Dr. Dodjie Maestrecampo, president and chief executive officer; Dr. Jonathan Salvacion, dean, School of Graduate Studies; Dr. Aldrin Calderon, dean, School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering; and Engr. Febus Reidj Cruz, faculty member, School of Electrical Electronics and Computer Engineering, all of Mapúa University, visited the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) on 22 August 2023 to discuss possible areas for collaboration on agricultural research and innovation.
During the meeting, the visitors were given an overview of SEARCA's mandate and its 11th Five-Year Plan. They were also introduced to the Center's core programs, primarily focusing on the Emerging Innovations for Growth Department.
Mapúa University is one of the top universities in the Philippines and Asia, with leading-edge excellence in engineering, architecture and design, and information technology. With its renewed vision of fostering society's sustainable socioeconomic growth through innovation, digital transformation, and lifelong learning, it aims to be more relevant and impactful.
To realize this vision, the university seeks partnership with relevant institutions. Dr. Salvacion emphasized that Mapúa University is committed not only to academic research but also to initiatives that benefit people and society at large. He shared that their research, development, and innovation (RDI) programs spotlight research, business innovation, knowledge and technology transfer, and information technology. "We can see an intersection between what we do and SEARCA's thrust," Dr. Maestrecampo shared.
Dr. Calderon underscored the crucial role of engineering in improving agricultural production to meet the growing food demand. "All innovations start from engineering; we at SEARCA are the experts in agriculture, now we need an engineering team," Dr. Gregorio remarked. With this alignment in mind, Dr. Maestrecampo agreed to lend their expertise in engineering and technology.
Dr. Salvacion and Engr. Cruz imparted examples of the university's technology enterprise collaborations, including partnerships with the Philippine Department of Science and Technology (DOST). Notable projects include the Localized Weather, Environment and Hydromet Monitoring System (WEHLO), a 24/7 localized weather-impact monitoring system designed to assist local government units in mitigating the effects of severe weather events; and the Automated Identification System (AIS), a tool that provides real-time information on the movements and location of ships to track and monitor their activities and avoid collisions.
Additionally, Dr. Salvacion highlighted the Universal Structural Health Evaluation and Recording System (USHER), another big-ticket project with DOST through the Philippine Council for Industry, Energy and Emerging Technology Research and Development (PCIEERD), with the Philippine Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH). USHER, the Philippines' first homegrown structural health monitoring system, offers solutions for disaster risk reduction and management, particularly earthquake monitoring.
Despite these milestones, Dr. Calderon revealed other promising projects that concluded after publication. Atty. Eric Reynoso, program head, Emerging Innovation for Growth Department (EIGD), expressed interest and suggested that SEARCA and Mapúa University start collaborating through these projects. "I like the idea that you already have a lot of studies that ended with publication; what we need to do now is proceed to the incubation stage," he shared.
Furthermore, Dr. Gregorio mentioned Center initiatives that the university could join in, such as the partnership with Kansas State University on prototyping an open-source tractor. Dr. Maria Cristeta Cuaresma, senior program head, Education and Collective Learning Department (ECLD), also proposed expanding WEHLO by incorporating weather index-based insurance.
To close the fruitful exchanges and seal the synergy, the teams agreed to draft a memorandum of understanding. The SEARCA director remarked that the partnership between SEARCA and Mapúa University could serve as a model for future alliances with other universities and colleges.
The delegation was welcomed by Dr. Gregorio. With him in the meeting were Dr. Nur Azura Adam, deputy director for programs; Dr. Cuaresma; Atty. Reynoso; Ms. Sharon Malaiba, unit head, Partnerships; Ms. Beatrisa Martinez, executive coordinator, Office of the Director, and Partnerships Unit staff. Dr. Gregorio also provided the visitors with an exclusive tour of the SEARCA Hub for Agriculture and Rural Innovation for the Next Generation (SHARING).