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Little-known DOST program turns students to techno biz

BY: PAUL ICAMINA

Pili coated in three heavenly flavors: milk-, dark- and bitter sweet chocolates.

It is right there with the best almond chocolates of Hershey’s or Cadbury – and it is made in Bicol, by some members of Class 2005 of the Ateneo de Naga University.

If the entrepreneurs can only extend the six-month shelf life of the chocolates, now with its own barcode, the sweets can easily go beyond Bicol.

It all started in 2005 with a small P274,104 financial assistance from the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) to 11 undergraduates in a program to encourage college students into technology-based enterprises.

Having paid the amount of the original loan, and now graduates, the entrepreneurs applied and was granted in 2007 P231,154 to push the chocolate-coated pili nuts all the way.

The pili enterprise is one of only three projects that have made it to Stage 2, or full commercialization, of the DOST-Academe-Technology-Based Enterprise Development (DAT-BED) Program.

The other two started at the Marcos Agro-Industrial School (MAIS) with a P104,398 financial assistance in 2003 for the food processing, poultry, goat and cattle raising projects of eight students. After three years, the projects earned profits of P42,878; the original amount provided was given to the school as a no-strings-attached grant.

Two of the students, now graduates, pursued their business dreams and each received loans of P336,885 in 2007. Each will fatten 15 heads of cattle using the Urea, Molasses and Mineral Block technology as feed supplement.

The feed is the innovation part of the project required by the DAT-BED Program. The Naga enterprise was innovative in coating pili with chocolates.

“All project proposals are required to be technology-innovative,” said Theda Mae L. Salvania, a young agricultural engineer graduate from the University of the Philippines Los Banos who is part of the DAT-BED monitoring team at the DOST- Technology Application and Promotion Institute (TAPI).

DOST’s Small Enterprise Technology Upgrading Program provides the funding to TAPI which implements DAT-BED.

The 55 on-going Stage 1 projects (for undergraduates) in 18 schools are all agri-based or in food processing maybe because, Salvania explained, the schools are all in rural areas.

Remarkably, except for Ateneo de Naga, all 42 schools accredited since the program started in 1994 are state colleges and universities. Two Metro Manila schools joined this year.

For 2010, three new projects worth P411,820 started at the Palompon Institute of Technology in Palompon, Leyte. Fourteen project proposals from the Central Mindanao State University and nine from Cagayan State University are under review.

Still, the P500,000 used in 2009 reflects the program is not fully tapped by schools.

Out-of-school youths can avail of DAT-BED through non-government organizations linked with college vocational and technical schools with a maximum student-faculty ratio of 25:1 in science and technology courses and entrepreneurship programs.

After three years of successful implementation, TAPI gives the full financial assistance to the school as a grant. If projects are unsuccessful, TAPI gets back the unexpended balance; if it has been exhausted, it requires a full financial report.

To be accredited, schools needs only a DAT-BED orientation and must submit project implementation plans. They must also have a core team of advisers with project-related expertise such as management, business administration, agriculture, home economics and so on.

The TAPI financial assistance are interest-free; it is up to the schools whether to charge 6 percent per annum maximum or agree to income sharing (85 percent to students, 10 percent to advisers and 5 percent to the school).

“DAT-BED aims to develop entrepreneurial competence among students, young professionals and out-of-school youths by providing them access to funds, facilities and technologies,” Salvania said, “at the same time creating income-generating projects for the institutions.”

At the end of the day, she added, “success is indicated by the students turned full-time entrepreneurs and the income and employment they have generated.”

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