Institutionalizing Innovations in Negosyo Centers

Yesterday D/LRG had a Skype conference call with the account person from the German Development Cooperation about a new project that DTI proposed to GIZ. The new project is to be funded by the ASEAN-German Promoting Innovation and Technology (PIT) Program. Specifically, the new project is called “Negosyo Centers – Institutionalized Innovation Assistance for SMEs”. Its key purpose is to provide assistance to DTI to foster innovations in SMEs through institutionalizing innovation promotion in Negosyo Centers.

Negosyo Center is a new facility to be established by virtue of RA10644 or the Go Negosyo Act. It is primarily aimed to serve as business incubator which will provide (1) affordable and accessible common business development services to SMEs and start-ups and (2) a knowledge support system that will nurture and facilitate innovation and growth of SMEs. It is envisioned that at least one Negosyo Center will be established in each province.

This new project aims to provide capacity development interventions, specifically on promoting innovations, to SME Counsellors who will be tasked to manage these Negosyo Centers. It is also aimed to complement existing DTI programs on SME development such as:

  1. Shared Services Facilities (SSF) which provide critical equipment to help community-based associations of MSMEs become more competitive through cost efficiency, improved product quality and productivity.
  2. SME Roving Academy (SMERA) which is a continuous learning program for the development of MSMEs to become competitive in the domestic and international markets.
  3. National Industry Cluster Capacity Enhancement Project (NICCEP) which provides assistance to develop the capacity of selected industry clusters to plan and implement cluster upgrading strategies as well as enhance service delivery to improve cluster competitiveness.
  4. Promotion of Green Economic Development (ProGED) which supports SMEs to go green and become more environment-friendly and climate-smart while increasing competitiveness.

The above programs are however sectoral in nature, that is, it engages with a number of SMEs in a given industry sector. While this is appropriate in addressing common issues and challenges for a given sector, there is still a need for a fim-level assistance that would cater to the needs and requirements of individual SMEs. This need is what the Negosyo Centers are designed to fill.

The proposed project will have six major components, as follows:

  1. Conceptualizing an innovation promotion capacity development strategy for the Negosyo Centers. This was initially proposed to be conducted in 2 expert days. However, Ms. FJ noted that this time frame may too ambitious so she suggested increasing the number of expert days to 7.
  2. Training of trainers for DTI, selected members of the academe and established BDS providers. Four expert days is the time frame for this and 1,000 EUR was allocated for this activity.
  3. Capacity building for SME counsellors and standardization of processes and services together with the trained trainers. This is designed to have one intensive and detailed training workshop (1 week), follow up visits, and validation of the Operations Manual for Negosyo Centers. The time frame is 6 expert days and the indicative workshop cost is 2,500 EUR. Ms. JF suggested collapsing this training with that in Item 2. In my understanding what she is proposing is to have one continuous training/workshop that will have two modules. The first one is a general training for the DTI personnel who will man the Negosyo Centers. The second one is a more detailed and comprehensive training for the trainers who will actually go to the provinces and municipalities to replicate the workshops to other would-be SME counsellors or staff in the Negosyo Centers.
  4. Linking Negosyo Centers to German innovation institutes or an innovation partner in Germany for partnership, coaching and mentoring – through the PIT/PPS, from the start till the end of the intervention.
  5. Conducting action research focusing on the experience of the SME counsellors and clients and with a view of identifying constraints and opportunities for improvement. D/LRG noted that this is an evaluation or assessment and entails documenting the best practices, facilitating and hindering factors so that it can also be shared with other ASEAN countries. Ms. JF said that the overall PIT program already has a component on knowledge management and knowledge sharing that could cover this activity, hence this may not be needed anymore.
  6. Engaging and M&E. This involves assessing the application of the introduced concepts and processes to identify lessons learned in follow up visits. This will be accomplished in 8 expert days and the workshop costs is 2,500 EUR.

The call was made at 5pm and I had to stay cause I was the one who setup the Skype call and I was needed in case a technical problem would arise. Fortunately, the video call went smoothly. D/LRG actually commented that the video and audio quality was very good unlike the previous conference calls with Bernd where there were lags in audio/video transmission. I said that it is because there were no employees anymore who competes with the Wi-Fi bandwidth. The previous Skype meetings with Bernd were held at around 2-3pm and the employees are still around. Their smartphones and tablets are most probably connected to the Wi-Fi and thus competing with the overall bandwidth.