WORLDWIDE INNOVATION

Malaysia 2017 | IT & INNOVATION | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Mark Rozario, CEO of Agensi Inovasi Malaysia (AIM), on new ventures and the mentality of innovation in Malaysia.

Mark Rozario
BIOGRAPHY
Mark Rozario was Group Managing Director of a Malaysia-listed property group, before stepping down to assume his current role at AIM in 2011. He is charged with driving AIM, a government statutory body chaired by the country’s prime minister, to implement a national innovation strategy. AIM was created to jump-start wealth creation through knowledge, technology, and innovation to stimulate and develop the innovation eco-system in Malaysia by laying down the foundation of innovation to inspire and produce a new generation of innovative entrepreneurs. Rozario graduated with a degree in economics from the London School of Economics and is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales.

What is the key mentality change you would like to establish amongst Malaysians?

Looking at the innovation mentality, our goal is to see how we can help cultivate a thinking culture and equip the next generation with creative and critical thinking abilities. We have embarked on three programs since we were established in 2011. The first is called I-Think, which aims to implement innovative learning tools in schools. Furthermore, we have introduced the International Baccalaureate (IB) program in 10 government schools in Malaysia, and eight of these have already received IB certification since the project started two years ago. These are not elite schools; these are a cross section of the country. We are studying how these new teaching and learning methods can influence the school system and ultimately change the mentality of our students. A third program is Genovasi, a design thinking school in Petaling Jaya that has already seen 2,500 graduates since its establishment three years ago. The school targets young working graduates who can follow the Innovation Ambassador Development Program, which was developed to introduce design thinking in the work place. Cultivating a culture of innovation among our future generation is a long-term objective, and we intend to combine elements of what we learn from I-Think, IB, and Genovasi into innovation skill programs for our secondary schools. Our agency is governed by a council of seven ministers, with the prime minister as our chairman. Innovation essentially cuts across everything, enabling us to help to move the agenda with all the relevant ministries.

How does Malaysia fit into the global innovation landscape, and why would multinationals choose to have their R&D here?

Multinationals here are supported with various programs, such as CREST for the E&E industry that actively links them with academia and local SMEs, often when looking for joint research models. Other programs we have put in place typically target SMEs, especially to support them with commercialization. We have PlaTCOM Ventures providing end-to-end facilitation for companies to take the important final step in commercializing their findings. Around 100 SMEs have been accepted into the program, of which 10 have achieved commercialization. We have access to global IP databases, and we teach people how to protect their ideas with IP strategy. PlaTCOM also oversees all the IPs in our universities and research institutes. There is a large flow of government funding for R&D into these institutions, and we match these IPs with commercialization partners to get the licenses done. Another program that we started is Steinbeis, originally a German organization. It has been successful in providing a platform to link industry directly with subject matter experts. This is particularly useful for SMEs that run into a roadblock during their development trajectory where they need expert advice. Steinbeis uses its extensive network to find the right expertise, and is responsible for the agreement, pricing, and arrangement, making it cost effective.

What will be the legacy of your work at the end of AIM's mandate in 2020?

One of the reasons why we had this 10-year timeframe was to have some level of urgency to move the innovation agenda. We also did not want to become another government agency that would permanently require public funding, as at the end of the day innovation should be primarily driven by the private sector. Many of our programs will continue without AIM, either on their own or with the support of other agencies. Steinbeis was set up as a non-profit foundation and works to be self-sufficient; all fees that are collected cover the operating costs. This model is self-sustaining, does not need government funding, and will be part of the innovation ecosystem. Similarly, PlaTCOM is set up as a company and continues as a private limited company, collecting fees from IP advisory and other consultancy. Genovasi, the design thinking school, has been privatized and will transform into a university, supported by private sector investments.