No less than the United Nations, with its UN Public Service Awards (UNPSA), hailed the research and development (R&D) efforts and innovations of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) through its Science for Change Program (S4CP) meeting the Sustainable Development Goals under the category Building Back Better from COVID-19: Enhancing Innovative Partnerships to Meet the Sustainable Development Goals.
DOST Secretary Fortunato Dela Peña attributed the award to the high caliber performance demonstrated by the S4CP team, which S4CP as a concept, according to Secretary Boy started in 2016 and with the zeal for public service of R&D team as well as the regional offices and sectoral councils, DOST came up with a program that creatively changes the way Science and Technology and output R&D are integrated into the society.
UN Under Secretary General Liu Zhenmin said the category was exceptionally introduced this year to highlight the efforts and best practices that public institutions have implemented to fight against COVID-19 and contain social and economic fall-out from the pandemic.
“All the winning initiatives demonstrated excellent innovations in delivering public service with people-centric approach, which are indispensable in achieving sustainable developments,” Liu adds.
“I am happy that the beneficiaries recognized the assistance that the DOST provides across the regions,” Sec Dela Peña said.
One pioneer beneficiary in Western Visayas of the Business Innovation through Science and Technology (BIST) Program to help local companies develop their own capability for R&D is Negros-based Herbanext Laboratories Incorporated (HLI) which,
working closely with the DOST, engages in research and develop of Philippine medicinal herbs into herbal supplements and herbal drugs for the local and export markets.
HLI is the producer of Tawa-Tawa capsule, a herbal supplement for dengue developed together with the University of San Agustin and the DOST to address not just dengue, but also asthma, fever and insomnia.
Philip Cruz, President and Chief Executive Officer of HLI, thanked the DOST-BIST program because with this, Herbanext has been empowered to do more research that gives the company more confidence in the quality and safety of its herbal products.
“In the not so distant future, we look forward to exporting world-class Filipino herbal medicines,” Philip adds as he sees a bright future for Herbanext.
Engr. Rowen Gelonga, Regional Director for DOST VI explained that in Western Visayas, for the past 5-6 years that the S4CP has been implemented, “we have seen a positive impact on the Science, Technology and Innovation climate”, Gelonga shares.
Gelonga adds that there is a very significant increase in the research and development investment in the region and thankfully resulted to positive R&D outputs as well citing the example of Herbanext, which is an indicator that a private sector is now willing to invest money on R&D which is almost unheard of for a MSMEs. “It’s a watershed moment for us because it shows that the private sector realizes that STI is a very good investment if you aspire for not only local but global competitiveness”, Gelonga muses.
Herbanext Research-Engineer Andrea Farol affirms that the very favorable financial assistance of mortgage free loan for three years, a researcher from a private company especially from MSMEs will have the peace of mind to focus on the research job and will have ample time to commercialize the technology.
“We have been able to procure equipment and with this, we’ve been able to establish the Applied Research Innovation Laboratory (ARIL) that has helped us work with also other researchers from the academe and other private companies. ARIL is a
research and development effort designed to help researchers from academe and government and private research centers to develop the scale of processes for their technologies in order to manufacture herbal ingredients and products,” the young engineer shares.
So far, Herbanext helped its clients’ source medicinal plants for research, develop ingredients from the herbs that they were sourcing in the form of spray guide extract and offer equipment and facility rental services to researchers.
Andrea said that from the viewpoint of the MSMEs, “I believe this enables us to reach out to other researchers and other private institutions.”
To which, Sec Dela Peña re-affirms with his statement that the S4CP brought game changing dynamics to the Philippine innovation ecosystem by encouraging partnerships between governments, academe and industry forged deeper connections that brings science and technology into the whole structure of our institutions. (AAL/EAD-PIA6 Negros Occidental)