by Michelle Jeanne Caracut, OC/OPI

Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology (MSU-IIT) has solidified its reputation as a leading university in Mindanao by being named a Center for Sustainable Polymers – the first of its kind in the country.

A sustainable polymer is a plastic material that can be used to produce a variety of commercial products that do not harm the environment, the health of consumers, or the economy.

MSU-IT was given the recognition in April by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) along with P107.3M in funding for the program and projects to be undertaken.

The designation of the University as a Center for Sustainable Polymers by DOST occurs under the agency’s new Niche Centers for Research and Development (NICER) Program. 

The NICER Program aims to provide institutional grants to Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) for research and development capacity building to improve their science and technology infrastructure.

The program and projects of MSU-IIT as a Center for Sustainable Polymers will be implemented through a research team composed of faculty members from its College of Engineering and Technology (COET) and College of Science and Mathematics (CSM).

Dr. Arnold A. Lubguban, COET faculty member who has a doctorate degree in Chemical Engineering from University of Missouri, USA is the overall head of the Center’s program. Dr. Lubguban’s field of specialization is on polymer bioprocessing.

The team also has two project leaders, namely, Dr. Arnold C. Alguno, CSM faculty member who completed Doctor of Science in Physics in Tohoku University, Japan and who specializes in research in semiconductor and nanotechnology; and Dr. Ronald P. Bual, COET associate professor who finished  Doctor of Engineering in Chemical Engineering at Kyushu University, Japan and whose areas of specialization are in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine.

The team’s study leader is Dr. Roberto M. Malaluan, COET faculty member who holds the degree Doctor of Engineering in Chemical Engineering from Tohoku University of Japan. Dr. Malaluan specializes in research in supercritical fluid technology.

Funded by DOST-GIA/DOST-PCIEERD, the project implementation for the Center is slated to begin in the next few months.

According to the research team, MSU-IIT plays an important role in the government’s effort to develop Northern Mindanao as an innovation hub, as it has been developed to become a technopreneurial breeding ground. They said that Region 10 is abundant in coconut and fish processing waste and derivatives which can be used as raw materials for the research projects.

In a presentation by the research team on May 24, 2021 at the Knowledge and Technology Transfer Office (KTTO), the team showed Chancellor Sukarno D. Tanggol that with MSU-IIT becoming an R&D Center for Sustainable Polymers, it will address issues on high volume of by-products or derivatives from coconut processing, high volume of fish waste from fish processing facilities, and finite source of petroleum-based raw materials. 

With MSU-IIT’s existing advanced polymer lab facility, expertise and with its good track record of R&D and IP management, the University, through the Center, hopes to utilize and optimize coconut processing derivatives and fish processing wastes to produce original research products which can be industrially-competitive. These diverse products include alternative bio-based polyols, polyurethane insulation and viscoelastic memory foams, oil-absorbing foams for wastewater treatment, polyurethane-modified concrete, fish-derived functional food supplements, and wound healing patches. 

Expected outcomes of the said Center shall be increased production of high value products and increased coconut and fish productivity, as well as production of industry-compliant and cost-effective products with high market value.

MSU-IIT will be collaborating with other universities and agencies when implementing the Center’s projects, such as MSU-Naawan, MSU-General Santos, MSU-Marawi, Caraga State University, Ateneo de Davao University, Chemrez Technologies, Inc., URATEX Philippines, MERAV Bio-Nutraceuticals, Corp., Nuevochem Specialties, Inc., and Phoenix Petroleum. 

Aside from MSU-IIT, six other HEIs were identified as NICER Program grantees for this year. These HEIs are the following:

  1. Technological Institute of the Philippines – Center for Advanced Batteries 
  2. Isabela State University – Smart Water Infrastructure and Management
  3. Mariano Marcos State University – Coastal Engineering Research Center
  4. Polytechnic University of the Philippines – Center for Environmental Technologies and Compliance
  5. Laguna State Polytechnic University – Center for Lakes Sustainable Development
  6. De La Salle University – Laguna – Center for Vector of Diseases

The NICER is just one of four capacity-building programs that compose the Science for Change Program (S4CP). The S4CP is DOST’s larger program that was created to accelerate STI (science, technology, and innovation) in the country.

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