In fostering Malaysia’s international relations in science, technology and innovation (STI) to expedite our innovation rate, we must not leave out emerging countries such as China and India.
Among the giant foreign investors in Bioeconomy in Malaysia for example, is Biocon Ltd, India’s largest biopharmaceutical company, which entered Malaysia in 2010.
It is currently setting up Asia’s largest integrated insulin manufacturing facility at an investment of over RM 1.33 billion. It would undertake research and development activities, and the commercialisation of drug products.
The company currently employs a team of 500 people, of which 431 are Malaysians, and 355 are knowledge-workers who are now based at the state-of-the-art facility.
To put Malaysia’s bioeconomy value propositions on world stage, one of the focuses of Bioeconomy Corporation has been on international market penetration as guided by the National Biotechnology Policy.
Our target is to produce at least 20 global companies in the bio-based industry in three years’ time.
Besides Asean and other South-South cooperation in STI, we also leverage proven, successful public-private partnership models from the developed world.
The SIRIM-Fraunhofer program, as I have spoken about before, is another excellent example of how international networks in STI can bring a spillover of knowledge and experience to Malaysia.
Germany is one of the most competitive countries in the world in the manufacturing industry, and the German government was quick to roll out a high-tech digitization strategy they termed as “Industrie 4.0”.
SIRIM adopted the German Innovation ecosystem through close cooperation with the Fraunhofer Society for the Advancement of Applied Research, by offering SMEs a chance to upgrade their technology management practices to move up the value chain.
Although our programme is still at a small scale as compared to the 67 institutes and over 24 000 staff in the German Fraunhofer Society, we would benefit from their Industrie 4.0 policy by leveraging their over 60 years of expertise in applied research and their partnership with the industry.
Our young ones are also proactively stepping up in cultivating strong STI social networks with the world.
In February I had a dynamic dialogue with some of the most brilliant young scientists in the country.
The Young Scientists Network-Academy of Sciences Malaysia (YSN-ASM) was established in 2012 to recognise excellent young scientists aged 40 and below from various disciplines of sciences including social science and humanities.
Importantly, members are selected primarily based on the scientific merit of their research and their commitment towards the nation’s STI ecosystem. Members and affiliates of the network represent about 30 institutions that include institutions of higher learning, research institutes and industry.
The Chairperson of YSN-ASM, Dr Abhimanyu Veerakumarasivam, who is a scientist from Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM), explained that they aspire to position young scientists as a strategic partner in driving the country’s STI agenda and in positioning Malaysia as a strategic collaborative partner in the global STI dialogue.
They established several working groups to achieve this, including on science outreach, science education, science communication, science leadership, science integrity, science policy, and science media.
I was most impressed by their collegiality and volunteering spirit in organising various self-initiated projects and activities. Through their outreach initiatives, they reach out to tens of thousands of children and their families annually. We need more of such role models in the sciences who are genuinely passionate about advocating science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem).
Moreover they often do so at the expense of their own time and resources. It is the unbridled passion and belief that one can make a difference that drives this voluntary spirit!
What I found most exciting is that despite contributing significant time and effort to impact the STI ecosystem beyond the confines of their actual job scope, most of these researchers claim that these extra voluntary efforts have actually helped to elevate their own research to higher standards by broadening their worldview, increasing interdisciplinary research collaborations, diversifying their source of research funds and recognizing the right research questions that need to be addressed.
I am proud of our young scientists, who are consistently recognised through various international awards.
For example, Prof. Dr. Lee Keat Teong of Universiti Sains Malaysia was recognised as one of the most cited researchers in the world.
Prof. Dr. Iqbal Saripan of UPM won the University of Surrey Vice-Chancellor’s Alumni Award for Research and at least eight women scientists from YSN-ASM have won the L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science in recent years.
These are just few of the many success stories that exist within the network. It is a testament that with the right motivation, Malaysian scientists are able to compete at an international level.
At the same time, these young scientists realised that significant progress that our STI ecosystem has made can only be sustained by leveraging international networks to increase scientific capacity and reach.
They actively promote scientific dialogues with international organisations such as the Global Young Academy (GYA) that connects exceptional young scientists from around the globe to empower each other.
Some of GYA’s roles are to help establish National Young Academies around the world, co-organise regional and global conferences, releases statements on science policy and of course, is a proponent of Stem.
Many young Malaysian scientists have represented Malaysia at the world stage in various meetings and dialogues around the world. YSN-ASM participated in the publishing of the Global State of Young Scientists in Asean report, to raise the ‘voice’ of young scientists, calling for evidence-based policies that promote creativity and innovation in the region.
Here I congratulate YSN-ASM for the excellent progress and positive impact they make in just a span of five years.
Their achievements are certainly recognised internationally when this year two YSN-ASM members were elected among the approximately 30 new members the GYA elects annually.
They will be representing Malaysia at the 7th International Conference of Young Scientists and Annual General Meeting in Scotland this May.
In September 2017, I am delighted that the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation is supporting YSN-ASM’s collaboration with the GYA to host and organise the Asean Science Leadership programme.
Again, in the spirit of “prosper thy neighbours”, we want to create a network of top Asean young scientists and equip these young leaders with a skill set that would enhance regional scientific collaboration and Asean science diplomacy.
As Malaysia aims to champion foresight in Asean, this programme would be held in conjunction with the Asean 2050 Future Forum: The Fourth Industrial Revolution.
This is a testament of science for diplomacy!
I am certainly glad that our Malaysian scientific ecosystem has many aspiring young leaders who have an open world view; knowing the importance of multidisciplinary strategic international partnerships in an increasingly connected world. The future belongs to our young ones.
Published today in Daily Express newspaper, also available here http://www.dailyexpress.com.my/read.cfm?NewsID=2521
See part one here Prosper thy neighbours (Part 1)