6th ERDT Conference

6TH CONFERENCE: PASCUAL NOTES
ACHIEVEMENTS IN ENGINEERING R&D*
Celeste Ann Castillo Llaneta

 

The Department of Energy’s presentation of the business point of view on renewable energy development in the Philippines, the direction the government is taking to ensure energy independence and greater energy self-sufficiency, was delivered by Engr. Roger Victor E. Buendia, OIC, president and CEO of the Philippine National Oil Company Renewables Corporation.  Forester Levi Florido, representing Undersecretary for Policy and Planning Ignacio L. Demetrio, presented DENR’s programs and projects that are specific manifestations of the use of engineering and technology innovation in relation to environmental concerns and sustainable management and development of natural resources.  These are based on DENR’s six-point agenda: clean air and water, proper waste management, productive management of forest lands and other resources, climate change management, protection of marine resources, and the anti-corruption drive.

During the plenary held after the presentations of the government representatives, Dr. Jan M. Rabaey, University of California—Berkeley Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences, discussed an aspect of information technology that would be part of the research agenda for the last decade—the need for an energy-intelligent router or management system for IT platforms and computer networks capable of “doing nothing well”, that is, of shutting off the power to computers or instruments working on low levels of performance.  This can translate to massive amount of energy conserved, given the ubiquitousness of computer networks all over the world.

In speaking about improving competitiveness through research and development in the power industry, Dr. Stanley Santos, program manager of the Oxygen Combustion Technology IEA Greenhouse Gas R&D Program based in Chaltenham, United Kingdom, discussed the need of the government to establish infrastructure and enact policy changes in order to address the issue of energy poverty in the country by focusing on power security, affordability of electricity and gas, sustainability—including environmental sustainability and challenge of long-term carbon emission—and the development of renewable energy sources in the country, particularly geothermal energy.

In the second half of the conference, eight parallel sessions were held: four under the “Environment and Infrastructure” research track; two under the “Information and Communications Technology” research track; one under the “Energy” research track; and one under the “Semi-conductors and Electronics” research track.  A total of 76 research papers by ERDT MS and PhD scholars were presented. A poster exhibit featuring 33 poster papers were also put on display in the lobby.  At the end of the conference, two poster papers received the best poster awards and a cash prize of P4, 000, while the best paper awardee received a price of P5, 000.

New UP College of Engineering (UPCOE) Dean Dr. Aura C. Matias, in her closing remarks, said that she was happy to be able to serve as the new ERDT Program Leader, succeeding Dr. Rowena Cristina Guevara.  She gave a brief review of the ERDT Program’s performance in the last three years.  Initiated by the UPCOE in 2007 and approved by former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo that same year, with funding amounting to P3 billion for human resource development, research and development and infrastructure development, the ERDT Project is participated by a consortium of eight  universities with the most well-developed Engineering and Agro-Engineering programs: Ateneo de Manila University, Central Luzon State University, De La Sale University, Mapua Institute of Technology, Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology, the University of San Carlos, UP Diliman, and UP Los Baños.

To date, the ERDT Program has been able to manage 488 out of a total of 596 MS scholars to graduate, or 81.57 of the ERDT’s target; and 82 out of 112 PhD scholars, or 73.21 percent of the target, from its consortium-member universities.  The program has also produced 49 DOST-approved research proposals amounting to P313.26 million.  It has been able to conduct scientific conferences that served as venues for the sharing of ideas and proposals, and for showcasing the works of consortium-member universities and scholars.  In addition, the ERDT Program has also been working towards possible collaboration with other universities in Taiwan, Thailand, Singapore, and the US through visits abroad, to establish technology business incubators.

“We have come to the final leg of what we hope is just the first stage towards our goals,” Dr. Matias summed up.  “As we look forward to the coming years, we hope there will be a continuation to the programs and activities we have started.  Whether it is the ERDT or some new program name, I am optimistic that government agencies and industries have begun taking interest in the talents of our local engineers.  Let us expand our numbers and continue exhibiting the creativity and ingenuity of Filipino engineers with innovative, relevant and beneficial useful research outputs.”

What has UP’s Engineering Research and Development for Technology (ERDT) program accomplished in the past three years?  UP President Alfredo Pascual said that since its full implementation in 2008, the ERDT program has resulted in the graduation of 73 MS Engineering students and one PhD student, as well as the awarding of 464 MS scholarships and 88 PhD scholarships.

In his opening remarks at the 6th ERDT Conference on February 18 of the current year at the Diamond Hotel in Manila, Dr. Pascual said that “a number of ERDT graduates is now pursuing technology business start-ups.  In fact, two of them have set up their own companies as the DOST-UP Enterprise Program for Technopreneurship.  Other ERDT graduates are gainfully employed as development engineers in technology-based industries.”

To keep ERDT graduates from leaving the country for greener pastures abroad, he reiterated his vision to strengthen UP’s research capabilities in partnership with the government and the industries to provide scientists and engineers “the opportunities to put their expertise to work, and to work productively.”

In keeping with its theme “Addressing the Grand Challenges through Engineering Innovations,” the keynote speeches in the 6th ERDT Conference focused on three of the challenges ERDT scholars must face.

These are the lack of science and technology research education in the country, which contributes to our slow economic development and low level of global competitiveness; translating engineering research and technological innovation into viable economic ventures through technological entrepreneurship; and the broad fields open to innovation in all its form.

Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Secretary Mario Montejo said that The Global Competitiveness Report 2010-2011 of the World Economic Forum ranked the Philippines 16th out of 22 Asian countries, and 85th out of 139 countries in the world in terms of global competitiveness.

He said the Philippines ranked 96th in terms of technological readiness, 111th for innovation, 88th for foreign direct investments and technology transfers, 108th for quality of scientific research institutions, and 96th in terms of availability of scientists and engineers.

Sec. Montejo said that given “the great talent and creativity of the Filipino, we can change things for the better soon.” The ERDT is the means to accomplish this, he said, by continuing to build a critical mass of research scientists and engineers (RSEs) and to conduct quality research and development (R&D) work on disaster mitigation, poverty alleviation, agriculture, semiconductors, and environment and energy “with the end of making the lives of Filipinos better.”

He also cited the numerous projects the DOST is working on or supporting, including improved weather forecasting that enables hourly weather updates; a real-time disaster warning system for landslides; a locally-developed Doppler radar; a PC tablet to be used as an educational module in support of learning for elementary students; a locally-developed, locally-sourced mass transit system; a pilot lab for improved mining of gold, copper, nickel and iron, and the exploration of a process that can extract gold from the mercury tailings produced by gold-mining.  “These are the S&T initiatives that the whole Cabinet [of President Aquino] would fully support, because these are centered on (1) creating jobs, (2)creating economic activity for S&T initiatives, and (3) it is exactly the mandate of the DOST.” He added that the DOST will support the ERDT in the years to come.

Tapping into his more than 30 years of experience as a successful design engineer, entrepreneur, CEO and venture capitalist in Silicon Valley, Dr. Diosdado Banatao, founder and managing partner of Tallwood Venture and one of the UP College of Engineering’s most generous donors for research engineering, gave a detailed talk on setting up a successful start-up venture.  To start a technology company, he said that one should have a better solution to a design or technology problem.  According to him, the five major start-up success factors are addressing a major market need, providing a unique solution, executing a sound plan, having a strong technical and management team, and possessing solid financial support.

Dr. Filemon Uriarte, Jr., chairperson of LAUDS Technologies, Inc., academician of the National Academy of Science and Technology and former secretary of the DOST, said that “innovation goes beyond R&D [research and development],” as it involves users, suppliers, and consumers.  He said that innovation also covers government, businesses and NGOs across borders, sectors, and institutions.  Innovation, Dr. Uriarte articulated, can be classified into four types—product innovation, process innovation, marketing innovation, and organizational innovation.

He further identified five priority actions to promote innovation: instituting policies that encourage investment in innovation; providing adequate public and private investment for both engineering and scientific R&D; facilitating the transfer and commercialization of innovative technological advances; promoting partnerships that link R&D performers and users; and creating and supporting life-long education initiatives to enhance competitiveness.

The ERDT Program consists of a consortium of eight universities, which includes Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU), Central Luzon State University (CLSU), De La Salle University (DLSU), Mapua Institute of Technology (MIT), Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology (MSU-IIT), University of San Carlos (USC), UP Los Baños (UPLB), and UP Diliman College of Engineering (UPD-COE) as the lead agency.  It was approved by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2007 and was given an initial fund of P3.5 billion.  This was allocated among the four major components of the program, namely, scholarships that aim to produce a critical mass of research-trained engineers with graduate degrees; research and development; infrastructure development; and faculty development.  According to UPD-COE Dean and ERDT Program Leader Dr. Aura Matias, the 6th ERDT Conference marked a fitting close to ERDT’s first cycle and the beginning of its second cycle.

“Our message for this year is technological entrepreneurship and innovation,” Matias said in her closing remarks. “We have to go beyond R&D.  We have the talent pool, and we have worked hard for the past three years.  It is time for us to move beyond the classroom.  It is time for us to show that engineering by Filipinos for the Filipinos works.”

The members of the ERDT Steering Committee are UPD-COE Dean and ERDT Program Leader Matias.  The project leaders of the respective consortium universities are ADMU College of Science and Engineering Dean Fabian Dayrit; CLSU College of Engineering Dean Ireneo Agulto; DLSU College of Engineering Dean Pag-asa Gaspillo; MIT Graduate School Dean Jonathan Salvacion; USC College of Engineering Dean Andresa Allera; UPLB Institute of Agricultural Engineering Director Arnold Elepaño; and UPD-COE Associate Dean for Instruction and Research Menandro Berana.

*6th ERDT Conference, “Addressing the Grand Challenges Through Engineering Innovations” , February 18, 2011, Diamond Hotel, Manila, Philippines

Also published in The UP Newsletter – December 2010 – (Vol. xxxi Issue 12)

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