By Alithea De Jesus
Entrepreneurs around the world faced the most unrivaled challenges during the coronavirus pandemic since it was first discovered in China in 2020. It has caused anxiety as health and safety concerns coupled with economic and income uncertainties weighed down on everyone setting back a broad spectrum of businesses.
In the Philippines, more than 50 percent of the MSMEs have closed down and other industries that contribute to the country’s GDP were also badly affected which led to a dreadful forecast that about 5-10 million jobs are to be lost by end of 2020. But thanks to the assistance of other countries in providing vaccines that helped the Philippines to fast-track vaccinations of many essential workers and prevent the spread of the virus and paved the way to reopen the economy and borders for MSMEs to be back in business.
Mindful of the challenges of the MSMEs, the government will continue creating an environment for innovation and prioritizing programs to create more entrepreneurial activities amid the decline of the country’s startup ecosystem ranking.
In a webinar hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Russell Pili, chief technology transfer officer of the Department of Science and Technology Philippine Council for Industry, Energy, and Emerging Technology Research and Development (PCIEERD), said the country has issued new and amended policies to facilitate startup creation, formulation and growth.
She particularly cited the Technology Transfer Act, Innovation Startup Act, Philippine Innovation Act, Philippine Creative Industries Development Act, Revised Corporation Code, Ease of Doing Business Act, the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE) Act, and Foreign Investments Act.
Pili said the Technology Transfer Act provided mechanisms for commercializing publicly-funded research, the Innovation Startup Act provided programs and incentives for startups, while Philippine Innovation Act removes obstacles to innovation by suppressing bureaucratic hurdles.
As it expands its network of universities, Pili said the PCIEERD has supported or established 32 university Knowledge and Technology Transfer Offices (KTTO) and technology business incubation (TBI) out of 16 regions.
TBI is a facility where start-ups are hosted and business development services are provided. For would-be technology entrepreneurs and start-ups, DOST-funded TBIs offer office space as well as technical services and facilities to get their business established.
“We are training the next set of university TBIs for the next two years and hopefully in 2024, will be able to launch 27 new TBIs,” she said.
Pili said startups incubated totaled 1,364 while total private investments for them reached P1.78 billion.
She said universities can serve as platforms for innovation exchange and ideal launchpads for startups and spin offs.
“It will be easier to attract companies and talent to universities; there are opportunities and programs that they can avail of between the university itself,” she added.
In the Global Startup Ecosystem Index, the Philippines ranked 57th in 2022, which is five ranks lower in 2021.
Pili said the holding of elections last year probably affected the country’s performance.
However, the Philippines has retained five cities –Manila, Cebu, Cagayan de Oro, Naga and Davao– in the top 1,000 active global ecosystems”, she said.
“Despite the drop in rankings in 2022, the Philippines still remains one of the best startup ecosystems in the Southeast. We still have the talent and the ideas but we need stronger collaboration,” Pili said.
“Even with us (the) government, we work together with the DTI (Department of Trade and Industry) and the DICT (Department of Information and Communications Technology) but we still need to produce stronger complementary programs so that we can produce more
impact. But what we need actually is a cohesive public-private ecosystem that fosters growth and sustainability so that our startups can survive and not just create a startup and then forget all about it,” she added.