Rebuilding the economy through Industry 4.0
With Covid-19 still plaguing the country months after its onset, many statistics and forecasts continue to linger in the negative end of the spectrum. Questions and limitations surround the few opportunities we have to move forward. Innovation will play a vital role in the economic recovery process and building up of resilience.
Speaking before business leaders at the PCCI South Luzon Area Business Conference (SOLABC), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Undersecretary Rafaelita Aldaba said, “Reflecting on our experience in the past four months, the pandemic has been an impetus to fast-track innovation with greater focus on resilience and sustainability. The crisis has presented new Industry 4.0 technologies that we can leverage to discover new, better, more resilient ways of doing things.”
In her presentation, she emphasized that Industry 4.0 warrants the survival, recovery, and adaptation in the post-pandemic landscape. This, combined with innovation, value chain upgrading, and addressing the gaps in supply chain, will be vital in rebuilding the economy.
With shifting trade and investment preferences, USec. Aldaba said there is a need to position the Philippines to harness the emerging technologies. For domestic manufacturing, this means grabbing opportunities for automation. The same could be said for agribusiness, healthcare, and tech startups.
Under the Inclusive-Filipinnovation-and-Entrepreneurship-Roadmap, DTI has built Regional Inclusive Innovation Centers (RIICs) in 4 pilot areas – Cebu, Legaspi, Cagayan de Oro, and Davao – to find technological solutions to industry issues as well as societal problems. Also aimed at building innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystems in the regions, this platform links various stakeholders – universities, local government units (LGUs), research and development (R&D) labs, science and technology (S&T) parks, accelerators, incubators, startups, MSMEs, and government agencies.
Moreover, DTI is conducting studies for the establishment of an Industry 4.0 pilot factory and the accompanying provision of trainings for SMEs. An Artificial Intelligence (AI) roadmap is also currently being formulated to make the Philippines an AI Center of Excellence.
Under the Covid-19 crisis, Usec. Aldaba said that innovative enterprises were able to emerge resilient and even record gains. To encourage more innovation, the DTI is implementing a Securing Manufacturing Revitalization and Transformation (SMART) Program that will provide fiscal and non-fiscal assistance to companies shifting to Industry 4.0 technologies. She added that FinTech and e-Commerce, which comprise the country’s start-up ecosystem, are expected to grow in 2020 – FinTech at 24% and e-Commerce at 26.4%.
Repurposing and Adaptation
At the beginning of the outbreak, the government struggled with acquiring personal protective equipment (PPE) as we have no PPE industry, exporting was restricted, and prices were surging. To solve this dilemma, the DTI built the industry from scratch through the Manufacturing Repurposing Program. This entailed the massive shift of manufacturing activities to produce critical Covid products such as PPEs, ventilators, and test kits.
The government partnered with garments exporters to produce isolation gowns and coveralls. Similarly, electronics companies expanded their plants to produce infrared thermometers and ventilators, manufacturers of wines and spirits moved to the production of ethyl alcohol, fabrication laboratories and universities went into the production of 3D printed face shields, and MSMEs helped produce non-medical grade face masks and coveralls.
DTI also has an impressive lineup of programs intended to Covid-proof and support industries’ survival and recovery. The agency holds webinars on e-commerce entitled “Ctrl+Biz: Reboot Now!” as well as hosts master classes on different areas through their YouTube channel.
With the postponement of the National Food Fair, DTI has introduced the Bagsakan Special Project to help local farmers, fruit growers, and cooperatives sell their fresh produce. In the same vein, DTI also assists SMEs set up their businesses online by connecting them to e-commerce platforms such as Shopee and Lazada.
Similar to the administration’s alliterative centerpiece program Build, Build, Build, the DTI’s programs are geared toward a Buy, Buy, Buy campaign.
Rebuilding the economy
As we plan to move toward recovery, DTI introduces REBUILD PH!, which stands for Revitalizing Businesses, Investments, Livelihoods and Domestic Demand. This approach will be focused on promoting basic necessities, Industry 4.0, addressing supply chain gaps, modernization (e.g. urban farming, agritech, cold chain warehousing), and generating high-value jobs (e.g. furniture, garments, tourism, IT-BPM).