Where does the Philippine Department of Science and Technology finance innovation in the country?

Friday, August 28, 2020

Find out in this adapted excerpt from the Global Innovation Index 2020: Chapter 8—FILIPINNOVATION: Financing Science for the People, authored by DOST Secretary Fortunato T. de la Peña.


The Philippine Department of Science and Technology (DOST) leads and coordinates scientific and technological efforts in the archipelagic nation of the Philippines in South-East Asia—not a small task in the face of more than 7,641 islands across 17 regions. However, regional inclusivity has long been a challenge leading to uneven economic development, including in the financing of innovation.


In 2014, about 93% of DOST R&D funding was concentrated in regions near Metro Manila, and only 7% was distributed among the other 14 regions of the country. Moreover, out of 2,000 Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), only 74 had partnerships with publicly funded R&D. The country also has limited science, technology, and innovation (STI) infrastructure such as laboratories, testing facilities, and R&D centers. Those that exist need upgrading to undertake research, development, and innovation activities. Likewise, industry-academia collaborations for R&D are rare, despite the incentives offered by the government. The inability of most universities to be involved in R&D stems from the lack of enabling policies, opportunities, research leaders, and funding. This is evidenced by the roster of proponents for government-funded R&D programs and projects, which remains largely unchanged across each cycle of the call for proposals.


Recognizing the relevance of grassroots innovation solutions, in 2016, the DOST initiated the Science for Change Program (S4CP) that articulates a strategy to finance regionally-inclusive innovation in the country. It aims to accelerate the development and adoption of STIs by proportionately spreading funding across all regions for capacity-building initiatives and securing partnerships across academia and industry members. One of the four main components of the S4CP is the Niche Centers in the Regions for R&D (NICER) Program.


Niche Centers in the Regions for R&D (NICER) Program

The NICER Program capacitates HEIs in the regions to make significant improvements in regional research by integrating development needs into existing R&D research capabilities and resources. The DOST, through the NICER Program, provides institutional grants for HEIs to undertake quality research that will catalyze and promote regional development.



As of 2019, the Philippine DOST's Niche Centers in the Regions (NICER) Program has established 18 R&D centers spread out across 14 of the 17 regions with total funding of US$12 million. The R&D grants were provided to state and private universities, not only for upgrading facilities and human resource development but also for regional economic development. NICERs cover niche areas and abundant commodities, such as potato at Benguet State University (Northern Philippines), crustaceans at Samar State University (Central Philippines), and renewable energy at Ateneo de Davao University (Southern Philippines).


How else does the Philippines finance innovation through its Science for Change Program?

Find out in the full chapter, coming September 2, 2020.

Cover Photo: Jules Bss on Unsplash

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