Information gap a big challenge for MSME access to inclusive innovation projects

The regional head of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in Region 11 has identified “information gap” as the biggest challenge facing inclusive innovation initiatives in the Philippines, adding that this can be addressed by engaging the community and especially micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in innovation projects.

In a panel discussion at the recent Inclusive Innovation Conference, Director Belenda Ambi of DTI Region 11 said they found that MSMEs lack access to information on the resources available to help them become more innovative and competitive.

Ambi said that while passing resolutions on innovation thrusts is relatively easy, it is hard to operationalize programs especially in terms of sustainability and inclusivity.

She said that sustainability means innovation efforts should be “a constant journey” instead of just holding a few meetings adding that “it should be institutionalized somehow.”

Ambi said inclusivity calls for engaging the community, particularly the MSMEs, as small enterprises “are really in need of support in innovation” and “should also be involved.”

The trade official also underlined the need to implement projects that are down-to-earth, realistic, doable, and market driven, and that encompass the whole community “because we cannot support our big industries without preparing our communities.”

As an example, she said the farming communities have to be supported “because otherwise the industries will be affected also with their processes and manufacturing initiatives.”

She said they discovered that if MSMEs, for instance, require support from the academe or in research work, “apparently they don’t know where to get the support.”

And when the existing facilities in Davao Region were reviewed, Ambi said “we realized that we really have a lot of opportunities for supporting them, but apparently this information was not able to filter down to them.”

She said the challenge is how to make the information available and how to enable MSMEs to access “these many resources we have in the academe, in government and, of course, the big players.”

Ambi issued a call for ongoing talks not just within the small, well-known groups but also outside of them. “We need constant dialogues, we need to engage the experts because if we’re just limited to our small circle or our small community then I think the journey will be a difficult one.”

She said the focus should not just be on the “the few that we have identified but [should] involve those even from outside of the regional ecosystem because we know that we don’t have the monopoly on knowledge.”

Ambi also welcomed the recent passage of the Philippine Innovation Act and the Innovative Startup Act as these can help support the mainstreaming and institutionalizing of innovation initiatives including the regional inclusive innovation centers.

The Philippine Innovation Act, signed by President Rodrigo Duterte on April 17, 2019, aims to remove obstacles to innovation by suppressing bureaucratic hurdles and encourage entrepreneurial attitude to stimulate growth ambitions in business, especially of MSMEs.

The Innovative Startup Act, signed last April 26 by the President, creates a Philippine startup development program that provides benefits and incentives for startups and startup enablers.

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