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EXCLUSIVE - Application-oriented innovation at Universiti Teknikal Malaysia Melaka

OpenGov speaks toRabiah Bte Ahmad, Professor, IT Faculty and Deputy Director, Centre of Research Innovation and Management (CRIM), Universiti Teknikal Malaysia Melaka (UTeM) about promoting innovation for societal benefits. UTeM was established in the year 2000 as the 1st Technical Public University in Malaysia. It focuses on the areas of Engineering, IT, Engineering Technology and Management Technology.

CRIM is a central body within the university to effectively coordinate, assess and promote research activities at the University. The Centre also seeks out commercial application for the products, technology and services the research produces.

What are your roles at the University?

I am an academician at UTeM. I teach cybersecurity and information security management systems. I also conduct research into every aspect of information security, from management to applied cryptography.

I also occupy the position of the Deputy Director for Centre of Research Innovation and Management. My role is to guide, monitor and oversee the research activities and performance for the university.

Can you tell us about your research in Information Security?

Information security involves people, processes and technology. Subsequently, research in information security, is notonly focused on the technical aspects but also covers the social sciences too. It includes mathematics, for calculations and improving performance andit also involves computer science and engineering, because of the devices involved. It is in fact a multi-disciplinary area.

What are the areas of focus for CRIM?

As a university, we need to come up with innovations. UTeM supports young researchers through the provisions of incentives and promotions for avid researchers. We promote a rich culture of research and innovation.

The objective of innovation is not just to come up with new knowledge, but to discover applications of the knowledge, in a way which will bring benefits to industry and the community in general.

At UTeM, our focus is clear. As a technical university, our focus is to come up new technologies and innovations for the benefit of the society.

In my role as the project director, I need to guide researchers in the right direction. I have to ensure that the researchers come up with new research. At the same time, we need to ensure that their research and innovation are not redundant. We want to minimise duplications.

There is a process we follow for research projects. The funder will inform us that there is an opportunity to get a grant. Then we will advertise and put out a call for proposals. We need to evaluate the proposals received. The exceptional ones will be forwarded to the funder and one will be awarded the grant. Then the researchers can proceed with the research projects.

What are the steps taken once a research breakthrough is made, having a potential application?

There are two types of research, fundamental and applied research. We need fundamental research. They form the foundation of applied research.

When we talk about applied research, we need to have an industry collaborator. Every university encourages its researchers to have industry partners.

Then, we can come up and say that this particular product can be adopted in this industry. And finally the product can be commercialised in collaboration with strategic industriesas revenue generating initiatives.

Do you work with government agencies?

As a public university, UTeM is aligned with the Ministry of Higher Education’s rules and regulations.

The university has broader objectives than just developing and selling products. The university aspires to promote the dissemination of knowledge through their subject matter experts.

Like here, I am promoting the ideas that I can generate from the university and this supports the aims of the Ministry of Higher Education whereby all professors take the lead in promoting knowledge for the society at large.

How do you evaluate the success of research work?

From the perspective of formal academia, research institutions, research needs to produce publications. If the publications get a high number of citations, if the research is being cited and is known world-wide, that is an indicator of success.

The other measure is real world use of our applications in a sustainable way. If we can see the sustainability, then the research is successful.

From the larger Malaysia perspective, if we see successful, widely utilised products in the market, then that means our research is producing results and we are proceeding in the right direction.
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