Following the government’s economic recovery plan (PENJANA) announcement last week, several initiatives to stimulate economic recovery in Malaysia are in motion. The plan, announced by the Prime Minister, placed a special focus on technology and innovation sectors, being the key to maximise the size and speed of the country’s economic recovery. Among these initiatives are the National Technology and Innovation Sandbox (NTIS) and the Social Enterprise Elevation (SEE).
While the NTIS will start receiving applications in two weeks, the SEE initiative will release details soon. The NTIS will be spearheaded by Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI), in collaboration with the Malaysian Global Innovation & Creativity Centre (MaGIC), Technology Park Malaysia (TPM) and MIMOS Bhd. as the secretariat to enable and coordinate the rollout of the initiative.
“Through NTIS, our goal is to drive talent development to fulfil Malaysia’s potential of becoming a high tech nation, as well as accelerate R&D and commercialisation through simplified policies and regulations,” said Khairy Jamaluddin, Minister of Scicence, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI), after a work visit to MaGIC on 9 June 2020, a day before the Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO)is scheduled to start.
The minister also added that the NTIS will allow researchers, innovators, startups and high-tech entrepreneurs to test their products, services, business models and delivery mechanisms in a live environment. NTIS will enjoy some relaxations from all or selected regulatory requirements to encourage the development of innovative and creative solutions, research done as part of promoting and facilitating route to market.
It also aims to reduce dependency on foreign labour, increase employment opportunities for Malaysians, increase Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and Gross National Income (GNI), enhance the participation, investment and collaboration in research by the private sector as well as improve the country’s commercialisation rate.
MaGIC CEO Dzuleira Abu Bakar said that, as the lead NTIS Secretariat, MaGIC will be working with MIMOS Bhd and Technology Park Malaysia alongside other MOSTI agencies ranging from technology development to funding entities and other ministries. The NTIS secretariat would act as a national solution coordination centre for existing and new problem statements brought about by the public sector, corporates as well as from the community through the use of modern technology.
“COVID-19 has impacted businesses and led to rising unemployment, whilst surfacing several sectoral issues such as foreign labour dependency, local supply chain resilience, food & health security and patchy digital infrastructure. These issues can be addressed by using advanced technology including in key sectors such as services, healthcare, manufacturing and agriculture,” she said.
“Advanced Technology is the next step forward in the innovation roadmap for Malaysia to gain a competitive advantage through the creation of new socio-economic value. The time taken for Advanced Technology products and solutions to be commoditised is getting shorter and the ability to commercialise becomes faster – therefore the right time to foster this is now,” she added.
The NTIS Secretariat will look to support solutions and products that feature advanced technology, in addition to reskilling and upskilling initiatives, capacity building programmes, market access, preparation of platform and test environments, facilitation and review of regulations and laws and multi-industry adoption.
NTIS will begin accepting applications on 1 July 2020 from all technology with reference to 10-10 Science, Technology, Innovation and Economy (STIE) outlined by the Academy of Sciences Malaysia, with priority given to:
On the RM10 million allocation to fund social enterprises under the Social Elevation (SEE) initiative, Dzuleria said the government was responsive to the plight of social enterprises and acknowledged their impact on society. MaGIC noted that the allocation will take an inclusive approach to fund impactful projects for the target beneficiaries as well as the B40 community.
“Despite some of them recording zero revenue, the social enterprises still managed to pull together to help address issues faced by vulnerable groups during the MCO," she added. For example, MasalaWheels not only prepared and delivered 16,000 food packages to medical frontliners and homes, but also employed more than 30 at-risk youth, and collaborated with taxi drivers around the city to fulfil its mission.
Tanoti Crafts brought together the local community and delivered close to 30,000 PPE suits to support frontliners in Kuching. Me.reka, Biji-biji Initiative, SURI, Earth Heir, Batik Boutique and their partners, kick-started a digital demand-based production platform and successfully distributed over 24,670 face shields, 1,505 aero-chambers, and 58 patient isolation boxes to 75 frontline organisations across Malaysia.
“Recently, MaGIC collaborated with Alliance Islamic Bank, Citrine Capital and NGOhub and successfully raised more than RM200,000 for 11 social enterprises to continue their mission in aiding disadvantaged communities. Featuring multi-sector collaboration, we believe more such partnerships to rebuild livelihood of communities impacted by COVID-19 will emerge,” she said. Currently, MaGIC is working closely with the Ministry of Finance on the SEE initiative and will be announcing details soon.