The Department of Science and Technology (DOST), through its Science for Change Program (S4CP), introduced to the public 10 new research and development (R&D) centers in the regions through a virtual presser held on 08 October 2021. 

Also known as “Niche Centers in the Regions for R&D” or NICER, these R&D centers will focus on sectors related to Health and Industry, Energy, and Emerging Technology to allow the country’s academic and R&D institutions to upgrade their research facilities, develop policies, transfer technologies, and ramp up regional initiatives and efforts towards a competitive innovation ecosystem. 

“Through these R&D centers, the DOST cultivates the innovation landscape in various sectors to ensure no one is left behind in R&D progress despite the setbacks brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr. Rowena Cristina L. Guevara, DOST Undersecretary for Research and Development. 

Usec. Guevara shared that the Science for Change Program wants to accelerate innovation in the country and keep up with the global developments in science and technology.

“NICER, as one of the components of S4CP, has the goal to address the disparity in access to R&D funding among the regions and direct investments in S&T Human Resources Development and R&D through government, industry, academe collaboration,” said Usec. Guevara. 

Usec. Guevara also shared that DOST is envisioning NICERs to become national R&D centers that would pro-actively innovate for national industry, participate in policy-making, nurture the landscape of government, academe, industry collaboration, and empower the regions through science, technology, and innovation. 

R&D centers for the environment 

Among the NICERs showcased is the R&D Center for Advanced Batteries housed at the Technological Institute of the Philippines that aims to develop advanced batteries for renewable energy and electric vehicle applications. The Center will generate revenues through licensing its closest-to-market innovations for lead-acid batteries (LABs). With a 25% extension in their cycle life, LABs will be more cost-effective RE storage than lithium-ion batteries, even if the latter’s cost would decrease by 8% annually up to 2040.

Another R&D hub is the Center for Environmental Technologies and Compliance of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines that will provide innovations in environmental technology to help local industries comply with established environmental standards. It also aims to promote environmental compliance of micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in Metro Manila and realize the standard model for clean industrial cities in the region.

Meanwhile, in response to the disaster and risk reduction, there is the Coastal Engineering R&D Center of the Don Mariano Marcos State University that will provide an effective strategy for coastal protection and climate change mitigation to reduce agricultural losses due to coastal disasters with an estimate cost of around one billion pesos annually. 

The Smart Water Infrastructure and Management (SWIM) R&D Center located at the Isabela State University eyes to provide innovations in water management and promote disaster-resilient infrastructures. The center will target an increase in water availability for domestic water supply by up to 30%, increase in the population with access to safe water by up to 25%, and increase in adoption of water conservation technologies by up to 20% of households’ population.

On the other hand, the Center for Lakes Sustainable Development project located at the Laguna State Polytechnic University will develop solutions and strategies for the effective management and sustainability of lakes envisioned to lead to the transformation of vulnerable communities to disaster-resilient communities, capable of sustaining adaptation to climate change.

Also presented during the virtual presser is the Center for Sustainable Polymers located at the Mindanao State University– Iligan Institute of Technology seen to have the potential to generate value-added products such as polymer-infused concrete and foams from coconut processing by-products, and nutraceutical, and biomedical products from fish processing by-products. 

R&D centers to strengthen health care initiatives and food security

Then there is the Center for Vector of Diseases of Public Health located at the De La Salle University- Laguna Campus that will spearhead the study of insecticide resistance of mosquitoes, formulation of biomosquitocide against mosquito larvae, and use of natural predators to control the mosquito population.

Meanwhile, the Integrated Protein Research and Development Center (IPRDC) is a facility for product-centric contribution to the production of proteins used by the biomedical, agricultural, and food industries.

Moreover, the Biomaterials for Diagnostics and Therapeutics Research and Development Center located at the Angeles University Foundation will be a key player in the development of local health technologies that address priority diseases. It will focus on the development and integration of biomaterials and nanomaterials for health applications that can be used in diagnostic and therapeutic health applications. 

There is also the Integrated Protein Research and Development Center (IPRDC): A Biotechnology Facility for Health at Ateneo de Manila University. It aims to optimize its processes and protocols to cut the cost barriers in producing local reagents and become a viable, cost-effective alternative, and complementary to imported reagents. More so, the Center will develop the necessary techniques and optimum processes to scale up the protein production to larger volumes at a lower cost.

Lastly, the NeuRoTech, through the De La Salle University–IBEHT NICER, will serve as the premier venue for neurorobotic research and development in the Philippines that will enable, deliver, and provide innovative products, services, and solutions geared at bringing health care and other related fields to the next level.

“By optimizing these science and technology-related initiatives, we envision a more efficient, supported, and developed innovation landscape for the Philippines that would cater to the needs of Filipinos nationwide. These are one of our major strategies in our desire to have science and technology as a tool for inclusive and sustainable development,” said DOST Secretary Fortunato T. de la Peña.

For his part, DOST Undersecretary for Regional Operations Sancho A. Mabborang described the establishment of the NICERs as the agency’s major undertaking “which aims to expand the R&D network and level up the R&D capability of the higher education institutions and state universities and colleges in the regions to fuel innovation and invigorate the industry sectors that the center will support.”(By Allan Mauro V. Marfal, DOST-STII)

In her message during the virtual presser, Usec. Guevara said that through these regional R&D centers, the DOST aims to   cultivate the innovation landscape in various sectors to ensure no one is left behind in R&D progress despite the setbacks brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

DOST Secretary Fortunato T. de la Peña said that they are envisioning a more efficient, supported, and developed innovation landscape for the Philippines that would cater to the needs of Filipinos nationwide.