It is heartening that the story of Malaysian innovation appears once again in Scientific American. Nearly 20 years have elapsed since “Malaysia 2020” was published in Scientific America. “ Malaysia 2020” included introduction by former Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad, who describe Malaysia’s visions and strategic plan to become a fully developed nation by the year 2020. Much has transpired since then, and Malaysia is well along the path to achieve this goal.
Several of the milestones along this path have been noted by external organizations, such as the World Economic Forum, which ranked Malaysia 21 in its Global Competitiveness Report. The report which highlighted Malaysia’s flexible labor market, ranked Malaysia above two European nations – Spain and Luxembourg. In addition, a survey from IMD business school of Lausanne, Switzerland placed Malaysia in the top ten of the world’s most competitive economies.
But we can not rest where we are. To accelerate this economic development, Malaysia has ambitious plans to become a global leader in education and research as well as diverse industries such as biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, electronics, food, finance, environmental engineering, and clean energy.
To help drive these new, high-skilled, high-value sectors, I launched the Economic Transformation Program. The program had two key components. The first includes National Key Economic Areas which identify, prioritize and align support for priority sector and major project that will drive economic growth. The second component involves a set of Strategic Reform Initiatives, such as efforts to reenergize the private sector, to further develop the skill of our workforce, and to ensure sustainable growth.
It is within the dynamic framework that I welcome Scientific America’s focus on innovation and this opportunity to talk about Malaysia’s journey. For innovation to flourish here, we must attract a large community of creative individuals from diverse fields an environment which welcomes innovation, risk taking and creativity.
To this end, last year I announced the formation of a new unit under my office, called the Special Innovation Unit (Unit Inovasi khas or UNIK). It is working to involve and align stakeholders and elements in our innovation ecosystem, including our education system and universities, government program, innovation funding and skill development program. This Special Innovation Unit will drive strategies and policies, while the National Innovation Centre will serve as its implementation arm.
Today, innovation requirements, like economies, are more complex, dynamic and globalized than ever before. Funding of research institutes is no longer sufficient to achieve innovation goals. There must also be ways to capitalize and develop the fruits of the research. So the government is keen to extract the hidden wealth from decades of R&D work that has been conducted in Malaysia. We are working to commercialize our work and unleash the economic gains from this Intellectual Property.
To achieve this, the National Innovation Centre will actively search out promising research finding and seek to bring these ideas to market.
We look forward to future reports that assess the progress of these innovation-focused bodies and our drive to become a fully developed, high-income nation by 2020. (Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib/Timurmerdeka.com).