NICER DREAM. The "dream design" of the Cavite State University for a Niche Centers in the Regions for R&D (NICER) inside the campus. Department of Science and Technology-Calabarzon Director Emelita Bagsit said high value products -- and not just the usual candies and preserve -- could be derived from macapuno. (Image courtesy of DOST-Calabarzon)

MANILA – While there are existing known macapuno products, the Department of Science and Technology in Calabarzon (DOST 4-A) is seeking more support for macapuno research and development (R&D), saying there's more that can be generated from it.

"We would like to have a focused R&D on macapuno so we could develop and commercialize high value products. This would help us to level up from what we only have now such as candies and preserves," DOST 4-A Director Emelita Bagsit told the Philippine News Agency in an interview Monday afternoon.

She noted that people are familiar with macapuno as a food product, but macapuno actually has many uses that are high in value, such as in nutraceuticals and even in cosmetics.

"Macapuno is very promising since it has a component called galactomannan that has health and industrial use," Bagsit remarked.

The DOST 4-A, she said, wants to improve the recently established macapuno R&D center located in one of the buildings of the Cavite State University (CvSU). The DOST 4-A funded this center, but Bagsit wants to get a Niche Centers in the Regions for R&D (NICER) program funding, as well as funding from the Coco Levy fund, for this center.

Launched in 2017, the DOST's NICER program aims accelerate industrial competitiveness, by enabling higher education institutions (HEIs) nationwide to make a significant improvement in regional research by integrating development needs with existing R&D capabilities and resources.

Chosen HEIs are provided with an institutional grant for R&D capacity building and the improvement of infrastructure. The amount would depend on what the HEIs need, then the DOST would evaluate if the institution could absorb the requested amount.

The DOST 4-A wishes to have a NICER on macapuno, according to Bagsit, adding that the office already had invested and ongoing efforts on this industry.

"The first research on macapuno embryo was done in UPLB (University of the Philippines Los Baños using the Laguna tall variety by renowned researcher, Emerita De Guzman. The (region's) revitalization of macapuno industry project has been ongoing since 2009," Bagsit said.

Should there be a NICER on macapuno, it would mainly focus on R&D on agricultural production; and food and non-food products processing, including innovative nutraceutical products, Bagsit said.

Current NICERs

Currently, Calabarzon has three NICERs located in the Laguna State Polytechnic University; De La Salle University - Laguna; and UPLB. The three centers had a total of PHP132,641,085 funding from the DOST NICER program.

"DOST-Calabarzon is also providing coaching and mentoring. We also mediate in the early phases of research, in conceptualization. Our own personnel are very much involved especially in the preparation of proposals. We are here to assist and guide the applicants in the very best way we can," Bagsit said.

She said there is no limitation as to how many NICERs a region could have, as long as the region could work on the DOST's priority research areas.

The three NICERs in Calabarzon are focused on effectively rehabilitating and managing the lake environments in the region for improved ecosystem services; vector-borne diseases; and cave biodiversity assessment and conservation, respectively. (PNA)