Innovative Malaysia by 2020: A Change of Culture


It won’t be easy, changing the mindset and culture of the nation to be an innovative driven society but this is one transformation that must be done, says the CEO of Agensi Inovasi Malaysia.

We’re eight years away from 2020, the deadline we placed upon Malaysia to become a self-sufficient industrialised country. Eight years is certainly a short period of time, and we have a lot of work to do to achieve the goals enshrined in Vision 2020.

The task is daunting, but necessary nonetheless. Whether we like it or not, we need to change the way we’ve been doing things in business, government, academia and society itself. Not only do we face stiff competition from other developing countries, we’re also facing the inevitable depletion of the natural resources that have been contributing significantly to our economy. The advantages that we have been enjoying based on old economic models are becoming unsustainable, so we must look at new key ingredients to take us to the next level.

This is why the government has made Innovation and Transformation as the key thrusts in our way forward.Through bodies such as Agensi Inovasi Malaysia, the government is revamping the necessary elements of innovation to ensure that all groups in society, including academia, industry, the rakyat and government itself, collaborate and move in the same direction.

To enable innovators to get their creations to the market, we’re looking at making funding more accessible and streamlined. With more emphasis on deliverables and results, grants and loans given come with more accountability. We’re introducing innovative thinking skills in the education system to produce an innovative workforce that can satisfy future industry needs. Initiatives such as the i-THINK programme will produce students who have critical, analytical and creative thinking skills, a skillset needed in an innovative society.

We are fostering more collaboration between businesses and the research community to encourage industry-driven innovations that create wealth for all the players as well as the nation. We are also identifying areas with high national strategic impact potential and formulating strategies to reap the benefits in terms of wealth creation and societal benefits.

However, the government cannot do this alone. It can only provide the framework, direction and policies that facilitate and motivate change and collaborations in industry, academia and the population. True impactful transformation can only happen when the private sector takes the lead in innovation. New ideas, initiatives and alliances must naturally originate from those who know their own areas, and stand to benefit the most from the innovations.

Admittedly, it is difficult, but it is very much doable.

Conventional thinking and approach are deeply entrenched in our minds, hearts and habits. In some cases, they’re even institutionalised. But transformation requires a change of culture. It demands an honest audit of our priorities and how we’ve been doing things, and the courage to decide that they must be improved, overhauled or even completely eliminated. It demands the humility and willingness to reduce the power-distance in our businesses, government bodies, associations and even our family units – good ideas and constructive opinions can come from all levels in an organisation. The dynamics among every member of our society has to encourage, not stifle views.

That is the only way to reap the innovation potential from our population. Only when the spirit of change, transformation and innovation is alive in the masses would we have a chance at achieving our dreams of becoming an Innovation Nation by 2020.

The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.

Photo credit: Flickr user Matthew Wynn


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