ALMA BUELVA:  TURNING 'BRAIN DRAIN' TO 'BRAIN GAIN'

MANILA, December 14, 2005
 (STAR) By Alma Buelva - With the high-tech market showing continued signs of recovery, the timing is good for the launch of an improved online database tool and project incubation laboratory for Filipino technology entrepreneurs.

The Brain Gain Network (BGN) is an online networking and productivity tool (http://www.bgn.org/) that claims to have the largest database of Filipino technical experts residing and working around the world, including non-Filipinos who support IT initiatives in the country. Its primary goal is to create an extensive online community of Filipino ICT professionals and students interested in increasing the global competitiveness of the Philippines by helping bring "home brew" technologies to fruition with guidance from technology experts who are members of BGN.

A venture capital fund management and consulting company, Narra Venture Capital, is behind BGN, which actually started in 1992 when Dr. Paco Sandejas, NarraVC managing partner, and Dr. Marc Loinaz, co-founder of Silicon Valley-based Aeluros, were still Electrical Engineering Ph.D. candidates and researchers at Stanford University.

At one point, BGN member-ship reached over a thousand, said Sandejas, although the online version lists only over 500 old and new members so far. Sandejas is optimistic more people will join when news of the online BGN tool spreads.

"Through BGN, we are enabling high-technology believers and supporters and their companies to have a tool and medium for interaction. It aims to help turn ‘brain drain’ into ‘brain gain’ by facilitating communication and cooperation among its members," said Sandejas.

To help carry out this objective are long-time BGN members and notably successful Filipino tech-entrepreneurs from Silicon Valley. The list includes Dado Banatao, an inventor and technology business leader; Dr. Joe Cruz, former Dean of Engineering at Ohio State University; John Ocampo, founder and chairman of Nasdaq-listed chip company Sirenza Microdevices; Dr. Luis Sarmienta, a research scientist of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) CSAIL Laboratory; and Loinaz, to name a few.

Members will also benefit from the assistance of BGN mentors such as Lawrence Hughes, co-founder of Cipher-Trust, and Peter Valdes, co-founder of Tivoli, who are both successful US tech-entrepreneurs who now work in the Philippines.

BGN extends its membership invitation to all techies in the country and especially abroad, particularly business service professionals in the high-tech industry such as venture capitalists, lawyers, high-tech marketing experts, accountants, personnel managers, and operations and management consultants. Institutions like training centers, universities, government agencies, trade associations, and overseas engineering groups are also invited to register.

To join and access the BGN is free of charge to members, except to entities that wish to use it for advertising, manpower gene-ration, promotion and other business purposes, Sandejas said. ARCDI incubation lab One of BGN’s first concrete projects is the ARCDI Incubation Laboratory for research, development and engineering that aims to bring academic and research institutes closer to the industry in an open, non-captive and highly collaborative environment. It is co-managed by NarraVC and ARCDI (Advanced Research and Competency Development Institute) in partnership with researchers and corporate partners such as Innove Communications, IBM Philippines, EAZIX/IMI, and the Banatao Foundation.

Located at Northgate Cyberzone in Alabang, this non-profit, shared-resource laboratory intends to give Filipino researchers and technology entrepreneurs a facility and, more importantly, an environment where they can create unique technological solutions that may be licensed or spun off into globally competitive corporate ventures.

The laboratory will initially focus on low-cost computing and communications solutions for developing nations for home and enterprise computing and rural education.

Sandejas, who also serves as the laboratory’s interim general manager, said that aside from financial support, they freely offer their management time for sourcing, selecting, planning and mentoring the incubated projects.

At present, Sandejas said they are mentoring three unique high-tech projects that made it to the Philippine Emerging Startups Open (PESO), a technology and innovation business plan competition modeled after the $50,000 Entrepreneurship Competition of the MIT.

The first project is called ThinCSOC, a system-on-a-chip type of solution for mass computing and connectivity involving thin clients embedded with Linux. Sandejas hopes this solution can be practically applied as an alternative architecture specifically for the government’s PCs for Public High School program’s second phase called GILAS or Gearing up Internet Literacy Access for Students.

"We want to prove that we can have a system that can outperform all the PCs delivered for GILAS so far," he said.

The second project lodged at the ARCDI Incubation Laboratory is called Medical Electronic Diagnostic Solutions by Medical MEDS Inc., which is developing biomedical monitoring modules and mobile phone technology-based applications for healthcare practitioners and patients.

The third project involves a company called BlueTalk, which aims to introduce a product that integrates Bluetooth technology and VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) into a system that allows voice calls transmitted over a local area network (LAN). This product is a low-cost, reliable, flexible and readily available means of communication between mobile phones within a LAN.

Sandejas said they patterned the ARCDI Incubation Laboratory after the technology licensing offices of MIT and Stanford University. Like these two notable institutions, the goal of the ARCDI Incubation Laboratory is to create its own intellectual property (patents and copyrights), which it will, in turn, license to corporate partners and/or spin off into globally competitive high-tech ventures.

"The research that we fund belongs to the laboratory. ARCDI will own it so is its IP. ARCDI will name the researchers as the inventors and anytime $100 goes to ARCDI because of patents, a percentage will go to the developers, to ARCDI and partners like Innove and IBM that are helping fund the laboratory’s operations," said Sandejas.

This licensing revenue scheme is expected to encourage researchers to work at the ARCDI Incubation Laboratory. The sponsors, on the other hand, can enjoy the benefits of being able to see IP at the earliest stages, interact with the researchers, potentially license the technologies, and recruit from the students and researchers.

Meanwhile, Sandejas said none of the three projects at the ARCDI Incubation Laboratory at present have entered into this kind of arrangement yet. While still in the learning process, the laboratory, he said, will probably get its first patents in the next two years.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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