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Malaysian unis to provide tech recovery solutions post-lockdown

Higher education institutions (HEIs) can offer a lot in terms of ideas and expertise geared towards helping Malaysians get back on their feet in a post-COVID-19 nation.

The Ministry of Higher Education had recently announced the availability of Covid-19 research grants to lecturers from public universities as well as private higher education institutions with applications to be submitted from 15 to 30 April 2020.

Each proposal, according to the ministry, could be done individually or in a group of three, timeframe for which is six months.

Each research approved would be allocated at least RM20,000 and should involve 20 main areas of studies including economy, public health, security, tourism, trade, information technology, education, and food security.

The proposals would first be evaluated by the Higher Education Department. And the outcome of the studies would then be scrutinised by the ministry’s Research Grant Evaluation Committee.

The Vice-chancellor and President of UCSI University Academician stated that engaging academics and researchers in providing input would put to reality the idea and need for evidence-based policies, that policies should be adopted and pursued based on facts and figures which have been adequately and properly scrutinised.

The Universiti Putra Malaysia Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research & Innovation) stated that a good number of academics at the institution are council members of professional bodies as well as active members in government think tanks, and committees.

With this, the engagement of academia would allow research outputs to be quickly translated into actions and help the country to plan and coordinate recovery efforts, based on the Respond-Recover-Thrive approach.

The higher education sector is closely linked to the socio-economic facets of the nation. This is aptly described by the quintuple helix innovation model, where the intertwined university-industry-government-public-environment relationship is crucial to solving societal challenges at hand, he said.

Researchers at universities have the facilities to look at the gaps and to obtain data for better-informed solutions resulting in a plausibly better impact to the nation, the Universiti Malaya Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) noted.

In institutions of higher learning, there are experts from various fields with the know-how and access to some technologies that could be put together to find solutions to some of the issues arising from the pandemic.

For example, many microbiology laboratories in the universities now are helping the ministry of health in screening and testing samples for the coronavirus. At the same time, they are gathering data that would help in the understanding how the virus works which subsequently can help in the development of vaccine and anti-viral agents.

The Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Universiti Teknikal Malaysia Melaka (UTeM) noted that engaging with the government for research that may contribute to future policies, this will lead to a change in the way universities conduct research, problem solve and apply a more holistic approach to cross-field research.

As part of Malaysian Technical University Network, UTeM focuses on developing and introducing technologies, innovations and inventions that help to improve society by solving their problems and boosting the domestic economy – whether in agriculture, health, food and beverage, logistics, and entrepreneurship, for example.

As to the areas the respective universities intend to focus on in light of MOHE’s call for research proposals, UCSI would be very much delighted to participate in areas of the economy, education, IT and tourism.

The university has already set-up a ‘Post-COVID TaskForce’ looking at the areas.

UPM is planning a focus on issues surrounding agriculture and food security revolving on logistics as a pre- and post-harvest technologies.

There will also be an engineering-medical-sciences-IT team to work on an effective diagnostics approach, and the same approach could be applied to advance public health, zoonotic and anthroponotic research.

UTeM has prepared proposals aligned to its niche areas of advanced manufacturing and advanced computing.

HEIs can move much faster if agencies share their data and work together in a coordinated and consolidated manner so as not to duplicate work.

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