BSU-ATBI, tasked with microenterprise development in CAR, enters acceleration phase

The Benguet State University’s Agri-Aqua Technology Business Incubator (BSU-ATBI), in charge of developing microenterprises in the Cordillera region, is now ready to fast-track in upgrading its services for aspiring technopreneurs in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR).

The acceleration phase will include the development of new markets, study of the socio-economic impact of ATBI to its target clients, enhancement of the skills of the incubatees, and support to the “Agri-Aqua Business Incubation Network of the Philippines, Inc.” or “AABINPhil, Inc.,” the registered corporation of the ATBI program. This phase goes beyond the enhancement of the ATBIs and human resources development.

BSU-ATBI intends to enhance existing business plans by redefining milestones, conduct market matching and business pitching activities, conduct training on upgrading curriculum, supervise the preparation of proposals for funding and pitching to financiers, and provide assistance in total innovation solutions involving STI (science, technology, and innovation) services. It also plans to support the following activities: product, process, and design improvement; business support networking; national market expansion; and national and international networking.

The said institution will formally start its acceleration phase in January 2021 after securing the approval of its proposal in the last quarter of 2020. The first phase of the program wrapped up after its three-year implementation starting in October 2017.

The ATBI program is initiated by the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST-PCAARRD) as part of its support to agri-based startups and spinoffs in the country. Currently, the Council supports 16 ATBIs.

From planning to launching a startup

Through BSU-ATBI, DOST-PCAARRD was able to provide agri-based technopreneurs (and/or aspiring ones) technical assistance, product and business development services, marketing assistance, administrative services, linkage and partnership with technical experts and industry specialists, and infrastructure-based services to build their startups and adopt different technologies in crop production and processing, and food processing.

Some of the incubatees enrolled in BSU-ATBI’s incubation program were able to establish their own startup companies. One of these is Baltazar K. Tudayan Jr., who established Yore Sky Garden, adopted the integrated strawberry and high-value vegetable production technology by combining multiple-cropping systems, three-tier vertical farming, drip irrigation/fertigation system, application of soil probiotics, and use of biological control agents (Diadegma sp. and Neoseiulus sp.).Another incubatee who has successfully launched his startup is Belmor C. Calayon, who established Domo Greensmart Garden. In his startup, he adopted the integrated strawberry and high-value vegetable production technology by combining multiple-cropping system, elevated farming using vinyl-type beds, subsurface irrigation system, use of stingless bee pollinators, and use of biological control agent, Neoseiulus sp.

BSU-ATBI’s efforts in fostering technopreneurship in CAR

Established in 2010, the BSU-ATBI was developed as part of the sustainability plan of the Council’s national program on “Enhancing the Demand for AFNR Graduates through Science and Technology.” It aimed to create the conditions for socio-economic growth and opportunity for smallholder farmers, food processors, and vendors by promoting innovation, entrepreneurship, and productivity. Its lone goal was to help increase the income and improve standard of living of its target clients.

With BSU laying the foundation of technopreneurship in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), DOST-PCAARRD strengthened its efforts by implementing the project, “DOST-PCAARRD-BSU Agriculture and Food Technology Business Incubator” under the “DOST-PCAARRD ATBI Program” in 2017. BSU-ATBI’s project leader, Dr. Ruth C. Diego, likewise served as program leader.

The BSU-ATBI framework is anchored in microenterprise development and student entrepreneurship advocacy. Likewise, it has three interrelated components – farming, food processing, and marketing.

In the three-year project implementation, it has accomplished the following:

·         Strengthened ATBI and Food Innovation Center in La Trinidad, Benguet;

·         Developed ATBI operations manual and business manual;

·         Developed two ATBI curricula;

·         Developed three training modules and six technopreneurship manuals;

·         Mentored 18 incubatees;

·         Accepted 30 pre-incubatees;

·         Trained 457 clients in crop production, food processing, and entrepreneurship;

·         Conducted a national conference and four national trainings; and

·         Established the Agri-Aqua Business Incubation Network of the Philippines, Inc. (AABINPhil, Inc.)

Assisting communities during the COVID-19 pandemic

As part of BSU-ATBI’s efforts to assist nearby communities during the COVID-19 pandemic, fruits and vegetables were distributed to more or less 3,000 households in the Benguet and La Union.

The team has also provided hospitals, communities, and households with healthier food options such as tomatoes, eggplants, kinchay, lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, potatoes, and strawberries. Under the overall leadership of former BSU President Dr. Feliciano G. Calora, Jr., Dr. Diego led the relief efforts (John Christopher M. Polinar, Kariza M. Geminiano, DOST-PCAARRD S&T Media Services).

DOST supports PH economic recovery program

Taking off from the “Bayanihan to Heal as One” initiative of the government, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) has put into maximum overdrive several projects to support the NEDA-led Task Group on Recovery dubbed as the Recharge PH program that involves three sub-task groups composed of different government agencies.

Livelihood Enhancement for MSMEs
The Small Enterprise Technology Upgrading Program or SETUP provides technological interventions to micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) with innovation-enabling fund, technology transfer and commercialization assistance, consultancy, technology trainings, and testing and calibration services to empower MSMEs become more competitive.
Accomplishments for the period January to December 2020 were as follows:
• Number of firms/other entities provided with S&T assistance – 12,810
• Number of employments generated – 5,642
• Number of technology interventions provided – 13,113
• Number of projects assisted – 624
• Funds provided – PhP652.381M

Collaborative R&D to Leverage Philippines Economy (CRADLE) Program
The CRADLE Program in CY 2020 had a total of 38 approved/endorsed projects with budget allocation of PhP178M.
This strategy ensures that R&D provides solutions that exactly meets the need of the sectors and industries that include agriculture and fisheries, nutraceuticals, electronics and semiconductors, energy management, food processing, mining, and automation.

Pushing regional growth through S&T
The DOST launched iSTART or the Innovation, Science and Technology for Accelerating Regional Technology-Based Development Programin in August 2020 to support local government units (LGUs) by accelerating regional growth through science, technology, and innovation.
A total of 222 personnel of DOST, NEDA, PGUs/LGUs were already trained on the formulation of settlements development model for new growth areas.
The Community Empowerment through Science and Technology or CEST program is being implemented in the regions to strengthen and empower communities through the 5-entry points: health and nutrition, water and sanitation, livelihood and enterprise development, education and literacy, and disaster risk reduction and management.

Technology Business Incubation (TBI) Program
From January 2019 to December 2020, 22 new TBIs and eight innovation hubs were established, bringing the total to 44 TBIs and 17 innovation hubs.
TBIs funded by the Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development (DOST-PCIEERD) provides technological solutions such as software applications and hardware devices for use in agriculture, education, health, food service industry, market research, environmental monitoring, and e-commerce.
TBIs funded by the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (DOST-PCAARRD) are on farm production; feed production; disease diagnostics, prevention and treatment; animal breeding/breed upgrading; food/meat/milk processing; vacuum packaging/labelling; equipment production; and wood processing.

Startup Research Grant Program
In 2017, DOST-PCIEERD launched the Startup Research Grant to help startups translate their early-stage technologies into market ready products through research and development (R&D) activities and access funds, S&T network, and DOST Technology Business Incubators (TBIs) services.
Fifteen (15) technology-based startups from the different DOST TBIs received a total grant of P64M for prototype improvement, field and validation tests, product market fit studies, certification procedures, provision of experts beyond the startup team and acquiring new customers. The 15 startups created 142 jobs, raised P45M in capital/investment, acquired 328 clients and generated P85M in revenues.

Innovations for Filipinos Working Distantly from the Philippines (iFWD PH) Program
This provides opportunities for returning OFWs and their families to establish technology-based enterprises in the country through trainings, technology pitching, and technical consultancies for projects like electronics, ICT, horticulture, aquaculture, and more.
A total of 119 Overseas Filipino Workers applied for Phase 1 in August 2020 and 98 were accepted; and to date, 59 OFW already completed it. There were 96 DOST-developed/funded technologies already presented.

Support for industry growth
BIST or Business Innovation through S&T for Industry Program is designed to assist Filipino-owned companies to innovate and develop their competitiveness through acquisition of new and appropriate technologies – hardware or software – for research.
As of August 2020, the has conducted 21 industry consultations and received six proposals.
The Philippines’ first 3D printing facility was established, the Advanced Manufacturing Center (AMCen), to promote research and development in Additive Manufacturing known as three-dimension (3D) printing technology.
DOST also established the Electronics Product Development Center (EPDC), the country’s first electronics design facility for design, prototyping, and testing facilities for printed circuit boards (PCB) and OneLab, a network of laboratories that provides customers, particularly in the regions, with convenient and easy access to laboratory testing and calibration services. To date, OneLab has 54 member laboratories (23 DOST laboratories, 23 local non-DOST laboratories, and eight (8) international member laboratories from Southeast Asia, Middle East and Australia. (S&T Media Service)