Thursday, October 20, 2011

Getting Malaysians Onto The Innovation Trail

"Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower" said the late Steve Jobs, among the brilliant innovators that the world has seen so far and the co-founder of Apple Inc.

Innovation is an innate character of a dynamic society and nation, and for Malaysia to come up with blockbuster innovators like Jobs and Bill Gates of Microsoft, the awareness and diffusion of an innovation culture are the important prerequisites.

Malaysians have to learn that creativity and innovation are the first and foremost cultural phenomenon.

The guts, the single-mindedness, the stamina and the discipline demonstrated by these blockbuster innovators are something that all Malaysians should take note off.

The ways to create an innovative mindset and in staying ahead in the world of innovation were recently dwelt into at a one day conference here organised by the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) entitled "Beyond Innovation: Turning Ideas into Actions".

The conference lined up distinguished speakers on the subject like former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the man who set the foundation for an innovative nation during his 22-year leadership and executives from companies in the forefront of innovation - among others Google Malaysia, Nestle (Malaysia) Berhad, GE Malaysia and Microsoft Malaysia.


Dr Mahathir set the stage for a lively discourse by emphasizing innovative thinking is the way forward and was critical of Malaysians who think of remaining in their comfort zone.

The octogenarian was ahead of his time when he conceived the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC), Cyberjaya and Malaysia's national car Proton that literally set the nation on the innovation trail.

"You have to question everything that you do and see whether you can do it on a different way to achieve better results," said Dr Mahathir.

He illustrated how he pushed for an innovative administration that tried its best to do away with archaic laws and policies and helped bring about tangible changes and speed up national development.

He pointed out Malaysia should take a leaf from South Korea, that is now in the forefront of innovation.


Though Malaysia is yet to see the likes of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, this does not mean the country lacks innovators or innovativeness.

Malaysians are already familiar with home-grown innovators like Tan Sri Tony Fernandez of AirAsia but there are many more out there with some have yet to gain the recognition they deserve.

However, recognition for innovators are not easy to come by despite the emphasis given for innovation as pointed out by a conference participant who inquired why design engineers, who are often in the forefront of innovation, find it hard to secure a position here upon returning from overseas.

To this, Dr Mahathir said innovators have be more diligent in finding a niche for themselves and establish their own setups instead of depending on others.

"Innovative minds will have no problems of finding a way and they should be on the forefront of things."


Speaking of innovative companies, innovation is inherent for their survival. In a high speed global marketplace quick shifting customer expectations and ever changing demands from the market place mean constant innovation is the means of survival.

However, many shy away from innovation especially when it involves capital investment.

As for companies like Google, like pointed out by its country head Sajith Sivanandan, innovation is virtually in their DNA and this is what keeps the company ahead from the rest.

Fortunately Malaysia has its own innovative companies as pointed out by Dr Mahathir, including the national automobile manufacturer Proton.

Dr Mahathir, currently Proton's adviser, illustrated how Proton is rising to the challenge in coming up with electric powered vehicles - the Range Extended Electric Vehicle (REEV).

"Proton is not coming up with a conventional hybrid like many of its competitors. Its coming up with its own version of electric cars with gasoline generators that recharge the depleted batteries".

This is a good example of a product based on innovative technology.


As innovation is the key to Malaysia's progress, the government has undertaken numerous measures over the last two decades including the setting up Malaysia Innovation Agency chaired by the prime minister himself.

The 2012 Budget literally dubbed as the Innovation Budget allocated RM100 million for creativity and innovation of which RM30 million will be used to establish the Market Validation Fund to be managed by the Malaysian Technology Development Corporation together with the Malaysia Innovation Agency.

Another initiative is to continue with the Jejak Inovasi (Innovation Trail) programme by the Malaysian Foundation for Innovation (YIM) to encourage the development of new ideas and commercialisation of innovative products, particularly from the rural areas.

Nevertheless, like pointed out by Dr Mahathir and the rest of the speakers, while the government provides the leadership role in promoting innovation, the society and businesses has to embrace innovation wholeheartedly.

Source : BERNAMA

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