‘Distrust’ between industry and academe surfaces at AghamBayan STI festival

In Photo: Roberto C. Amores of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, with Atty. Mike T. Toledo of the MVP Group of Companies during the industry panel discussion at AghamBayan.

Surprising or not, there is a certain level of “distrust” driving a wedge between the academe and the industry.

The trust issue surfaced at the recent “AghamBayan” (Science for the People) festival at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) in Pasay City.

Science Secretary Fortunato T. de la Peña and Science Undersecretary Dr. Rowena Cristina L. Guevara at AghamBayan in a light moment. Edd K. Usman

It’s a two-way street, though. Certainly, trust is a major thing in all kinds of partnership.

The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and the University of the Philippines (UP) organized the event dubbed “Aghambayan: A DOST-UP Science, Technology and Innovation [STI] Festival” on June 20. It celebrated for the first time the two government agencies’ fruitful collaboration as they continue to team up on research and development (R&D) projects.

DOST Undersecretary for R&D Dr. Rowena Cristina L. Guevara cited the strong partnership.

“The DOST directs, leads and coordinates the country’s scientists, research and technological efforts, and collaborates with our scientists, researchers and engineers to provide solutions to issues and matters of national concern. Our biggest partner is the University of the Philippines.

“From 2014 to 2016, the DOST funded 460 projects of [UP] for R&D. It involved 3,750 research personnel and we were averaging about P2 billion of funding per year to the university,” Guevara, a former DOST scholar, revealed at AghamBayan.

In the first panel discussion involving the industry sector, the speakers recognized the tripartite collaboration involving government, academe and industry. But it’s not all roses.

Danny Lachica, president of Semiconductor and Electronics Industries in the Philippines Inc.; Roberto C. Amores, committee chairman of SME Development of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI); and lawyer Michael Toledo of the MVP Group of Companies, acknowledged the collaboration.

At the same time, they raised concerns in the commercialization of R&D products. One is the trust issue on the part of the private sector and academe.

“I think one of the issues… especially with industry and academe, studies have shown that there is a certain degree of distrust…that needs to be somehow resolved,” Toledo said.

Apparently, he was referring to a study conducted by the United States Agency for International Development in its Science, Technology, Research and Innovation for Development (Stride) Program.

Toledo responded to a UP consultant who suggested developing wider ties among the three parties through a memorandum of agreement (MOA).

“The academe, perhaps members of the faculty, are not exactly keen in sharing some of their studies and thoughts because of fear that perhaps somehow there will be some kind of intellectual-property theft,” he said.

He acknowledged that industry needed to make sure that theft would not happen. He agreed on the suggestion for a MOA; but not so fast, though.

“There was mistrust between the government and the private sector. Private health groups do not exactly trust government hospitals and government policies. And, I think, the same holds true when it comes with the DOST, academe and the industry,” Toledo said.

Dr. Carlos Primo David, formerly with UP, the DOST and currently in the private sector, said, “The statement was inaccurate, isolated instances, at most. Maybe what was meant was a disconnect in what the industry needs and what academe is doing for its applied research.”

David, who attended the AghamBayan, suggested a continuous dialogue: the DOST and Department of Trade and Industry the (DTI) can start new connections and continue to strengthen the connections established in the past.

Undersecretary Adoracion M. Navarro for Regional Development of National Economic and Development Authority (Neda), said she read about that distrust but has no idea about its extent.

“Anyway, the government is helping through tripartite [academe, industry, government] collaborations on projects involving innovation,” Navarro said in an e-mail. “I don’t think there is distrust between government and industry.”

Meanwhile, economist Cielito F. Habito, in one of his newspaper columns in January, commented on the issue.

“Stride noted that mutual distrust and disregard between universities and industry get in the way of effective collaboration between them. Most universities consider assisting companies to be outside of, or even in conflict with their core missions,” he said.

“For their part, businesses cite difficulty in convincing universities of their shared interests, resent suspicions harbored in academe, and often doubt that universities can deliver commercially relevant research in a timely way. Academics are indeed often notorious for taking their sweet time in research.”

That’s exactly what Amores hammered on, the speed on bringing the application of R&D products to the market.

He said the DOST’s people are efficient and competent but the agency needs more personnel.

“The government has no people. We don’t question the competence of the government, specially the DOST. The competence in understanding technology and innovation is already on a par with Asean [member-countries]; the problem is [speed of] implementation,” the PCCI official said.

Science Secretary Fortunato T. de la Peña said in a text message that if the duration of R&D is being referred to, it really depends on the availability of funds for research.

Additional people can be taken if a research project has more funds, he added.

“If the private sector will fund a research, that can be sped up. If government funds will be used, of course, there will be many who will compete for the available budget,” de la Peña said.

Amores noted that the DOST has already developed many technological innovations. “However, the bottom line here is what is our performance vis-à-vis our Asean neighbors?”

While a lot of Philippine-produced technology is already on a par with Asean countries, Thailand and Vietnam, in particular, “our technology application and commercialization are the [issues] we have to look into with serious concern,” he pointed out.

He expressed hope academe could listen to what the industry is sharing “for us to better understand what best we can do in terms of the application of technology…. Research should be market-driven.”

He added: “Technology is there, but the implementation on a timely basis is the challenge.”

He cited the packaging of dried mango, which takes 90 days if ordered from the Philippines. But the  packaging of okra in Thailand took only 30 days.

He said the government would have to solve the problem on productivity first.

Lachica shared some of his thoughts on emerging technologies, such as Internet of Things applications, smart agriculture and portable medical applications that could serve the needs of the local market.

“With that premise, I can look up on the list of projects [of the DOST and UP]. There were four or five—Diwata microsatellites, the LiDAR-DREAM [Light Detection and Ranging Data for Disaster Risk and Exposure Assessment for Mitigation Program], the Robust Early Warning System for Landslides, Sarai [Smarter Approaches to Reinvigorate Agriculture as an Industry], as well as the Rx Box Telemedicine devices,” he said.

“Now, these were the obvious. As we explore these applications, I am sure we can come up with electronic devices that can be used by the particular projects,” he added.

The industry, he said, needs to support the government and UP.

“Let’s walk our talk,” Amores said. AghamBayan showcased the top 40 projects out of the DOST and UP’s collaboration. Around 50 percent of DOST’s research grants went to UP, said de la Peña. It provided a platform for the major players in the industry, the executives in the government and academe to explore ideas and determine possible collaborative opportunities in the future.

Speaking of collaboration, the DOST and DTI agreed earlier to jointly push the competitiveness of the products and services of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in the world market.

They committed to work together through a memorandum of agreement by sharing their materials, knowledge and facilities to help the MSMEs in the country.

De la Peña and Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez signed the MOA to implement their agencies’ initiatives for MSMEs.

The DOST head said their collaboration is quite timely as the two agencies work to prioritize the improvement of MSMEs’ capabilities.

“The DOST and DTI have a common goal, which is to bring development to every part of the country…. We assure [the public] that we would give our best efforts to maximize the use of each other’s resources and facilities to support the productivity of our local MSMEs and, eventually, allow them to give job opportunities to the local residents,” Lopez said.


Usman is a freelance journalist who is into science, information technology and current events, among others. He won the “Best Science Feature Story” in the first University of the Philippines Science Journalism Award 2018 on February 17, and the “Kabalikat Award” for Print Media from the Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development on June 27, 2014.

Image credits: Henry de Leon/S&T Media Service, Edd K. Usman


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