January 19, 2021

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Malaysia launches new IT R&D funds

The Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry (Mosti) has introduced five Research and Development (R&D) funds under the Malaysia Grand Challenge (MGC) to help commercialise products and innovations here.

The Minister of Science, Technology, and Innovation stated that the funds would cover various sectors, aimed at improving people’s lives, economic system and environment at both the local and global levels. He said MGC would introduce various incentives and collaborative efforts through disruptive technology in mainstreaming science, technology and innovation.

This, he said, was in line with the country’s aspiration to realise the Shared Prosperity Vision 2030 (SPV 2030) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) outlined by the United Nations.

He noted that the MGC was introduced to encourage the research, development, commercialisation and innovation (R&D&C&I) in the country. Mosti will offer R&D allocations under the Pemacu strategic technology fund programme (Pemacu) and applications are open to start-up companies, Small-Medium Enterprises (SMEs), multinational companies and even individuals.

The government has the responsibility to invest in R&D so those that are successful later could be commercialised, with private sectors investing in them. It’s very difficult to find venture capital firms that invest in research before the commercialisation, he said.

While not all funded R&D (projects) would be successful, the hope is to see a large number of them commercialised, the Minister said, adding the ministry targeted R&D for 114 products this year.

Efforts by countries like the United States that invested in smartphone technology like touchscreen and the one the country’s tech giants’ voice-controlled personal assistant that have also benefited consumers across the globe were cited.

MGC would improve innovations, creativity and commercialisations of local products through sustainable technology, thus reducing dependency on foreign innovations.

The five funds available under Pemacu are the Strategic Research Fund, Technology Development Fund 1 (TeD1), Technology Development Fund 2 (Ted2 which is an extension of TeD1), Bridging Fund (BGF) and Applied Innovation Fund (AIF).

SRF provides up to RM15 million to SMEs and multinational companies for a matching period of 36 months for products with Technology Readiness Levels (TRL) of 3 to 9. The TeD 1 offers up to RM1 million funds within 24 months for TRL 2 to 4; TeD 2 (RM3 million within 36 months for TRL 4 to 7); BGF (RM4 million in 36 months for TRL 7 to 9); and AIF (RM500,000 in 12 to 18 months for TRL 2 to 4).

The scheme would strengthen the R&D&C&I sector in the country, with a target of 3.5 per cent gross domestic expenditure on R&D (GERD) by 2030 from 1.08 per cent presently. Moreover, the initiative was in support of Malaysia’s High-Tech Nation Council in charting the current and future technology development in the country that would cover issues like health, environment, food, access to technology and security.

OpenGov Asia recently reported earlier that the National Policy on Science, Technology and Innovation (DSTIN) 2021-2030 will intensify local technology development and application efforts to transform the country from being technology users to technology developers.

The Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation stated that by setting a target of becoming a high-technology country, the efforts would be able to reduce dependence on foreign technology and labour. The experimental development research efforts would be empowered by setting aside 50 per cent from the allocation for research and development (R&D).

The government through this ministry has formulated the new policy which will also address the issue of innovation inefficiency, where the concept of Science, Technology, Innovation and Economy (STIE) is introduced.

An integrated approach combining the two major sectors of the country, namely ‘STI’ and ‘Economy’ as one sector to ensure that all programmes are implemented to complement each other and have a high impact, thus making STI as an enabler in addressing national issues and challenges.

The government is aware that STI-based economic growth efforts require the cooperation of various parties, therefore this policy emphasises strategic collaboration between government, industry, academia and society, particularly in the development of local technologies through R&D&C&I.