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Credit: University of the Philippines

Credit: University of the Philippines

Award-winning course in the Philippines aims to boost innovation and technopreneurship

According to an announcement by the University of the Philippines (UP), an advanced course with a different flavour is available at the College of Engineering in UP Diliman. The course is being described as a fusion of different fields; a mix of technology and innovation, a crash course in marketing and business, and part personality and motivational workshop.

What sets it apart from other traditional courses of producing a technology prototype or a business plan for a thesis, is how the students are expected to hurdle a real-life challenge in the world of industry. The students need to prove that they and their venture have what it takes to make it in the marketplace. They are expected to successfully sell a tech-business venture to a panel of Filipino and foreign industry leaders, technopreneurs, and potential capital investors.

Dr Luis G. Sison, a UP Electrical and Electronics Engineering professor and the director of the UP Technology Transfer and Business Office, is the man behind the course. He designed, improved, facilitated and based this course on his MS-level course IE 298. 

The course name may be a bit long to write on application forms and resumes but it sums up its aim perfectly. Higher Education Institutional Readiness for Innovation and Technopreneurship (HIRIT) will equip the students with the basic tools and skills for identifying and pursuing market opportunities to fast-track technology translation and startup formation, as well as paving the way for them to network with technopreneurs, investors, and industry partners.

Initially, HIRIT started with the Engineering Research and Development for Technology (ERDT), a consortium of eight universities - namely Ateneo de Manila University (AdMU), Central Luzon State University (CLSU),  De La Salle University (DLSU), Mapua Insitute of Technology (MIT), Mindanao State University – Iligan Institute of Technology (MSU-IIT), University of the Philippines Diliman (UPD), University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB), and University of San Carlos (USC) - that offers masters and doctoral degrees in various engineering fields.

Sison recalls that “when the consortium was formed, there were concerns about the government making a lot of investments in R&D, and those investments not being translated into economic impact so they required all ERDT scholars to take a techpreneurship class.”

Laying one of the ground rules for the class, he said, “Everyone here in class has to participate. There is no such thing as an observer in this class. You’re here, you join a team, you pitch a venture, you work on your venture.”

Measurement of how a student fares in class is determined on their performance on the last and most critical day, demo day. The teams will be rewarded with points based on how well their pitches are received by the panelists, and how well they are able to respond to the panelists’ questions. The ventures are rated, in turn, by a “yes”, “no” or “maybe” having equivalent points.

Sison further explains that the end goal of the course is market validation, “Does your product address a solution that the end-users, the customers, are willing to pay for? That is the goal, and students are allowed to iterate both the technology, the business model, and even the target market until they’ve achieved that goal.”      

The course has received numerous awards, both for its founder and for the course itself. Sison won the UP Gawad Pangulo for Progressive Teaching and Learning in 2015.  Two silver medals, Asia Category and Teaching Delivery category, were awarded to HIRIT and Sison, respectively, in 2016 at the third Reimagine Education Awards, a global competition for transformative initiatives across the educational sector.

After being recognised with Reimagine Education Awards, the course has been adopted by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) as a program supporting the development of other incubators, with UP providing training content and process. A plan for expansion is in the horizon as it becomes a part of the project initiated by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) involving a core of 10 universities.

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