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Malaysia 2017 | TRANSPORT | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Shamsul Kamar Abu Samah, Head of the National Aerospace Industry Coordinating Office (NAICO), MITI, on his vision for Malaysia's aerospace industry.

What is your vision for NAICO?

One of the goals of the Malaysian Aerospace Industry Blueprint 2030 is to establish an independent agency under the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) to look into the overall developments in the aerospace industry. MITI set up NAICO to take on this role before we establish a dedicated agency over the course of next year. We aim to further engage with all aerospace-related agencies and stakeholders in order to consolidate the nation's aerospace industry development initiatives. We work closely with MIDA, MATRADE, and SME Corp, as well as MARA, as these are the main stakeholders in the aerospace industry. The Ministry of Transport, which oversees airports and aircraft operations, is also involved. It is our task to coordinate all the players involved to ensure we have the same vision and direction, ensuring that the industry can develop smoothly. According to the plan, NAICO will become an agency that will lead industrial development, investment, and supply chain development in Malaysia in achieving our aims to be the number-one aerospace country in South East Asia by 2030. We will focus mostly on the six pillars we have identified: aerospace manufacturing; MRO; system integrations; engineering & design; training & education; and research & technology, with support for defense industries as an additional area of attention. We want to develop the supply chain and the business environment for SMEs, as well as build up industry research & technology activities, the latter for which we will engage with Aerospace Malaysia Innovation Centre (AMIC). We target strategic and quality investment from tier one OEM companies into Malaysia and prepare the local supply chain, including SMEs, to become part of the global aerospace supply chain.

What is the vision behind the recent launch of the 3M Global Aerospace Future Landscape project between Malaysia, Mexico, and Morocco?

We predict OEMs and tier-one companies will seek regional hubs in specific markets. In this regard, we anticipate that Mexico will be the hub for North America, Morocco for Europe, and Malaysia for Asia Pacific. Competition is still ongoing and open for the Asia Pacific market, and we can take the lead there. 3M is part of our effort to engage with Mexico and Morocco and develop Malaysia as the hub for the Asia Pacific region. We visited Mexico recently to discuss potential ways to collaborate and to draft the outline of 3M. We also exchanged best practices on developing the right aerospace ecosystem on a national level. Asia Aerospace City (AAC) has an MoU with the Universidad Aeronáutica en Querétaro (UNAQ), where we learnt how UNAQ became a one-stop center for training and development for all the surrounding industries, from technicians to master's-level engineers in manufacturing. In Malaysia we have several institutes around the country that are working on this, and the key strength of Queretaro is that it brought them all together in a single area, something we would like to emulate here. We will also visit Morocco soon to discuss its experience and vision on the future development of the aerospace industry.

Are you actively promoting the Asia Aerospace City (AAC) initiative by MARA abroad?

In the last two years we promoted the AAC following its international launch at the Paris Air Show in 2013. We recently launched KLIA Aeropolis, another aerospace park that will be developed by Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad (MAHB). Now we will have AAC Subang, KLIA Aeropolis, and UMW Serendah land, which is developed by UMW following their business collaboration with Rolls-Royce. This is the landscape we promote to the world in terms of infrastructure. We are also talking to a number of state governments that are seeking to develop more aerospace parks in Malaysia, for example Senai of Johor, which are located close to Singapore and can benefit from spillover activities from there.

Along with NAICO, the Malaysia Aerospace Industry Association (MAIA) was established. How do you interact?

We need to work closely with industry players, and when necessary we need to sit down to understand each other and come up with coordinated initiatives. MATRADE set up MAIA, which we welcome because it brings a coordinated talking point for the industry. We can function as the catalyst for developing the regulatory framework, the infrastructure, and the incentive policies, but we need input from the private sector to align ourselves. We have the Aerospace Blueprint 2030, the Eleventh Malaysia Plan, and a number of Entry-Point-Projects (EPPs) in the field of aerospace-targets for five, 10, and 15 years from now. We need contribution and commitment from the industry to achieve these targets, and need new quality investments and strategic partnerships with global champions in the US and Europe.

What is on your agenda in terms of R&D and sustainable aviation?

Together with AMIC, we have the Factory of the Future initiative, where we look to modernize in terms of technology and industry research. We recently signed an agreement with Airbus Group, University of Malaysia, and the French Embassy in Malaysia to develop and implement an online robotics project. At MITI we are poised for Industrial 4.0, which is in line with our policy here, where robots and information technology come together. We promote these activities under the Eleventh Malaysia Plan, providing funding to AMIC to engage in robotics and other new approaches for aerospace manufacturing activities. We also want to utilize natural raw materials. For example, we want to produce aviation biofuel and take the regional lead here. AMIC is embarking on the development of sustainable aviation jet fuel with its partners UPM, UM, and other research institutes. Another recent project is on macro-algae, looking into seaweed plantations and how seaweed can be used to produce high-quality bio jet fuel. Malaysia has abundant natural materials it could use, and we explore all the possibilities of developing and producing that. We are considering working with Indonesia and Singapore on this. In addition, we are looking at green materials for the composites industries as natural source products like bio resins. There is much potential in renewable and sustainable materials for the aerospace industry.

What are your initiatives in terms of training and education for aerospace industries in Malaysia?

To become number one in Southeast Asia, we need to have strategic investments from OEMs and tier-one firms. We need to continue developing initiatives like the 3M project, but definitely need to prepare the next generation workforce to serve and build this industry. To achieve high-income status, we need to develop highly skilled human capital. Our people need to be top notch for the objectives we have set for the country. We engage with the National Professor Council, Ministry of Higher Education, MARA and related agencies to determine how we can further develop aerospace training and education to raise interest within students to choose a career in engineering particularly aerospace.

What are your ambitions and objectives for NAICO in the near future?

We will continue our 3M efforts, and will go global with our development agenda of the aerospace industry in Malaysia. Our key objective is to lead these efforts, and to realize our vision by 2030. NAICO is currently still an office in MITI, but our ambition is to transform to NAICA next year and become an agency. Our target to recruit about 20 to 30 people for positions in industry development, industry and market intelligence, marketing development, and developing a comprehensive aerospace industry database to have the right resources to play a leading role in the aerospace industry. Not limited to internal activities, we have to ensure the smooth implementation of the Aerospace Blueprint 2030 initiatives, Eleventh Malaysia Plan aerospace projects, and the aerospace related EPPs.