BEGINNING 2016, we will roll out the 11th Malaysia Plan (11MP). This is the last five-year plan before we hit 2020, the climax year of our much proclaimed destiny to be a fully developed nation.
The 11MP should, however, be designed to prepare the nation beyond 2020. We must remember that as a fully developed nation, we enter a new era of competition with the other developed countries of the world, not the league of the less-developed nations which compete on low costs. We have to beat them to have a decent share of the global economy.
Increasingly, a key factor of competition is innovation. Countries which are good at harnessing innovation tend to stay ahead. We have to do the same. It is encouraging to notice that the country’s leaders have been sending a strong message on innovation in recent years. The prime minister has been especially vocal in persuading the nation to take the path of innovation seriously. Innovation was, in fact, mentioned a number of times in his recent 2015 Budget speech. He has personally launched various programmes to spur innovation in the country. This is a good sign.
There is the “MaGIC” programme anchored by the Ministry of Finance to invigorate innovation among young entrepreneurs. Another programme is “PlaTCOM ventures”, a joint innovation platform anchored by the Malaysian Innovation Agency (AIM) and SME Corp to facilitate research and development (R&D) commercialisation for SMEs.
The Steinbeis model of technology brokering from Germany is another recent innovation enabling initiative anchored by AIM. And in the 2015 Budget, the prime minister also alluded to a Standards and Industrial Research Institute of Malaysia (SIRIM) rebranding exercise to help boost SME involvement in R&D.
|Innovation and the 11MP - STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.
Tan Sri Dr Mohd Irwan Serigar Abdullah, the secretary-general of the Treasury and chairman of the Malaysian Global Innovation and Creative Centre (MaGIC), speaking to founders of start-ups and students at a seminar in Putrajaya
The Science To Action (S2A) programme anchored by the Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT) is also worth watching. It adopts a three-pronged attack to raise the nation’s innovation prowess; science for governance, science for wellbeing and science for industry. Admittedly, our science governance is in need for constructive tweaking if we are to truly deliver societal and economic wellbeing. It cannot be business as usual.
Arguably, the command of science is an important prerequisite of innovation success. This is also why the government is also giving serious emphasis to STEM education. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. The PM launched a global initiative on STEM at the recent meeting of the Global Science and Innovation Advisory Council, GSIAC, in New York.
This is to address the declining interest in science among our students. The initiation of all such programmes is a clear signal from the government that it is taking the innovation agenda seriously. The challenge before us now is how all such programmes can be better coordinated and monitored in terms of progress.
In the past, one serious weakness of our science and innovation programmes has been the failure to effectively coordinate and monitor. As a result, we did not get the necessary feedback to further improve the programmes or policy.
This is where many among the scientific fraternity are suggesting to include a dedicated chapter on innovation in the soon-to-be crafted 11MP. The chapter must clearly articulate the governance framework, the institutional responsibilities and the implementation blueprint on innovation.
This is where the recently established National Science and Technology Innovation Council (NSTIC) would be the right institution to provide the oversight over all the programmes.
The fact that NSTIC will also be chaired by the prime minister makes it even more relevant. But NSTIC needs an effective secretariat. Many have suggested the National Science and Research Council (NSRC) to be the secretariat for NSTIC. Chaired by the Science Advisor, NSRC has the clout for that role.
But there is a strong suggestion that it should be strongly supported by an efficient data agency. This is where the Malaysian Science and Technology Information Centre, MASTIC, should be brought under the umbrella of NSRC.
More importantly, it must be empowered with the necessary resources to collect the relevant data to support innovation. In fact, this would jive very well with the recent calling by the government to pay more attention to data analysis. The 11MP is the right platform to spell all this out. DR AHMAD IBRAHIM NST Columnist 29 OCTOBER 2014 @ 8:15 AM