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

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.