How well can the Philippines innovate – develop and implement new ideas and better solutions? Filipinos are an innovative people, they’re imaginative and tech-savvy – they understand better than most the meaning of the expression: “Necessity is the mother of invention”. So you’d think as a nation they’d do well.
Disappointingly, however, they don’t excel at this as a nation according to the 2017 Global Innovation Index, the most universally used measure for gauging a country’s level of innovation. And this should be cause for concern.
Certainly, the government is placing a great deal of emphasis on enhancing innovation skills and promoting innovation right across the Philippines – it’s seen as central to achieving sustained economic development and inclusive growth which lies at the heart of the administration’s effort to defeat poverty and open up the economy in all parts of the archipelago.
Innovation is integral to the forward-looking Ambisyon Natin 2040 socioeconomic plan; it’s a key component of the 2017 Philippine Development Plan, and has been a recurring theme of this year’s Association of Southeast Nations (Asean) Summit which is being held in the Philippines.
In early May, the Senate approved the Philippine Innovation Act at its third and final reading. This paves the way to establish the National Innovation Council (NIC), an inter-agency body that will come directly under the Office of the President. Chaired by the president, the NIC will comprise 16 Cabinet secretaries and seven executive members from across the business sector, academia and the scientific community.
Not a talking shop, it’ll have teeth. It will develop long-term policies for innovation – such as setting in place reforms to enable the creation of an inclusive national innovation-driven ecosystem. There’s no question, the government is determined to boost the innovation culture in the Philippines. It knows that this isn’t a loose option; it’s a necessity.
Under the provisions of the Act, the NIC will frame a National Innovation Agenda and Strategy Document, establishing a 10-year plan laying out the country’s long-term innovation goals and strategies for achieving them right across the public sector.
It will also administer a PHP1 billion Innovation Fund which will provide grants and support to enterprises such as start-ups which pursue innovative solutions – particularly those that aim to benefit the country’s poor.
So it’s a big deal and the government is taking it very seriously. And one reason for that can be found in this year’s Global Innovation Index in which the Philippines falls within the bottom half of 127 countries surveyed. Of greater concern is its low ranking within Asean – the region which presents the biggest competition for everything from foreign direct investment to tourists.
Here are the world rankings on the Global Innovation Index for eight member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) – Laos and Myanmar were not included in the index. In brackets are their global positions on the index in 2016. Singapore 7th (6th); Malaysia, 37th (35th); Vietnam, 47th (59th); Thailand, 51st (52nd); Brunei, 71st (n.a.); Philippines, 73rd (74th); Indonesia, 87th (88th); Cambodia 101st (95th).
With the exception of Vietnam which jumped 12 places and Cambodia which fell six, all other countries remained more or less where they were one year ago – which suggests that within Asean (ex-Vietnam) the push to innovate has been fairly muted; they’ve more or less been treading water.
All the more reason then for the Philippines to press ahead – after all, one of the requirements of the innovator is to seize the moment. And that moment is now.
Background to the index. The purpose of the index is to gauge and rank the level of innovation of a number of global markets. Published by Cornell University in New York, in conjunction with the prestigious tri-national business school, INSEAD, and the World Intellectual Property Organization, the index is used by corporations and governments worldwide.
Rankings are assessed by taking the average scores of two sub-indices – the Innovation Input Index and the Innovation Output Index which comprise, respectively, five and two innovation indicators. We shall be looking at these in closer detail in this, our latest series of infographics.