The fabrication laboratory (FabLab), a design co-creation platform in Bohol supporting Philippine micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) was cited among the top winners in an annual competition for start-up businesses using science and technology for innovative ideas.
Bohol FabLab won 200,000 yen prize money from THK, a Japanese-listed company in the Tokyo Stock Exchange who will then collaborate with FabLab for a development project involving the latter’s upcycling facility.
The award was among those given in the Tech Planter competition organized by a venture firm based in Japan Leave A Nest Co. Ltd meant for hardware makers that leverage science and technology for innovative business ideas. Same competitions are also held in countries like Japan, Singapore, and Malaysia.
Aside from FabLab’s upcycling project, other winning teams introduced innovations such as using light pigmented ube (purple yam) for commercial use, a mind-based alert system for paralysed patients, and a vending machine for over-the-counter medicines or first aid.
“Winning the competition gives Bohol Fablab and its beneficiaries the opportunity to partner with other companies and scale up its operations,” said Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteer (JOCV) Shiro Takaki who mentored and coordinated the Bohol FabLab participation in the competition.
The contest saw the potential of Bohol FabLab’s heat press machine, an upcycling equipment developed by Takaki to form new products from waste materials like plastic.
Global luxury brand Louis Vuitton already expressed interest to source materials for the interior designs of their boutique from the FabLab.
Established in 2014, the Bohol FabLab began as a development cooperation initiative of the Japan International Cooperation Agency’s (JICA) JOCV Program, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI)-Bohol, Department of Science and Technology (DOST), and Bohol Island State University (BISU).
About 135 manufacturers in Bohol initially became part of FabLab who benefited from the platform by enabling them to make product prototypes faster, create scale models, illustrate graphic designs, combine local materials, and even mass produce products.
“The award gives FabLab Bohol opportunity to use technology in helping the community and environment through our plastic upcycling project,” said Alfred Vicere, staff of Bohol FabLab.
FabLab technical manager and BISU instructor Jerome Manatad added that ‘the prize will give chance to also commercialize the heat press to benefit more MSMEs and communities.’
Already, a women’s group in Barangay Cogon, Bohol are using the heat press machine to create souvenir items from recycled plastic, a livelihood project supported by another JOCV.
FabLab is a concept that began in Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to help grassroots communities translate their design ideas into physical forms with help of computers. The concept was such a success that it already has a global network including USA, Kenya, and Afghanistan.
The Bohol FabLab encouraged the Philippine government through DTI to set up more of its kind in other parts of the country as part of MSME development.