University of Philippines Manila

UP Manila Science and Technology Park: The Pivotal Hub for Philippine Health Tech & Innovation

Text by Charmaine A. Lingdas

The University of the Philippines Manila (UP Manila) Science and Technology Park (STP) is set to become the pivotal hub for health technology and innovation in the Philippines. 

This initiative was announced by former UP Manila Chancellor and National Scientist Carmencita D. Padilla during the sixth annual TeknoLusugan event held at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) in Pasay City on June 27, 2024.

The establishment of the UP Manila STP at New Clark City aims to address the critical challenges and gaps in the knowledge translation cycle. “This initiative will foster greater collaboration among universities, research laboratories, and companies, converting new ideas into innovative technologies for the market,” Dr. Padilla emphasized. 

The park will focus on several key areas, including biotechnology, diagnostics, biomedical devices, therapeutics, and AI in healthcare. “We aim to create a one-stop shop for technology business development, incubation, and collaborative research,” she said.

How The Park was Conceptualized

Dr. Padilla acknowledged the challenges faced by the Philippines and how it influenced the building of the Park. “The COVID-19 pandemic magnified these issues. The researchers responded during the COVID pandemic, they made the devices, the diagnostic kits, but it was difficult to move these technologies forward to the hospitals because there was a missing gap on how we can bring them over to the community.

“Second, the situation in the Philippines, especially the government sector, was very challenging. Matching the government, academe, and industry collaboration having to respond to government rules. There was also a lack of harmonization and standardization and in UP Manila there was no ready sustainable infrastructure to assist the start-ups,” recounted Dr. Padilla. 

According to the International Association of Science Parks (IASP), parks such as these manage the flow of knowledge and technology among universities, R&D institutions, companies, and markets, facilitating the growth of innovation-based companies through incubation and spin-off processes. “We participated in several IASP workshops to ensure that we develop the UP Manila model in a professional and globally competitive manner,” Dr. Padilla added.

Drawing on global examples, Dr. Padilla added “Science and technology parks are increasingly seen as a means to create dynamic clusters that accelerate economic growth and international competitiveness.”

Starting the STP

Thus, they decided three years ago to establish a science and technology park specifically for health. “Fortunately, on October 26, 2023, our concept proposal to establish a Science and Technology Park was approved by the University of the Philippines Board of Regents. We had our first meeting in January 2024. The committee includes all the vice presidents of the UP system, the Chancellor of UP Manila, the UP National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director, and the Vice Chancellor for Planning and Development.”

“We intend to adopt the Quintuple Helix Innovation model recommended by the AISP and other places we have visited. This model brings together all the necessary pillars to ensure the success of the STP. These pillars include the government, which provides the political system, funding, and regulatory bodies; academia, encompassing not only UP Manila but all universities with an interest in scaling up health-related products; civil society; industry; and the environment. For the STP to be successful, all these elements must be in place.”

The STP is inspired by successful models worldwide, such as Singapore’s Biopolis, which significantly boosted the country’s biomedical sciences sector. “One lesson we can learn from Singapore is that a 1% investment of its GDP in R&D led to a 4% increase in GDP,” she remarked, highlighting the STP’s potential economic benefits.

It is also expected that the STP will provide a supportive ecosystem for health technology innovation. “Our vision is to contribute to the Philippine macroeconomy by becoming a prime mover of health technology innovation, translation, industry, and market reduction, and human capital development by the year 2030,” Dr. Padilla declared.#

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