Careers in Science Philstar.com

How do you make science and technology an attractive career option for students?

By making S&T fun, and paying it off, well.

The newly appointed Secretary of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) wants to include the lesson of entrepreneurship in the curriculum of the country’s budding scientists.

We know DOST chief Renato Solidum very well as an expert on volcanoes and earthquakes. The work looks fun and exciting – the stuff of blockbuster movies.

But in this country, his profession is not seen as a ticket to wealth like that earned by members of Congress and the judiciary, local government executives and many high officials of the national government upon assuming office. .

Pursuing a career in S&T, engineering and mathematics or STEM also requires a high-quality education – something that has become a luxury for millions of Filipinos.

Solidum is discouraged. He wants DOST to provide more support for S&T start-ups, from access to funding for research and development to patenting and marketing innovations. Assistance may include support for implementing the results of R&D to improve operations and productivity across the socio-economic spectrum and for national security purposes.

Israel has the world’s most influential innovation ecosystem, with the largest share of Nobel Prizes in science per capita. Israeli inventors have not only made a lot of money from their inventions and ideas, but have made their country one of the most prosperous and competitive in the world, and fully capable of defending itself in a hostile neighborhood.

A few years ago I attended an international innovation conference in Tel Aviv. Almost all Israeli innovators pitching their start-ups and ideas that I met were no older than 40. Many were in their 20s but were already setting up companies, with state funding support, for the commercial rollout of their products or services.

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In our context, there are graduates of science courses who have become billionaires, and who can serve as role models. Jollibee’s Tony Tan Caktiong is a chemical engineering graduate from the University of Santo Tomas. Rolando Hortleja finished the drug, but went into R&D to create the best-selling Extraderm exfoliant and Splash Corp. and produced HBC beauty products, which made him a billionaire. He has since sold the company and moved to the Barrio Fiesta brand of spices. Vivian Qui-Azcona, president and CEO of Mercury Drug, is also a pharmacy graduate of UST. He founded in 1945 from his father Mariano Quay, which became the largest pharmacy chain in the country.

Recently, internal medicine and infectious disease specialist Raul Destura must have made his first billion by developing the country’s first and only rapid reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction Covid test at a much lower cost than commercially available RT-PCR. Dr. Destura founded Manila HealthTech Inc., which specializes in molecular diagnostics, biotechnology products and services.

Last May, with the country busy with general elections, MTek launched a new subsidiary, GenAmplify Technologies Inc. started GTI will manufacture and distribute diagnostic test kits for communicable and non-communicable diseases, including dengue and African swine fever.

With a reported 4,000 start-ups this year, Israel is also said to have the world’s highest number of “unicorns” per capita – a private start-up valued at more than $1 billion.

So yes, Juan and Juana, science and technology can be very beneficial – and you can help people and country in the process.

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There is an Israel Innovation Authority, which describes itself as an “independent and impartial public institution” responsible for the innovation policy of the Jewish state. It declares: “Serving as a national asset critical to economic prosperity, innovation is the most valuable resource for the State of Israel.”

It provides tools and programs for “early-stage entrepreneurs, mature companies developing new products or production processes, academic groups looking to transfer their ideas to the market, multinational corporations interested in Israeli technology, Israeli companies seeking new markets abroad, and traditional factories and plants.” . Seeking to incorporate innovative and advanced products into their business.”

Becoming a “start-up nation” like Israel requires substantial investment in R&D. Israel and South Korea continue to battle for the honor of allocating the largest share of GDP to R&D, both at around 5 percent—more than double the global average of 2.4 percent.

In contrast, the share of R&D in GDP in the Philippines is about 0.1 percent, less than the one percent recommended by UNESCO for developing countries.

In real dollar terms, the United States is the world’s largest spender on R&D, followed by China and Japan.

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Will Solidum find the political support needed to significantly increase spending on science and technology and allow its push for entrepreneurship training alongside S&T?

China understands the importance of innovation and has been attracting its scientists from around the world with attractive incentives.

In our case, our S&T sectors, including the Bureau of Meteorology – the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration – suffered from a serious brain drain for many years. Solidum says the problem has been addressed in PAGASA.

We have a typical “kid-scientist” program to stop the STEM brain drain. During the COVID, its most famous return scientist Dominican priest Fr. Nicanor of Austria, a molecular biologist is working to develop a yeast-based vaccine against the coronavirus that is affordable and can be taken orally.

If the effort pays off, it could turn Father Nick into a billionaire like Raul Destura. But the priest told us on One News’ “The Chiefs” that any commercial profits will go to the Dominican order and the church.

What are the benefits of being a child scientist? The program, in place for decades, provides up to three years of research grants, R&D and duty-free import of equipment for round-trip airfare. In 2018, a law added incentives including medical insurance, monthly housing allowance and state aid for scientists’ children to attend schools of their choice.

Some scientists who have not left the country believe the money would be better used to foster interest in STEM in the Philippines from an early age.

In the current situation, both initiatives are worth pursuing.

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