Malaysia needs a ‘big innovation target’ to stay ahead, says its government agency MRANTI

An ambitious focus on innovation, a synergistic ecosystem and a “bridge” between research and commercialization – these are among the elements needed for Malaysia to get ahead in the region and realize its ambition to be among the 20 most innovative nations by 2030 in the Global Innovation Index, said Malaysian Research Accelerator for Technology and Innovation (MRANTI) Tuesday.

MRANTI said in a statement that Malaysia is currently ranked 36th and as a result, gross domestic product (GDP) growth is currently significantly below its potential output level with a gap of 49%.

Quoting the Malaysia Knowledge Economy Study, she says that every 1% increase in innovation capacity increases a country’s GDP per capita by 0.36%.

For Malaysia, he said an increase in innovation output could mean an additional $1.21 billion to its GDP of $336 billion, even as Malaysia’s 12th plan defined innovation as a key driver of economic growth.

Incredible potential, but closer collaboration needed

In the first of a series of industry discussions aimed at fostering closer synergy in the ecosystem, initiated by MRANTI, panel experts said Malaysia has incredible potential, but needs closer collaboration within the innovation ecosystem that will support its success.

In addition, a strong technology transfer office mechanism between universities, government and investors to accelerate innovation to commercialization is needed.

While up to 80% of research in Malaysia today is conducted at Malaysian higher education institutions, he cited data from WIPO and said that just over 9,000 patent applications had been registered in Malaysia between 2013 and today.

However, he said this was only a fraction of the 120,000 research publications Malaysia produced during the same period.

“To be quite frank, our ecosystem is still fragmented. Our return on ideas, or ROI, is not yet where it should be. That’s why we have to ask ourselves some tough questions: why aren’t we innovating enough? And, even though we have so much talent, the private sector still does not invest enough in research and development (R&D) – why? said Dzuleira Abu Bakar, managing director of MRANTI.

“As an ecosystem, we have come a long way, but there is still a long way to go. The true spirit of innovation can no longer be unleashed by an inaccessible and fragmented ecosystem. Lack of access to finance, limited resources including skilled talent, and policies that have yet to catch up to their potential are just a few of the many areas that need to be addressed urgently,

“Many of our research and higher education institutes produce amazing discoveries every year. They publish many research papers and discover great inventions in their laboratories and R&D facilities. We have incredible talent in our academia,

“But that’s where they stay. Many don’t go to commercialization because they don’t have access to large-scale funding or expertise, and many struggle to file patents, which can be complex and take years,” he said. -she adds.

According to MRANTI, Malaysia’s commercialization rate is currently only estimated at 5-10%, compared to some highly developed economies like Japan or the United States, where commercialization rates reach 60%.

The need for critical infrastructure in marketing

Meanwhile, Teo Soo-Hwang, scientific director of Cancer Research Malaysia, said the critical infrastructure to enable commercialization success is not yet fully developed in Malaysia.

She added that many of the world’s most reputable educational institutions not only have excellent academic units, but also commercialization units, expertise and funding that enable them to commercialize their research.

“It is this confluence of manpower and funding that we desperately need in Malaysia. Cancer Research Malaysia and other research institutes have already shown that we can produce cutting-edge research, some of which is ready for commercialization, but we need more support to commercialize,” she said.

In addition, she added, Malaysia needs its “big innovation focus”, and to be clear on what areas of innovation to work on, and Malaysia can offer on the global stage in order to attract the talent, investment and recognition it needs to achieve its goal. ambitions.

“What are we doing above the rest that will allow us to stand out? For example, Cancer Research Malaysia has focused on research on Asians and in this way we have brought a value proposition to an international platform – clearly we need to continue to be clear about how we are unique and excel in these areas,” she said.

Universiti Malaya Vice-Chancellor Mohd Hamdi Abd Shukor also said that a lot of academic research is aimed at basic discovery, but it doesn’t necessarily need or can’t be commercialized.

“More work needs to be done in applied and industrial research, where problems can be solved with solutions,” he said.

According to him, researchers often struggle to wear the many hats necessary for the commercialization journey.

“What we ask professors to do, when they have a certificate, is to ‘separate themselves’ into different roles; start a business, for example. And I have often seen that end in failure. Durability is an issue. It is clear that this method does not work. Researchers are not always businessmen and they should strengthen their research capacities. Getting the patent to the business world should be done by business experts,” he added.

He also noted that the professor cannot be a researcher, entrepreneur and venture capitalist at the same time.

“We need to review the whole value chain (to better delineate roles and responsibilities),” he said.

As for Thomas G Tsao, founding partner of venture capital firm Gobi Partners, an initiative like Mranti is much needed.

“As a venture capital firm, we welcome any initiatives that encourage more collaboration and communication. We welcome partnerships. What MRANTI is doing here, bringing together stakeholders who didn’t necessarily talk to each other in the past, is fantastic,” he said.

A connector between stakeholders

Gobi has invested in 27 early-stage startups in Malaysia and also has its ASEAN headquarters in Malaysia.

In this regard, Dzuleira said that the MRANTI strives to be that connector between different ecosystem stakeholders, functioning as a single platform, or “glue” between key ecosystem players.

“This is one of many more ecosystem engagement sessions. We will drive continued innovation and be the one-stop research commercialization agency with the resources to accelerate the commercialization of ideas and innovative impactful concepts,

“We link problem statements to solutions, establishing collaboration between the public and private sectors to increase private sector participation, either through market access, investment, advice or consultation and testing facilities and prototyping,” she said.

According to the release, MRANTI will also connect researchers to industry and in doing so, increase the amount of research or innovation that can be commercialized. He will also work closely with the Ministry of Science, Technology and Information (MOSTI) and the Economic Planning Unit (EPU) in Malaysia with the aim of playing a critical role in bringing together the private and public.

“However, the MRANTI mandate is not a silver bullet. There will be no magic tricks involved. Instead, what will truly be the ingredient for success is consistent, persistent and structured engagement between all stakeholders, so that everyone is united on this journey to commercialization,

“MRANTI believes that the national GDP will improve, more jobs can be created and Malaysia will attract more foreign investment, to ensure that products and solutions are more affordable, available and accessible to improve the quality life of all Malaysians, and to ensure that Malaysia becomes a high-tech, high-income nation,” she said.

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