As the government is now easing the quarantine level in the country to enable more businesses to restart and for more people to return to work in order to allow economic activity amid the new coronavirus disease pandemic, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) is already laying the groundwork for enterprises to succeed beyond Covid-19 through research and development (R&D).
Besides R&D, the DOST, through the “Cradle Challenge 2020,” will provide P5 million in grant to each viable enterprise “to enable them to create and execute innovative ideas under the new normal”
Under Cradle, short for “Collaborative research and development to leverage the economy,” the research universities or research and development institutes (RDIs) will help solve the problems posed by the companies, Science Undersecretary Rowena Cristina Guevara said.
“We are calling researchers from the academe and RDIs, and Filipino private companies to collaborate and formulate scientific and technological solutions that will shape the new normal for businesses,” Guevara said during the virtual news conference with the theme “R&D in the time of Covid-19 and Beyond.”
Four thematic areas
Guevara, the DOST Undersecretary for Research and Development, explained that Cradle has four thematic areas that will respond to the needs of the new normal.
They are Sustainable Supply and Logistics; Products of the New Normal; Reinventing the Workplace; and Services that Transcend Boundaries.
The Sustainable Supply and Logistics theme will handle projects on redesigning the movement of supply, and creating resilient value chain and logistics networks.
“How will they make raw materials resilient and will not lose their value? Is there a new delivery channel? Is there localized sources for the products?” she asked mostly in Filipino.
Projects under Products of the New Normal will reevaluate the wants, needs and the changes in consumer-product interaction, reformulate and develop more resilient products to the post-Covid norms.
Guevara said: “They might need to reinvent the product to minimize health risks and exposure and have the product to be remotely distributed.”
In Reinventing the Workplace, companies should develop solutions, practices and tools that will aid companies cope with the needed changes in the workplace.
“How will you make a workplace safe? How will you provide smart tools for remote work?” she asked.
Projects on Services that Transcend Boundaries involve engineering tools and innovative solutions that can protect the company and their client from health hazards, and enable them to effective delivery of their services.
Eight priority sectors
Cradle will support eight priority sectors that are linked to the thematic areas.
These are: pharmaceuticals and drug development; natural products; medical devices; information and communications technology, electronics and communication; sectors promoting import-substituting of products, metals and minerals; innovative food industries; animal health and livestock; and plants and crops.
Every sector will have two to three projects that will be provided with grants, and they are linked to the thematic areas.
Guevara explained: “For example, in natural products, what will be the new workplace or the new value chain?”
How Cradle works
The higher educational institute (HEI) or RDI will have to partner with a Filipino private company.
The private company should provide at least 20 percent counterpart funding.
“More important,” Guevara said, is the company’s “commitment to adopt the technology after the research is finished.”
She explained that the researchers and the private company should form a partnership team to formulate and develop their ideas and project concepts.
They have to write a proposal to the DOST and a draft business plan on how the project concept will benefit the company.
They have to submit the proposal and the following documents—joint endorsement letter; technology adoption certificate; proof of business registration; and business permits for the past three years—to the DOST e-submission platform at http://dpmis.dost.gov.ph.
For more inquiries they may send an e-mail to [email protected]
The companies may submit their proposals from June 1 to 30.
In the project timeline, the DOST will evaluate the proposals from July to August; the project proponents will start the program implementation on September 1; develop a prototype by December 31; produce a viable product by March 31, 2021; and pilot testing on June 20, 2021.
DOST projects in answer to Covid-19
It should be noted that as early as mid-February, the DOST has already lined up projects and researches to answer the country’s concerns against the new coronavirus disease.
Science Secretary Fortunato de la Peña told the virtual news conference that the projects were started to be implemented in March and are currently being used.
The Science Chief noted that the DOST initiative merited its agency, the Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (PCHRD), to be mentioned in a report by the World Health Organization as among the “models in the world in implementing national research systems.”
“I am very proud about that publication released by WHO. I congratulate the PCHRD and its partners, the National Research System, the Department of Health (DOH) and the National Institutes of Health in the University of the Philippines,” de la Peña said.
Among the researches and projects the DOST implemented were: the Covid-19 test kit developed by scientist Dr. Raul Destura from his original dengue kit.
“We were among the first countries in the world that developed a test kit for Covid-19,” de la Peña proudly said.
Another project is the specimen collection booth that was requested by the DOH for the use of the frontliners; ventilators, which were fabricated even before Covid-19 pandemic came because of lack of ventilators in small public hospitals.
Also included are the Respirator Venturi Valves to connect the oxygen mask and respirator, to enable two patients use one respirator; the Go Clean disinfecting cubicle which treat health workers who leave Covid wards.
The telemedeicine device, RX Box, aids the frontliners so they do not need to go near patients often because it could check their vital signs—such as the blood pressure, temperature, electrocardiogram, oxygen saturation and pulse rate. The data are transmitted to the nurses’ station so they do not have to go to the patients.
There were also breakthroughs on the frontliners’ personal protective equipment. The REwear, a reusable, washable and rewearable face mask, is made of water repellant fabric based on the by R&D of the Philippine Textile Research Institute.
There is the mass production of face shields using injection mold technology made by Metals Industry Research and Development Center; and the ready to eat food developed by DOST’s Industrial Development Technology Institute.
De la Peña and Guevara emphasized the sustainability of the research projects implemented by the DOST.
De la Peña said that as time passes and a new need arises, the companies convert their products to new ones.
“That is the spirit of innovation,” he said.
Guevara cited that the technologies developed by the researches are “deep and solid.”
She gave as example the Covid-19 test kit developed by Destura which was originally for dengue.
“But since the technology is very solid, he [Destura] was able to convert it. In 21 days we already have a [Covid-19] test kit. That is the essence of sustainability, wherein the technology platform could be used in another application,” Guevara told the virtual presser in mixed English and Filipino.