On November 15, 2019, the University of Santo Tomas and the Department of Science and Technology launched the DOST – TOMASInno Center, a technology business incubator (TBI), making UST join the list of thirty-three institutions housing TBIs. The new center was soft-launched in the Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, O.P. Building, where a two-level center will be formally opened in early 2020.

 

From employee to employer

According to Vice-Rector for Research and Innovation Maribel G. Nonato, PhD, the innovation center aims to help UST’s academic programs by not only providing an avenue to utilize research outputs, but more so open in the students the prospect of becoming entrepreneurs. “We want to change the mindset that we earn degrees to be employees.

We want them to realize that with the innovations and commercialization of their products or technologies, they can also become employers.” The center likewise serves as an answer to the need for not just research publications and dissemination, but more so utilization. In his message of support during the event, Department of Science and Technology – Philippine Council for Industry, Energy, and Emerging Technology Research and Development (DOST-PCIEERD) Deputy Executive Director Raul Sabularse expressed his hope that with UST now joining the ranks of 33 TBIs, the establishment of more startup ecosystems will be intensified.

“A TBI is both a venue and strategy [that provides] engagement [between the academe and industry] in manner that is meaningful and productive.” Sabularse recognized that while the academe’s mandate is to teach and educate and the industry’s main goal is to earn profit, the TBI serves as a venue to bridge this seeming gap and place the two in a discussion united around common interests. “I would like to believe that the best place to do it is in the academe, because you are doing researches.

If industry does not innovate, they will die because new and better products and services will enter the market,” Sabularse said.

Convergence of disciplines

The center also aims to promote the practice of common and shared laboratories, where people from the different disciplines can use the same equipment and bring to the project their own skills and talents. “We don’t want them to exist in silos. We have to accept that our own areas of expertise need to come together in order to make sure that our ideas translate to usable technologies and products that the public will benefit from.” Initially, the Center will focus on the University’s niche areas of health sciences, natural products for health and wellness, biomedical devices, bioengineering, information and communication technology apps, and food technology, capitalizing on the strength of UST in these areas, as demonstrated by faculty researchers’ expertise and recognitions.

An integrative Catholic formation that cuts across specializations

In an interview with the Communications Bureau, the Rector, Very Rev. Fr. Herminio V. Dagohoy, O.P., PhD, said that the business dimension of the TBI will receive the same integrative Catholic education that the University provides within the walls of the academe. “Our Catholic education is integrative. Even with the TBI, our moral compass remains the same [for it] cuts across everything, wherever you are or whatever you are.”

The Rector said that the initiative is in line with the concept of technohubs, which provide a platform “to encourage the students and also our faculty to innovate and help them discover the economic value of their innovations.

This is a center that will help make a research work become a tangible reality.” Going beyond the walls Apart from literally being outside the University’s original Sampaloc campus, the Center, which is located in the Ground and Mezzanine Floors of the new Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati Building, the center’s services will be open to students, faculty researchers, alumni, the industry, and the general public. UST’s DOST – TOMASInno Center will have ideation rooms, 3D printers, as well as work stations for each of the projects that the center will host. As for the fabrication laboratories, the TBI will partner with the Faculty of Engineering.

Leading the team are Engr. Raymond A. Marquez, MBA (TBI Manager) and Assoc. Prof. Michael Francis D. Benjamin, PhD (TBI Assistant Manager). Four agreements inked The event likewise saw the ceremonial signing of four agreements with government and industry partners. Representing the University were Fr. Dagohoy, Nonato, and Marquez. The first agreement signed formalized the UST and DOST-PCIEERD partnership through a memorandum of understanding.

The Innovation Center is made possible through a research grant from the DOST-PCIEERD, which manages the Technology Business Incubation program of the government. The inclusion of UST in the grants received from DOST was made possible through the Higher Education Institution Readiness for Innovation and Technopreneurship (HeIRIT) program, a DOST-PCIEERD project implemented by the University of the Philippines through the National Engineering Center and UP Enterprise. Representing DOST-PCIEERD were Sabularse, Russell Pili (Chief Science Research Specialist), and Engr. Al Beato and Ms. Ann Kristelle Icuspit (Project Leaders).

Three agreements were likewise inked with industry partners, with initiatives ranging from licensing, to education, and research initiatives. Representatives of the Jollibee Group Foundation, Inc. namely, Ms. Belen Rillo (Vice-President), Ms. Gisela Tiongson (Executive Director), and Ms. Sharleen Alayat (Program Officer), were on hand to sign the agreement with UST, which is one of the two private universities it partnered with for the Learning Express – Farmer Entrepreneurship Program (LEx – FEP). The Lex-FEP is an initiative of JGFI, in partnership with Singapore Polytechnic University.

The project will allow UST students and faculty to have a platform to help farmers uplift their life conditions using Design Thinking and Social Innovation technologies. The two-year commitment included an initial training held in Singapore PolyU earlier this year, with faculty members from the Faculty of Engineering, College of Science, and College of Commerce and Business Administration participating.

A licensing agreement was signed with Santeh Feeds Corporation, represented by Chairman Phillip Ong and Administrative Officer Dhonna Noreiga. Santeh, one of the leading feeds manufacturers in the country, provides UST with its first licensing agreement. Santeh will adopt and market the JAMP Primer, a diagnostic tool used for early detection of the white spot syndrome virus in shrimps.

The primer was developed by marine biologist Mary Beth B. Maningas, PhD (Principal Investigator), while the device was developed by Electrical Engineering faculty members Patrick Ellis Go, PhD and Erica Ocampo. Finally, D&L Industries, represented by Managing Director Lester Lao, Technical Director Ms. Sonia Salvador, Market Development Manager Glenn Apostol, and Consultant David Peñaloza, Jr., entered an agreement with UST to “develop academic and research cooperation on the basis of equality and reciprocity and to promote relations and mutual understanding between both parties.”

According to the DOST-PCIEERD website, TBI is a process of nurturing business start-ups in techno-enterprise and is an ecosystem where innovation is promoted and supported toward commercialization. As a host of a TBI, UST’s DOST – TOMASInno Center will be a facility where start-ups are hosted and business development services are provided. Among the services provided are technical assistance, intellectual property management and legal counseling services, and analytical laboratory services, among others.