MANILA -- The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) is continuously exerting efforts to boost the country's human resource and research and development (R&D) capabilities.
In an interview with the Philippine News Agency (PNA), DOST Secretary Fortunato Dela Pena said providing scholarships has always been among the DOST's priorities.
"We were able to support 36,772 DOST scholars in 2018," he said during the interview last December 21. The agency provides scholarships to Filipino students in its bid to develop the country’s human resource.
To expand the country's pool of R&D workers as well as the R&D capabilities of institutions, the DOST has been working closely with the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), he added. 
"We invested heavily in human resource development, especially in having more of our researchers and forecasters earn their Master of Science (MS) and PhD," dela Pena said. 
Dela la Pena has been encouraging Filipino students to pursue doctorate in Science courses, saying that while there has been an increasing number of students taking up MS courses, "the number of PhDs is quite small". 
He has been telling students to take advantage of the agency's scholarship grants. 
DOST also provides financial assistance to students to motivate them to do scientific research. Institutions, on the other hand, are being provided with research grants.  
Aside from providing institutions with research grants, the DOST also encourages them to come up with researches that would cater to specific needs in their areas. 
Institutions with approved proposals in line with the DOST's priority areas are being provided with assistance to improve their existing R&D facilities. 
DOST’s priority areas for R&D are agriculture, fishery, and forestry; semiconductor and electronics; agri-processing; integrated circuit design; renewable energy; creative industries; information and communications technology and artificial intelligence; industrial waste treatment; food and nutrition; infrastructure and logistics; manufacturing; and environment and climate change. 
In 2018, for instance, DOST identified six higher education institutions (HEIs) that would build their own niche centers. 
These Niche Centers for R&D (NICER) were provided with grants based on HEIs’ requests or needs and the DOST’s capacity to fund these. 
The DOST, meanwhile, has been implementing several programs to help boost the Filipinos and institutions' R&D capabilities. 
Among these programs is the Small Enterprises Technology Upgrading Program (SETUP). It is the agency's nationwide program that aims to encourage and assist micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in adopting technological innovations to improve their products and operations. 
Through SETUP, the DOST helps improve the MSMEs' productivity and competitiveness by providing them a loan that is payable in three years. 
Dela Pena also noted that among the DOST's major accomplishments last year was the execution of licensing agreements between DOST institutes and enterprises, allowing these companies to use DOST-developed technologies. 
"In 2018, we executed 80 licensing agreements wherein the companies pay an amount to get the technology, and also commit to pay royalties for a certain period, usually for 10 years," he said. (PNA)