Local startups lead tech innovations

Pinoy Travel, Inc founder and CEO Aurora Mendoza-Soriano speaking to media at the CyberPress Forum on tech innovations. PHOTO BY J. GARCIA

Pinoy Travel, Inc founder and CEO Aurora Mendoza-Soriano speaking to media at the CyberPress Forum on tech innovations. PHOTO BY J. GARCIA

IN a forum hosted by the Information Technology Journalists Association of the Philippines (ITJAP) held at Smart’s Jump Experience Center in SM MegaMall, it was revealed by speakers that the country is currently “on the cusp of becoming one of the worldís leading innovators in the tech industry.”

They particularly focused on solutions in areas of disaster preparedness, healthcare, and social services. However, some of the guest speakers emphasized on the key barriers that need to be broken if local inventors are to cash in on new ideas that can benefit not only Filipinos, but other people as well, particularly in emerging countries around the globe.

At the Cyberpress/ITJAP October 23 forum, which was co-sponsored by IdeaSpace Foundation affiliate Smart Communications, Earl Valencia IdeaSpace co-founder and president said the Philippines is “on track to becoming a knowledge-driven economy.”

“The country is on the cusp of being a leading innovator in the world,” Valencia added.

Other speakers at the forum were representatives from four of the 10 start-ups that IdeaSpace admitted into its incubator program earlier this year. Where each of the Filipino-companies is working on solutions that address problems faced by millions.

For Valencia: “These entrepreneurs live these problems every day.” Emphasizing that solution maker should be able to live and breathe the problems to effectively create the solution. Adding: “In Silicon Valley, people create solutions designed for emerging markets based on abstract ideas. They only think they know our problems.”

On November 16, four start-ups are scheduled to unveil the product under IdeaSpace. If their products get the go signal, they’ll be able to get more funding either from IdeaSpace or other venture capitalists.

At the CyberPress forum, the startups which presented their innovative products include: Pinoy Travel, an online bus reservation service that aims to modernize the decades-old process of booking bus tickets in the Philippines; Gen 8, A company that developed a “braille” phone that would allow people with visual impairments to send text messages unassisted; Tech4Health, a company that wants to help people living with diabetes and hypertension to better manage their health conditions; and Arthrologic: A firm that has successfully designed new knee implants that are meant for Asians, and will be cheaper to manufacture, and affordable for patients in need.

Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Assistant Secretary Raymond Liboro said at the same forum that the Aquino administration has “worked hard over the last three years to create an environment that is conducive to innovation.”

Among the new programs put in place by the DOST under the present administration is the Patent Assistance project that seeks to help inventors protect their ideas with the help of local intellectual property laws.

Unfortunately, Liboro shared, Filipinos produce just an estimated 200 patents for new technologies every year. Southeast Asian neighbors like Indonesia and Malaysia produce 2,200 and 2,800 respectively on average every year.

Latest data from the Intellectual Property Office showed that 186 applications for patents were approved in 2011, down from 216 approvals in 2008.

Liboro said the number of patents a country produces annually has become one of the yardsticks used by the international start-up community in determining a market’s potential as a center for innovation.

Nonetheless, Liboro highlighted the DOSTís Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards or Project Noah, which has helped the government and the private sector improve its response to the dozens of storms that hit the country every year. It is best known for its website and mobile phone application that allow people to track storms in the country.

Information in this article was provided in part by CyberPress, Newsbytes.ph, and InterAksyon.com


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