will sustain efforts to provide product design development assistance to micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).

Last year, it worked closely with young designers in the region to help the MSME sector under its One Town, One Product (Otop) initiative.

“We collaborated with the design graduates of the University of the Philippines-Cebu and Bohol last year to upgrade the product designs of our MSMEs. After the successful run, we will be focusing on coming up with design prototypes,” said DTI Cebu Provincial Director Ma. Elena Arbon.

She added the initiative was also aimed to further develop skills of design graduates who’d later on join a bigger and more competitive design industry. She also sees the collaboration as a strategy to develop the region’s design community.

“We thought of tapping the skills of our young designers because they are already using new design tools. We had them mentored by senior designers in Manila and we linked them with our MSMEs,” said Arbon.

One designer has handled seven MSMEs.

“For this year, we are looking at the execution of these designs. We will work with the MSMEs to produce design prototypes,” she said.

One facility that will help product designs come to life is the DTI’s Fabrication Laboratory (FabLab).

The FabLab is a global space-sharing concept that gives art and design students, professionals, MSMEs, and the public access to prototyping, printing, and related equipment as well as training or workshop facilities.

FabLabs aim to enhance the core competencies of manufacturers and emerging entrepreneurs in digitally-enabled manufacturing workflows guided by art and design principles.

There are two DTI-funded FabLabs in the region: in Bohol Island State University and in UP-Cebu. DTI has about 12 FabLabs across the country.

“This designer development program aims to also expose our MSMEs to new design technologies,” said Arbon.

DTI 7 has sought additional funding for the region’s product development programs to boost the sector’s competitiveness, especially during local and international trade fairs.

Arbon believes small players in the business could become big winners especially with the ongoing regional integration in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

DTI Undersecretary for Regional Operations Group Zenaida Maglaya, in a press statement, said the agency will provide P1 billion to continue funding the Pondo sa Pagbabago at Pag-asenso (P3) micro loan program and another P1 billion for the Shared Service Facilities (SSF) equipment-sharing project.

According to Maglaya, the loans released nationwide under the P3 program have reached P1 billion, funding 38,425 beneficiaries with an almost 100 percent re-payment rate.

DTI has funded P820 million worth of loans through the P3 program and assisted 20,425 micro entrepreneurs.

The agency will also fund P1 billion for its equipment-sharing facility program SSF to provide MSMEs with access to technology, machinery, equipment, tools, systems, skills and knowledge under a shared system. (KOC)