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In the style of Block 71 in Singapore and Silicon Valley in the US, the groundwork has been laid for a startup stomping ground for Filipino entrepreneurs. Nonprofit incubator IdeaSpace Foundation has recently teamed up with the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to build “innovation hubs” across the country.

The announcement was made on the sidelines of SlingshotMNL, the official startup event of APEC Philippines 2015, a year-long series of APEC meetings hosted in the Philippines.

It is the first of its kind in the country–a public-private partnership (PPP) that’s geared towards building the local startup ecosystem. “This project is a means by which the Philippine startup community can make its mark on an emerging global digital economy,” said IdeaSpace Founder and President Earl Valencia.

Valencia, who has Silicon Valley roots himself, was the business incubator manager for Cisco before he returned to the Philippines and founded IdeaSpace in 2012.

Funding for the future

DOST undersecretary Rowena Guevarra has said that the government office, through Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development (PCIEERD), has earmarked P25 million (US$535,000) for this endeavour, with UP and IdeaSpace Foundation each adding P5 million (US$100,000).

According to the IdeaSpace Founder, these funds will cover the project’s operations for the first two years. Initially, Valencia expects the project to support around a dozen working startups and hopes that over the next two to three years, graduated startups will be keen to set up shop near these centres.

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Targetting students and startup founders

The strategic locations are meant to help build a following around these hubs, the first of which will be built in Intramuros and the University of the Philippines Diliman — in the vicinity of key schools and universities — to encourage students to take an interest in entrepreneurship and technology. But later on, Valencia hopes to build these centres in other key cities.

Certainly, students with a mind for business will be critical to the long-term progress of these hubs, but for now, Valencia is focussed on early-stage enterprises that are less than three years old and looking to get “plugged in” to the startup community.

Coming together

Envisioned as a nexus of collaboration, these hubs are where the private and public sectors, the academics and businesses can converge for the ‘commercialisation of innovation’, according to Valencia.

“Here, government agencies can brainstorm incentives, co-working spaces and event centres host classes on technopreneurship, prototype labs work on new hardware, and founders have a ready venue to provide talks. In the end, we want it to be a place where they all [come] together,” he said.

Learning sessions have already been scheduled by IdeaSpace this month to collect insights and feedback from various stakeholders that will help design the programme for this National Innovation Center initiative.

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“It started with one step and we realised we cannot really accelerate this by being underground or just being exclusive,” Valencia said, of the Philippines’ burgeoning startup community. “We need to involve the government and academia, or else we limit our own future and dreams of others who want to create their own startups,” he concluded.