In what may be an acknowledgment that the electric vehicle (EV) industry and other sectors that require renewable energy may very well play key roles in the Philippines’ bid for industrial competitiveness in the Asian region, the Department of Science and Technology has allotted a substantial bulk of its 2021 budget for new research and development for the creation of the country’s own advanced batteries.
The battery pack of an EV, according to a December 2020 report in Bloomberg.com, is the “single most expensive part of an EV, accounting for about 30% of the total cost to consumers.” According to a February 2021 article in globenewswire.com, citing a study by Precedence Research, the global market for advanced batteries in 2020 stood at a little over $74 billion. With a projected compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.53% in the next 9 years, the global market for advanced batteries (such as lithium-ion and lead-acid) is projected to surpass $168.13 billion by 2030, with the Asia-Pacific region seen to benefit the most from the market surge due to the increased demands from China, India, and Japan in the transport and consumer electronic goods sectors.
It is in this context that DOST has approved a funding of P142.9 million spread over three years for the establishment of a Center for Advanced Batteries for renewable energy and electric car applications. This Center will be established under the leadership of the Technological Institute of the Philippines (TIP) in collaboration with the University of the Philippines-Diliman (UPD).
The Center is part of the approved seven new Niche Centers in the Regions (Nicer) for R&D programs under the Science for Change Program (S4CP), wherein various Higher Educational Institutions (HEIs) in the regions will be the recipients of the funding amounting to over P540 million to undertake quality research that will catalyze innovation in the countryside.
“DOST-S4CP, in funding R&D Centers, capacitates the regions to become innovation hubs,” says DOST Secretary Fortunato T. dela Peña. “By supporting R&D, we serve the academe, the local industry, and in turn, the country due to the entrepreneurial advancement provided to the local community.”
The six other new Nicer programs are:
o In the health sector: The Center for Vector of Diseases will be established under the leadership of De La Salle University-Laguna, which will receive over P26.5 million to study insecticide resistance of mosquitoes, formulate bio-mosquitocide against mosquito larvae, and develop natural predators to control the mosquito population;
o In the industry sector: The Center for Sustainable Polymers will be established under the leadership of the Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology (MSU-IIT), which will receive over P107.2 million for three years to generate value-added products such as polymer-infused concrete and foams from coconut processing by-products, and nutraceutical and biomedical products from fish processing by-products;
o For disaster risk reduction and climate change, two new Nicers will be established: One is the Smart Water Infrastructure and Management (SWIM) R&D Center under the leadership of Isabela State University (ISU) in collaboration with Cagayan State University (CSU) and Quirino State University (QSU). They will receive over P77.2 million for three years to provide innovations in water management and promote disaster-resilient infrastructures. Another is the Coastal Engineering R&D (CoastER) Center which will be led by Mariano Marcos State University in collaboration with UPD and Don Mariano Marcos State University (DMMSU). They will receive over P79.9 million in three years to mitigate coastal disasters and develop strategies for coastal protection and climate change mitigation;
o In the Environment sector: The Center for Lakes Sustainable Development will be established under the leadership of the Laguna State Polytechnic University (LSPU) in collaboration with UPD. They will receive over P53.2 million to develop solutions and strategies for the effective management and sustainability of lakes;
o In the Industry sector: A Center for Environmental Technologies and Compliance will be established under the leadership of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) in collaboration with UPD and Adamson University. They will receive over P53.3 million for two years to provide innovations in environmental technologies and support the local industries to comply with environmental standards.
As of 2021, the Nicer Program has established 35 R&D centers across 17 regions with total funding of P1.7 billion. The R&D grants were provided to state and private universities, not only for upgrading facilities and human resource development but also for regional economic development. Nicers cover niche areas and abundant commodities, such as potato at Benguet State University (Northern Philippines), crustaceans at Samar State University (Central Philippines), and renewable energy at Ateneo de Davao University (Southern Philippines).
Nicer is one of the sub-programs of the S4CP, a program accelerating science, technology, and innovation (STI) in the country. Through the S4CP, the DOST can also create a massive increase in investment on S&T Human Resource Development and R&D. The S4CP bill is currently pending for approval in Congress.
Other funding programs under S4CP is the Collaborative R&D to Leverage the Philippine Economy (Cradle) Program which aims to enable technological advancement and innovation of local companies and to support the growth of the Philippine innovation ecosystem. Cradle encourages academe-industry partnerships to improve the company’s products, processes, and services to become more competitive. The Business Innovation through S&T (BIST) for industry aims to provide financial assistance to Filipino private companies for the acquisition of strategic and relevant technologies so they can undertake their R&D. The fourth sub-program is the R&D Leadership Program (RDLead) which aims to help develop and strengthen further the research capabilities of the academe, research and development institutions (RDIs), and other government line agencies nationwide. To this end, RDLeaders who are local S&T experts with strong leadership and innovative policy proficiencies are engaged to train, and direct and support their R&D goals.
“The DOST envisioned S4CP to create opportunities in advancing STI in the country,” said DOST Undersecretary for R&D Rowena Cristina L. Guevara. “The S4CP is a means to proportionately spread funding across all regions for capacity-building initiatives and securing partnerships across academia and industry members.”
The Nicer, Cradle, and BIST programs are calling for proposals for those who wish to avail of funding in sectors related to industry, energy, emerging technology and basic research. For further inquiries, interested parties may visit the S4CP website at s4cp.dost.gov.ph. (DOST R&D)