‘Knowledge economy’ pushed; harness ‘intellectual’ capital to boost food security, economic recovery from COVID 19

July 19, 2020

The government was urged to tap “intellectual capital” of Higher Education Institutions (HEI) to boost food security and economic recovery by fostering a “knowledge economy” amid the COVID 19 crisis.

   An eight-point recommendation has been pushed by experts at the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) who believe developed countries have put up incentives for a “knowledge economy” (KE). 

   This is to meet their people’s needs.  KE accelerates economic growth objectives.

   Top 10 countries in 2008 that have high knowledge economic index (KEI) based on a criteria of the World Bank Institute are Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Netherlands, Norway, Canada, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States, and Australia. Philippines ranked 79.

   KEI measures the conduciveness of an environment to use knowledge for economic development.

   It maximizes use of human capital to enrich productivity and aid in food production and manufacturing and services industries.

   “A country like the Philippines needs an adequate cadre of researchers who appreciate the need to shorten the gap between research productivity and its translation to economic development,” according to “Food Security Amid the COVID 19 Pandemic” (FSACP).”

    “Various modalities of Academe-Industry-Government interconnectivity models need to be explored.” 

   The FSACP recommendations are being pushed by Glenn B. Gregorio, SEARCA director, and Rico C. Ancog who is also with the University of the Philippines Los Banos (UPLB).

  Their recommendation is for HEI’s human capital to contribute to the development of the following priority areas relevant to four pillars of food security:

  1. Food availability— (incomplete list) commercial and industrial farming, organic farming, Big Data system, remote sensing, and artificial intelligence; urban agriculture; integrated pest management; pest and disease control, nutrient-enrichment of food; biotechnology (genetically modified food production); 
  2. Access to food —Transport and logistics (to bring food from producer to consumers), use of online and internet based solution, automated weather stations (predicting weather for more stable food production);
  3. Stability of food supply—financial technologies; agricultural policies and regulations (e.g. a ban on GM food restrains food security); and GM food labelling
  4. Utilization of food for nutrition, health and safety—transboundary food quality standards, trade regulation and standards; responsible consumption, food quality and safety, and food technology for health and wellness; bioefficacy and bioavailableit of novel products, and pesticide use and regulations.
Key priority areas for “Knowledge Economy” enhancement in agriculture

   To foster this advanced KE economic phase, incentives must be given so that the intellectual capital in HEIs (faculty, researchers) can generate commercialization tools that will meet Filipinos’ imminent needs–food security, in particular, amid the pandemic.

   Many agencies considered HEIs are also administered by the government –State Universities and Colleges (SUC). These institutions offer not only college courses but master’s and Ph.D. As part of the academic activities, considered output in HEIs are researches.

   Now, such researches must not be done just for academic exercise.  But these should reach out to the needs of society— produce food, solve hunger and malnutrition, help farmers develop into profitable entrepreneurs.  

   While agriculture HEIs in the Philippines have long been established, these institutions need to partner with the government that provides policies and funding for initiatives in technologies. 

   And their partnership should be with the private sector which has know-how in sustaining economic activities through business and commercial tools.

    Agricultural researches should have a “reorientation as seen from business perspective

 to afford systemic change of the agriculture sector,” said Gregorio and Ancog.

   These are among their eight-point recommendations under an Academe-Industry-Government (AIG) collaborative setup:

  1. Provide incentives so HEIs’ human capital will stimulate generation of more revenue-producing economic activities.  The incentives are to be given based on “profit” and four other P’s – people, partnerships, patents, and product.
  2. Re-orient HEIs’ human capital so that they will generate tools in commercialization used in businesses. These are  patents in technology (for instance, food and medicine products) and other intellectual property assets (utility model, trademarks—for instance, consumer health, cosmetics, and nutrition products). 

   HEI human capital’s  reorientation must also include expertise on technology transfer systems (business models) and technology business incubation (starting new businesses). 

   These incentives empower them to partner with venture capitalists, financiers, investors and investment houses that offer IPOs or initial public offerings, and startups/entrepreneurs so their technology will be sold to consumers or end users.

  • Provide HEIs’ human capital with all they need – grants, financial assistance, conducive policies for them to legally partner  with private companies, the industry, and all enterprise stakeholders.

   These partnerships should enable them to tap the entire “supply chain” – from production of goods and services, packaging, storage, distribution, logistics, marketing, and retailing to end consumers.

  • Provide HEI human capital all they need to produce innovative and technologically advanced goods and services.  Such production of innovative goods usually come from teams and partnerships of multi-discipline experts.  Such partnerships should be encouraged.

   “(We should) provide the enabling environment for faculty members and researchers to be encouraged in mutual-learning and co-learning through the establishment of multi-and interdisciplinary research laboratories, centers, and institutes,” said Gregorio and Ancog.

   KEI of the World Bank Institute is based on 4 pillars:

  1. a regime that provides incentives for the use of knowledge and in enhancing entrepreneurship;
  2. an educated/skilled population that uses knowledge;
  3. an innovation system of “firms, research centers, universities, consultants that tap a stock of knowledge to meet people’s needs and create technology;” and
  4. use of information and communication technology to share and process information.

   KE, also called “post-industrial economy” and related to “information” and “digital” economy, is a migration from the agrarian age and manufacturing (industrial) and service phases of economic development. It taps not just the basic factors of production—labor, capital, land—but largely human intellectual capital.

  These are Gregorio-Ancog’s other suggested initiatives that should be under the Academe-Industry-Government collaborative projects:

  1. Resource sharing both in  human and financial capital to facilitate strengthened linkage between basic and applied researches with the industry needs.
  2. Designing and implementing digital agriculture infrastructure and open-systems innovation systems across the agricultural supply chains.

   “For universities and research organizations managing scientific journals, investment towards real-time online publications or advanced online publication is a must to be relevant in this time where researchers need to publish their research results as early as possible and make it readily accessible to all.”

   KE evolved from the tenets of economists particularly Harvard Business School’s Michael Porter who believe that competitive advantage lies in continual innovation arising from technical knowledge.  Usually referred to here are knowledge in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) and relevant multi-disciplines practiced by biotechnologists, chemists, biologists, among others. 

   Models of knowledge economies prevail in “Silicon Valley in California; aerospace and automotive engineering in Munich, Germany; Biotechnology in Hyderabad, India; electronics and digital media in Seoul, South Korea; and petrochemical and energy industry in Brazil,” according to Sanna Ojanpera and co-authors of the “Engagement in the Knowledge Economy: Regional Patterns of Content Creation with a Focus on Sub-Saharan Africa.”

   “The need to ensure that research efforts would have significant societal impacts is a philosophy that must be widely upheld. Various modalities of Academe-Industry-Government interconnectivity models need to be explored so it can be customized to their specific needs,” said Gregorio and Ancog. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

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