“This rewards the creative achievements and contributions of public service institutions that lead to a more effective and responsive administration,” said Science Secretary Fortunato T. de la Peña on Thursday.
The Science chief was referring to the the United Nations Public Service Award (UNPSA) given to the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) for the Science for Change program [S4CP] in the category of “Enhancing the effectiveness of public institutions to reach the Sustainable Development Goals [SDGs].”
A total of 10 awardees from various countries won the award this year, with three from the same category with the Philippines.
The DOST’s S4CP was chosen from 350 applications from 58 countries. The UNPSA is the most prestigious international award for excellence in public service.
The UN said in the online awarding ceremony: “Your institution’s [DOST’s S4CP] outstanding achievement has demonstrated excellence in serving the public interest and it has made a significant contribution to the improvement of public administration in your country. Indeed, it will serve as an inspiration and encouragement for others working for public service.”
De la Peña lauded the S4CP during the online news conference, saying: “[The] Science for Change Program brought game-changing dynamics to the Philippine innovation ecosystem.”
The S4CP is being implemented by the DOST Office of the Undersecretary for R&D, led by Undersecretary Rowena Cristina Guevara, in cooperation with the DOST Undersecretary for Regional Operations and four DOST councils.
It has four subprograms that Guevara conceptualized—the Niche Centers in the Regions (Nicer) for R&D, Collaborative Research and Development to Leverage Philippine Economy (Cradle), Business Innovation through S&T (BIST) for Industry Program, and the RDLead Program.
Guevara said at the news conference that the S4CP’s framework, through its four subprograms, enabled it to encompass 11 of the 17 UN SDGs which made it win the award.
She said the DOST and S4CP „share“ the award with the 43 Nicers, 86 Cradles, 68 RDLeaders and 4 BISTs, friends in media and all those who contributed to the success of S4CP.
Guevara said: “It feels good to receive recognition and affirmation that Science for Change is Science for the People!”
De la Peña and Guevara said separately during the event that before the program was implemented disparity was deeply felt in R&D funding with the lion’s share going to National Capital Region and nearby provinces.
De la Peña said the lack of opportunities in regions prompted Filipino scientists to take alternative careers, or worse, “bring their genius to other countries.”
Local businesses, mostly MSMEs, invest in foreign technologies to sustain operations and build up competitiveness, he added.
Implementing the S4CP in the past five years «brought game-changing dynamics to the Philippine innovation ecosystem,» de la Peña pointed out.
“By encouraging partnerships between government, academe and industry, we forge deeper connections that bring S&T into the structure of our local companies,” he explained.
Guevara said the Nicers, or R&D centers, in 17 regions in the country, had a total of P2.3 billion grants to higher education institutions.
Funding for Cradle partnerships to solve problems of companies amounted to P396.6 million grants.
Meanwhile, the BIST financial assistance for technology acquisition of local companies reached P43.3 million.
At the same time, the RDLead Program funded 65 RDLeaders with P59.91 million grants in 63 host institutions.
Guevarra noted also that in the Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022, DOST’s targeted to reach 300 researchers per million population in 2022.
On a positive note, this was already breached four years ago with 356 researchers per million population.
De la Peña explained that with the S4CP, the DOST has expanded its public service and enhanced the effectiveness of public institutions nationwide by establishing R&D infrastructures and collaboration, technology acquisition and capacity building, thereby reducing inequality, improving inclusivity, increasing sustainability and having higher productivity in investment in S&T and human resource.
Meanwhile, Guevara announced that the Nicer Program will be devolved to the regions in 2024, and the RD Lead to National Research Council of the Philippines (NRCP).
Impact of the award
De la Peña said the award gives value and recognition, and encourages young people to pursue a career in public service.
It “added to the prestige of working for the DOST,” he said.
De la Peza gave credit to the S4CP staff, saying that the award “was a fitting recognition to the high-caliber performance demonstrated by the the S4CP team” led by Guevara, and adds to the “attractiveness and credibility of S4CP.”
“It shows that the objective of S4CP is consistent with the objectives of UN to render public service to help our people and contribute to SDGs,” he said.
Guevara said the award rewards the creative achievements and contributions of public service institutions that lead to a more effective and responsive public administration in countries worldwide.
“Through an annual competition, the UN Public Service Awards promotes the role, professionalism and visibility of public service,” she said.
Guevara pointed out: “Efficient government service implemented through [S4CP] is intended to accelerate regional development, thereby providing scientific solutions to food security, ensuring good health and well-being of all Filipinos, providing affordable and clean energy, supporting innovation and industrialization, ensuring sustainable cities and communities, sustaining climate change adaptation and mitigation, as well as protecting both the country’s marine and terrestrial resources.”
DOST Undersecretary for Regional Operations Sancho A. Mabborang said the prestigious UN award “corroborated what we’ve already confirmed in the past summits, that the [S4CP] program and its contributions are vital to the country’s development and growth with focus on the countryside.”
Mabborang said S4CP “changed the landscape of R&D in the country,” to which agreed Executive Director Dr. Marietta Sumagaysay of NRCP; Executive Director Dr. Reynaldo V. Ebora of Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development; Deputy Executive Director Ninaliza Escorial of DOST-Philippine Council for Industry, Energy, and Emerging Technology Research and Development; and Dr. Paul Ernest de Leon of Philippine Council for Health Research and Development.
Sumagaysay said the program also “builds confidence to do research.”
For his part, Ebora said the S4CP helped improved research facilities, and that research is now “being done for development” not just for the purpose of doing research.
Escorial said industry partners are encouraged to do R&D. She added that Nicer brings together small institutions and enhances “big-brother and small-brother” types of partnerships.