UPGRADE Innolab, Inc.: Former university-based technology business incubator vows to scale up more enterprises as a private organization

As a new entity, it will now be referred to as UPGRADE Innolab, Inc. (UPGRADE). But it will continue to be a business incubator that helps build, launch, and accelerate impact-driven, profitable, and scalable business ventures and a champion for technology, innovation, and creating impact through entrepreneurship.

The University of the Philippines Mindanao Growing and Developing Enterprises (UPGRADE TBI) took on a new identity as a non-stock, non-profit organization from being university-based technology business incubator (TBI), following the approval of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) of its incorporation on November 17, 2022.

As a new entity, it will now be referred to as UPGRADE Innolab, Inc. (UPGRADE). But it will continue to be a business incubator that helps build, launch, and accelerate impact-driven, profitable, and scalable business ventures and a champion for technology, innovation, and creating impact through entrepreneurship.

“With this new identity, UPGRADE will be able to cater more entrepreneurs grow and scale their impact-driven enterprises not only within UP Mindanao but also across the Mindanao region and in other parts of the country with our customized and gender-smart business incubation programs,” UPGRADE president Richard R. Day said.

He added the change will also allow the organization to take on more opportunities and projects that would benefit a wide range of enterprises in the country as well as those who wanted to launch their own startups.

“This way, we can also contribute to the further development of our regional startup ecosystem and foster a more enabling environment for our startups and social enterprises,” Day said.

Its Board of Directors is chaired by Lynda Buenaobra, incumbent officer-in-charge (OIC) of UP Mindanao Technology Transfer and Business Development Office (TTBDO). The board include Day as President, UP Mindanao Legal Officer Atty. Charmaine P. Valentin as Secretary, UP assistant professor and project lead of the former UPGRADE TBI Miguel Carlo S. Guillermo as Treasurer, and UP Mindanao assistant professor Nikko Laorden as Auditor.

They took their oath on December 12, 2022 during UPGRADE’s strategic planning session at the Sotogrande Davao Hotel, Davao City.

UPGRADE started out in 2018 as TBI of UP Mindanao formed under the two-year Higher Education Institution Readiness for Innovation and Technopreneurship (HEIRIT) program of the Department of Science and Technology – Philippine Council for Industry, Energy, and Emerging Technology Research and Development (PCIEERD).

HEIRIT Program is a preparatory program for universities to establish a technology business incubator. TBIs under this program also incubate startups, especially startups that are from their respective universities.

While it was still under UP Mindanao’s wing, UPGRADE was able to incubate 30 startups, helped launch nine business ventures, capacitated more than 5,000 individuals, raised more than P12 million equity-free funding for impactful startups, and facilitated the approval of at least one startup per DOST Startup Grant Fund Program Cycle.

For three years prior its incorporation, it has also organized more than 200 events, partnered with almost 100 organizations, led the implementation of the second run of DOST-PCIEERD’s HEIRIT program and co-implemented PCIEERD’s Women-Helping-Women Innovating Social Enterprises (WHWiSE) program.

It was also named as the 2022 Outstanding Incubator in Davao Region in the Davao Startup Champion Awards 2022 accorded by Innovation and Development Accelerators Consortium for Startups in the Davao Region (IDEAS Davao) on August 14, 2022.

In that same award, Day was named the Rainmaker of the Year for his leadership that paved the way for these accomplishments.

Day also thanked UP Mindanao for the support the TBI have received in the past three years.

“We will be forever grateful for the support of the University during our humble beginnings. We look forward to more continued collaboration with them to contribute to our shared dream of socio-economic development in Mindanao,” he said.

He said UPGRADE has promised to extend its services and share its networks to UP Mindanao’s own business incubation initiatives through the TTBDO and to aid in facilitating the transfer, adoption and commercialization of the university’s technologies and startups.

New Offerings

UPGRADE is also firming up additional programs and services to boost its expansion efforts.

Day said apart from the business incubation services and handholding of startups, UPGRADE is also looking at incorporating investment readiness assessments, focus on due diligence, and development of local and international investor pool.

“We have seen the need to strengthen this part in our startup ecosystem if we really wanted to see more startups from our region and countryside take a share in the global market,” he said.

He said it will also be augmented with strategic marketing programs tailored for enterprises with diverse needs, niche, market, and character.

He added it will also offer business incubation consultancy services for those agencies or organizations that wished to establish their own business incubation programs or improve their existing programs.

“It will not be easy but we are optimistic about it because we have a great team here at UPGRADE and serving the entrepreneurs in Mindanao is our motivation,” he said.