DOST-MIMAROPA Regional Director, Dr. Ma. Josefina P. Abilay, was among the three national finalists for this year’s William D. Dar (WDD) Research Leadership Award conferred by the Philippine Association of Research Managers, Inc. (PHILARM).

She received the award last November 13 in Zamboanga City in celebration of the 4th International Research, Development and Extension Management Congress, and the 29th National PHILARM Convention.

The award is given annually to the outstanding research leaders who have made a “tangible monument,” in the area of research and development (R&D), as vouched by at least 10 esteemed actors in R&D.

Dr. Abilay strongly advocates the acceleration of research, development, and innovation, in MIMAROPA through consistent development and implementation of relevant and responsive S&T policies.

With the extensive and robust network already nurtured through her leadership, several partnerships with international stakeholders were honed and leaped into collaborative projects.

In 2017, she led the collaboration of Hanyang University (HYU) of South Korea and MIMAROPA State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) to strengthen the R&D capabilities of local researchers and capacitate them in commercializing their research outputs. Soon after, Palawan State University (PSU) has developed the Master of Science in Technopreneurship which is patterned mainly to the curricular program of HYU.

Apart from capacitating the researchers, she also teamed up with the University of Nottingham- Malaysia Campus (UNMC) and Technology Park Malaysia (TPM) to capacitate the Technology Transfer Officers of the SUCs.

On the other hand, through her guidance, the partnership between Asia Pacific Univerisity (APU) of Technology & Innovation and the MIMAROPA SUCs has resulted to securing the offering of major/specialized courses under Information Technology (IT) such as Cybersecurity, Data Analytics, Internet of Things (IoT), and Artificial Intelligence in the pipeline.

Moreover, to provide a conducive avenue for techno-based start-ups, she initiated the partnership with Malaysia’s Make-A-Difference (MAD) Incubator and PSU to establish the Palawan International Business Incubator (PITBI). PITBI serves as host and provides business development services for these start-ups.

PITBI, then, became one of the founding members of the ASEAN Business Incubator Network (ABINet)—an initiative of the ASEAN Coordinating Committee on MSME (ACCMSME), supported by the Government of Japan through the Japan-ASEAN Integration Fund (JAIF). In 2018, Dr. Abilay led the Philippines’ hosting of the two-day workshop for the ASEAN Business Incubation Model Implementation, which was attended by international delegates, and yet again put the Philippines back on the map along with other ASEAN players in the techno-business incubation arena. Building on its success, the 2019 annual meeting was also held in the country concurrent with the National Science Technology Week where ABINet members had the opportunity to showcase their new products.

She also successfully lobbied the creation of the MIMAROPA Regional Research, Development, and Innovation Committee (RRDIC) that gave birth to the MIMAROPA R&D Agenda (MRDA) for 2018-2022. It presents the priority R&D initiatives aimed to address the pressing needs of the region covering all sectors of society. Through this, the medium-term goals of the region in achieving socio-economic growth and development through research, development, and innovation are now at hand. Owing to her initiative, the “Funders Conference,” which is perhaps the first of its kind in the country, was then organized to secure support for the identified priority research areas by engaging with the different funding institutions.

Furthermore, she led the conduct of the “Regional R&D Conference,” which outlined the gaps, opportunities, and plan of action among the key players to create a vibrant and sustainable R&D ecosystem.

Her other significant contributions include the following: policy endorsement on the provision of additional incentives to SUC researchers to encourage commercialization of their  R&D outputs, which is pursuant to the National Budget Circular (NBC) 641; and, the development of the MIMAROPA R&D database coined as the Research and Development Information Unified System (RADIUS), which is designed to create an online database of R&D-related information and materials readily available for all stakeholders.

Recently, to identify and evaluate the needs of the industry in the region, she initiated the tripartite consultation workshop involving the academe, government, and the industry.

On top of these accomplishments, Dr. Abilay maintains the active contribution of the three R&D consortia in the region, namely: Southern Tagalog Islands Research and Development Consortium (STIRDC); MIMAROPA Health Research and Development Consortium (MHRDC); and MIMAROPA Agriculture, Aquatic, and Natural Resources Research and Development Consortium (MAARRDEC).