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Malaysia: Bridging the Innovation Valley of Death

June 13, 2024
Dr Afnizanfaizal Abdullah, Head of Innovation Commercialisation
5 mins read

How the Nation is Conquering the Gap
Forget the "Valley of Death" – let's talk about launching Malaysian innovations into orbit!

The space between a brilliant idea and a product that changes lives can feel like a desolate wasteland, and sometimes seen as a graveyard for promising ideas.

This gap is often referred to as the "Innovation Valley of Death, a term that frequently emerges as a formidable barrier, representing the critical gap between the initial development of new technologies and their successful entry into the market. 

Malaysia now stands at a critical juncture of transformative growth, and navigating this valley is a significant challenge, as it is here that innovations must cross from concept to commercial viability. 

Understanding and effectively manoeuvring through this valley is essential for turning our nation's research breakthroughs into viable commercial products.

3 Major Roadblocks on the Innovation Highway: Challenges Faced by Malaysian Innovators

1. Insufficient Funding

Imagine a car with a revolutionary engine, but an empty gas tank. That's what a lack of funding can do to an innovation. Innovators often struggle to attract venture capital and other investments due to perceived risks associated with early-stage technologies. The limited funding not only hampers the development of prototypes and advanced research, but also restricts the capacity for market research and scaling operations.

2. Slow Lane to Adoption

There is often a hesitancy within industries and the broader market to adopt new technologies, especially those that disrupt existing practices. This reluctance can be attributed to uncertainties about the return on investment, the challenges of integrating new technologies with existing systems, and a general resistance to change among potential customers.

3. Lack of Effective Commercialisation Strategies

Even the most innovative idea needs a clear path to reach its audience. The lack of a clear roadmap has caused many Malaysian innovations to falter due to inadequate market analysis, poor strategic planning, and an unclear path to market. This includes deficiencies in identifying target markets, establishing pricing strategies, and developing marketing and distribution channels.

TIPM Fueling Malaysian Innovation

Picture a world where brilliant ideas from Malaysian minds don't get stuck in the lab. That's the vision behind the Technology Innovation Park Malaysia (TIPM/MRANTI). As catalysts, we bridge the gap between academia and industry to turn research breakthroughs into products that change lives and fuel economic growth. This fuels us to continuously move #IdeasToImpact.

TIPM’s mission to expedite the transformation of research outcomes into market-ready products and services ultimately contributes to the nation’s economic development. 

Fast-tracking innovation: TIPM spearheads several strategic initiatives aimed at easing the path for innovators. These initiatives include enhancing funding access by facilitating connections with potential investors and organising funding rounds specifically designed for early-stage innovations.

Programmes such as the Malaysia Commercialisation Year (MCY) and grants from government entities such as the Ministry of Science, Technology, and Innovation (MOSTI) provide crucial policy-making and financial support for tech transfer initiatives, ensuring that promising innovations receive the necessary resources for commercialisation. TIPM plays a pivotal role as MOSTI’s strategic partner to host and lead the annual MCY Summit, actively driving the execution of this initiative each year.

Matching Needs with Solutions: TIPM also plays a role in providing comprehensive support in the tech industry through the development of Malaysia Technology Commercialisation (MATCH) Platform, aimed at streamlining supply of new technologies with the demands of industrial problem statements.

Building Tomorrow’s Tech Talent: 

In addition, the recent strategic collaboration between the National Technology Innovation Sandbox (NTIS) and NVIDIA has brought vast potential in capacity building, especially in AI technologies. These platforms serve as hubs for collaboration, bringing together stakeholders from academia, industry, and government.

Going Global: The Global Market-Fit Programme (GMP), another initiative by TIPM, is dedicated towards elevating local R&D products to the global stage, driving economic growth, and enhancing the nation's competitiveness in the international innovation landscape. By guiding them in navigating the complexities of global markets, GMP empowers Malaysian innovators to position their products strategically for international success. 

A recent GMP success story includes Simplify’s collaboration with True Internet Corporation Co. Ltd for the GMP Thailand effort. A Malaysian tech startup, Simplify successfully entered the Thai market through GMP’s support, highlighting the programme's effectiveness in guiding local innovators towards international expansion, setting a precedent for future collaborations, as well as, solidifying Malaysia's position in the global innovation landscape.

Innovation in Action: Malaysian Success Stories

Numbers tell a powerful story. But what truly excites us at TIPM are the real-world results. Here's a glimpse of how Malaysian innovations are taking flight:

1. Total Number of Innovation Projects Facilitated:

Beginning 2020 and up to 2023, TIPM received 3,736 projects. Out of this number, 742 complete applications have been processed, and 191 projects have been approved within 41 application cohorts. A total of 25% of projects have been accepted due to readiness for further commercialisation facilitation.

2. Total Number of Start-ups and University Spin-offs Receiving Funding:

For the NTIS programme, Malaysian Technology Development Corporation Sdn. Bhd. (MTDC) has funded 107 applications, with 49 projects having completed their facilitation. Out of these, 29 projects have been successfully commercialised, giving birth to 105 intellectual properties (IPs), as well as, 290 new job opportunities.

3. Total Amount of Commercialised Values Received:

Through project monitoring, the programmes have successfully documented RM87.2 million in commercialised values, encompassing sales, follow-up investments, and new licensing agreements. Additionally, RM96.8 million has been secured as foreign direct investment from globally recognised venture and corporate entities.

4. Number of Strategic Partners Established:

With the establishment of strategic partnerships to commercialise R&D technologies, 60 industry relationships have been formed, and 12 sandboxes created to deliver projects across various industries, including healthcare, agriculture, sports, and transportation. Of the 62 new projects initiated, 38 have been recognised for their potential, receiving RM2.02 million in return-on-value.

Bridging the Gap: The Road to Innovation Leadership

The journey across the Innovation Valley of Death is crucial for Malaysia's ambitions as a global innovation leader. By tackling funding hurdles, accelerating technology adoption, and refining commercialisation strategies, Malaysia can unlock the full potential of its homegrown ideas.

This requires a collaborative effort. Government initiatives like the MCY and NTIS play a vital role, providing not just funding, but also regulatory guidance and market access – the keys to launching innovations from the lab to the real world.

Industry and academia in Malaysia already have a strong collaborative spirit. By fostering this partnership even further, Malaysia can become a regional and global leader in leveraging the combined strengths of research institutions and industry powerhouses. This will not only drive innovation and economic growth, but also nurture a future-ready workforce.

With TIPM at the helm, driving strategic partnerships and initiatives, Malaysia is well-positioned to bridge the Innovation Valley of Death. This will transform promising research into successful products, solidifying Malaysia's position as a sustainable and competitive player on the global stage.