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IdeaSpace, DOST, DTI, ICTO spearhead Silicon Valley-like hub project

IdeaSpace, DOST, DTI, ICTO spearhead Silicon Valley-like hub project
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IdeaSpace Foundation, along with the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), and Information and Communications Technology Office (ICTO), is calling on public and private industry partners to collaborate in its initiative to build the Philippines’ version of Silicon Valley in cooperation with key academic partners in the country.

Taking cue from the rise of innovation districts around the world—the likes of Silicon Valley in the United States, Block 71 in Singapore, and MaGIC in Malaysia—the Philippine innovation hub aims to foster the advancement of technology and innovation in the country with critical support from the government, the academe, and the private sector.

The collaboration represents the first-ever public-private partnership (PPP) in the country that is focused on growing the local innovation ecosystem with the aim to improve the country’s positioning in the emerging global digital economy.

“When we founded IdeaSpace in 2012, we wanted to find the next big innovative idea that will change the world, and to create a startup ecosystem that embodies the Silicon Valley-mindset of using technology and science to create massive change in the world,” said Earl Martin Valencia, president and co-founder of IdeaSpace.

“Today we realize the dream to create Philippines’ own innovation hub, with our initial collaboration with the government and the academe, where startups and high-potential research can get the support they need in order to grow and thrive,” Valencia added.

The announcement was made on the sidelines of the SlingshotMNL, the official Startup Event of APEC Philippines 2015, where venture capitalists, investors, startups, and industry stakeholders from the Philippines and around the world converged for the two-day event to discuss innovation prospects and chart the future of startup ecosystems around the region.

Government support

DOST Undersecretary for S&T Services Dr. Rowena Cristina L. Guevara said that aside from the five DOST-supported Technology Business Incubators (TBI), the Innovation Hub is an addition to DOST’s continuing program of encouraging innovative and entrepreneurial spirit among academic institutions. Moreover, the DOST envisions the Innovation Hub to become not just a hub for startups but also a strategic focal point for Technology Transfer Offices (TTO) of the DOST and academic institutions to promote products and facilitate transfer of their research and development (R&D) results, and establish connections with the investment community.

“It has always been DOST’s thrust to support technology transfer of R&D output, either through commercialization or deployment for public good. The Innovation Hub, we believe, will be a critical and effective agent in delivering R&D results to the people,” Guevara said.

The DOST committed its support to help ensure the establishment of the Innovation Hubs in Intramuros and UP Diliman. Aside from policy and operational support, the DOST allocated a grant of P35 million for equipment and operation of the two Innovation Hubs over the next two years.

“The DTI strongly supports entrepreneurship and innovation in the Philippines to realize economic growth that is truly inclusive,” said DTI Undersecretary Nora K. Terrado. “Tech startups present a growing spectrum of opportunities for Filipinos to compete in the international stage as they create new solutions to pressing social and environmental problems.  In the process, this will spur economic activities resulting from the value and employment generated.  Innovation hubs are essential elements in building an innovation culture for the present and future generation.”

For its part, the ICTO said it is currently working on the Philippine Startup Roadmap 2020 in collaboration with the Philippine Startup Roundtable. The roadmap, which is scheduled to be launched during the 2015 “Geeks on a Beach” event in Boracay next month, will provide a national roadmap for the development of the Philippine startup ecosystem that we hope will position us to become a leading hub for digital startups.

Innovation hubs near universities

IdeaSpace, DOST, DTI, and ICTO laid out the groundwork for establishing innovation hubs in strategic locations including in Intramuros in Manila, which is within the vicinity of the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (PLM), Colegio de San Juan de Letran (CSL), Lyceum of the Philippines, and Mapua Institute of Technology, and the entire University belt, as well as in Diliman, Quezon City where the University of the Philippines and Ateneo de Manila University are situated.

Valencia said it is critical to locate the innovation hubs near key academic institutions to imbibe the spirit of innovative and entrepreneurial thinking among students, tap into a wellspring of engineering and technology talent from these universities, as well as address the growing interest of students in founding their own startups—just how the likes of Stanford University fostered the same environment for notable startups in Silicon Valley.

“We can’t do it alone, so we’re calling on more partners in the industry, the government, and the academe that believe in the Filipino innovator’s potential to help us push this initiative forward,” he added.

Growing the digital economy

The creation of the innovation hub will be a critical component in the drive to boost the Philippines’ ranking in the Digital Evolution Index (DEI), which ranks countries in terms of their readiness for the quickly expanding digital economy.

The Philippines is one of the so-called “break-out” nations in the recent global DEI study conducted by the US-based Fletcher School at Tufts University, using data from 2008 to 2013. The country stands alongside China, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam as one of the “rapidly advancing countries” in the global digital topography.

IdeaSpace, along with the PLDT Group, had earlier called on private and public industry players to help in pushing the country’s DEI rankings through key strategic digital initiatives and key infrastructure investments that will help more Filipinos participate in the growing digital economy.

To date, IdeaSpace has invested in 38 local startups as part of its P500 million five-year commitment toward growing the local startup ecosystem. Of the previous IdeaSpace startups, seven have received follow-on funding from IdeaSpace and other investors.

A non-profit foundation, IdeaSpace is supported by the following companies: First Pacific, First Pacific Leadership Academy, Metro Pacific Investments Corporation (MPIC), Metro Pacific Tollways Corporation (MPTC), MPIC hospital group, PLDT, Meralco, Smart Communications, Digitel Mobile Philippines Inc. (DMPI) and its mobile brand Sun Cellular, SPI Global, ePLDT, Indofood, Philex Mining, Maynilad, MediaQuest, and TV5.

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