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Accelerating Malaysia’s Technology And Innovation With MRANTI

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Malaysian Research Accelerator for Technology & Innovation (MRANTI) is the new entity as a result of the merger of two agencies under Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI), Technology Park Malaysia Corporation (TPM) and Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (MaGIC). Inspired by the yellow Meranti tree which is the world’s tallest tropical tree found only in Malaysia – MRANTI strives to become the strongest and tallest among the world’s best.

What Is MRANTI?

MRANTI is the one-stop research commercialisation agency with the resources to accelerate the commercialisation of innovative ideas that will drive impact. As a connector, collaborator and catalyst, MRANTI will connect problem statements (demand) with solutions (supply), bridging collaboration between public and private sectors (transition); increase private sector participation, either through market access, investment, advisory or consultation and facilities for testing and prototyping.

Smart Investor recently interviewed Dzuleira Abu Bakar, CEO MRANTI to find out more about them and their plans.

Dzuleira Abu Bakar, CEO MRANTI

Smart Investor: Why was MRANTI formed?

Dzuleira Abu Bakar: MOSTI with Akademi Sains Negara: examined the landscape:

○ To increase the number of commercialised entities in Malaysia
○ To accelerate technology & innovation

And some gaps were found:

1. R&Ds remain where they are with the Research Institutes (RI) and the universities
80% of in IHL, Corporates 15%, balance 5% government or NGOs.

2. Low GERD to GDP, which is at 1.04%.
Other countries; Israel – 4.95%, South Korea – 4.81%, Japan – 3.26%

3. Commercialisation rate is low between 5% to 10%
China’s commercialization rate target: 34.7% in 2020
Korea in 2010: 38.9% (they considered: unsatisfactory)
Japan and the USA: as high as 60%

● To rise in the ranks as a high-economy, innovation driven nation, we need to ensure our security of R&D supply translates into successful commercialisation.

● As such, the Ministry then decided to streamline its resources – which led to the merger of the 2 agencies, and the formation of MRANTI about a year ago.

● There are 3 important approaches (3Ps) we are taking to position ourselves to support the progress of the ecosystem:

1) MRANTI PARK provides integrated facilities and infrastructure for innovators and entrepreneurs that are 4IR ready, even as we bring together
2) Targeted PROGRAMMES & interventions; and
3) A large portfolio of PARTNERS

SI: What does MRANTI want to achieve by 2030, and which stage are you at now? What are your priorities?

DAB: My goal is to put Malaysia on the Top 20 most innovative countries in the world. This will have amazing spillover effects i.e. higher income, more jobs, and overall better livelihood for Malaysians.

For the immediate, I will focus on rolling out our programmes and partnerships, as well as sprucing up the park. Today, various programmes and facilities are available at the Park.

To have 2,000 sqft MakersLab for designers wanting to prototype their ideas – from computer design or sketches into “things” or small scale models. Various materials and machines are available.

A Centre of Excellence for DroneTech, Living Labs for Autonomous Vehicles (AV) and Agritech

As an example, the Drone Industry Insights report, the world market value of drones is USD26.3 billion, and is targeted to reach USD41.3 billion by 2026. In the Drone Tech sector, Malaysia has the potential to be a world leader in this sector. We are proud that Aerodyne Group, a local company, is emerging as the best drone remote-sensing service provider in the world. There are many other drone companies based here, including Poladrone, Terradrone, VStream, Elsa Energy, DJI, NRA Technology and Allied Aeronautics.

Malaysia also has the potential to grow rapidly in the robotics and drone industries. We will establish the Academy of Talent Development In Robotics (Robotic Talent Development Academy), and are targeted to increase the ratio of robots to humans by 195 robots per human by 2030. Today, the ratio of robots to humans is 55 to 10,000 people.

Therefore, we established Area 57 in MRANTI Park as a centre of excellence for the development of the drone industry. The 5-acre area will provide drone runway services, a 300 square metre drone net area, drone testing mock-up sites, hangars, laboratories, manufacturing equipment, training facilities and prototype testing areas, operational offices as well as drone service and maintenance workshops for drone operators to use.

Revitalising Lab testing facilities for food and herbal products and other manufacturing services at MRANTI Nexus.

5G infrastructure-ready

Commercial entities and researchers face several challenges today which could be addressed with 5G Technology. These include communication efficiency (higher data rates, lower latency), connection density (reliability, availability and coverage) and position accuracy (higher user mobility). To deliver the full value of 5G, we are bringing together more partners to collaborate, innovate and incubate ideas to nurture a thriving ecosystem.

We have lined up 26 key programmes to seed, sustain and scale impact-driven innovations in a structured and systematic manner -linking both domestic and international markets for entrepreneurs, startups and the innovation ecosystem.
i. IP & commercialisation initiatives
ii. impact and thematic accelerators, bootcamps and
iii. Digital Business Academy programmes
iv. social impact initiatives this year to jump start the innovation engine.

Examples of these are as follows:

Academy + International Innovation Hub programmes

For anyone looking to upskill and reskill, we offer a host of digital courses, webinars, workshops, bootcamps, custom content/programmes, custom and industry-focused coaching and mentoring, post-grants management and advisory, business acceleration, access to corporate and industry partners, alumni, investors and academia.

Impact Innovation

For innovators to access funding and test their products in the market with corporate partners and large organisations, in order to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and linked to Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) outcomes.

Global Innovation Exchange (GIX)

For innovators looking to scale and / or global startups looking to set up innovation hubs in ASEAN, with Malaysia as a launchpad. Programmes include:

● National Technology & Innovation Sandbox (NTIS)
● Global Market Fit Programme (GMP)
● MyStartUp Hub (MSH)
● Global Accelerator Programme (GAP)

Rapid IP Commercialisation is another focus. Through a structured review process, we are evaluating how some IPs – in MOSTI’s stable, for example, can be brought to market.

Volume alone is not sufficient. MRANTI will play a key role in enhancing the quality, variety and value of innovations.

This is a big task and MRANTI and I cannot achieve this alone. We are here to collaborate, collaborate, collaborate.

It isn’t a single entity’s show. We aren’t in a sprint. It is a long game, and realistically, one year is just the start to drive deep transformation. Altogether, these will place Malaysia and our people on the right trajectory to becoming a high-tech producer nation.

SI: How many talents are currently working under MRANTI?

DAB: We are 345 strong. More than 55% are under 40 years old – a large number of whom have solid technical background in areas of biotech, engineering, legal, commercialisation, Intellectual Property servicing and a range of industry experts.

MRANTI Park, however, has a community of about 20,000 people – ranging from university students, knowledge workers, academicians, researchers, scientists, entrepreneurs, management staff and more.

SI: How many startups/ enterprises have MRANTI engaged with? Will you be able to name a few and share about their journey with MRANTI?

DAB: Since its inception in 2014, the Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (MaGIC) has nurtured, encouraged and developed the Malaysian spirit for discovery, and in the years that followed, we’ve grown from strength to strength.During this time, we have also won the regard of many regional and international industry players – cultivating and producing some of the world’s best startups and social enterprises.

Since we started, we have reached out to 4,503 startups, 145,477 individuals, 48 accredited social enterprises and created RM3.9 billion in economic value. In 2021, in spite of challenges presented by the pandemic, we conducted more than 100 programmes and impacted approximately 11,200 entrepreneurs from more than 700 start-ups and social enterprises who went on to garner close to RM150 mil in investment and generated more than RM400 million in revenue.

Five new sandboxes were launched through the National Technology and Innovation Sandbox (NTIS) in 2021 with more underway to strengthen the security of innovation supply. Since its launch, the NTIS has received 546 complete applications, 148 of which have received funding, regulatory, commercial and technical support, with RM53 million funding approved for these projects.

The returns are notable – at about 10X, as we recorded value creation (investment and revenue, as well as job creation from our programmes and by our alumni) of more than RM570 million.

Testament to the value of initiatives we are rolling out, almost 12 companies have signed on as tenants at MRANTI Park since January 2022 – bringing it to a total of 157 tenants. These include companies in ICT, Biotechnology, Engineering, Green Technology, Consulting, Support Services and more.

We are expecting 15 more local and multinational companies to take up tenancy here by the end of the year, bringing the total occupancy rate at MRANTI Park to nearly 80% or an equivablent of 645,000sqft.

Case study: Through the NTIS, MRANTI facilitated Biogenes Technologies’ discussions on regulatory procedures with the Malaysian Medical Device Authority (MDA), and coordinated approval with the Ministry of Health for a live test site to collect samples, which then allowed them to validate the market readiness. As a result, their test-kits have now undergone preclinical and clinical trials at Pusat Perubatan Universiti Malaya. What would have ordinarily taken at least a year, was accomplished in several months. Biogenes also received funding through the NTIS within six months to enable their operations to expand.

Additionally, through the NTIS, there are sandboxes testing the use of drones to deliver medical supplies to hard-to-reach areas, and to deliver essential goods and services particularly to remote and rural areas. However, we still aren’t moving quickly enough in some areas. Attracting more
international players is one area that could do with improvement. The IMD World Competitive Ranking 2020 still ranks Malaysia 52nd in ease of starting business, with an increase in “startup days” from 13.5 days in 2019 to 17.5 days 2020 to set up business in Malaysia.

Today, many startups still find it difficult to know which agencies to approach, as some have overlapping functions. Having multiple sources of information and numerous agencies impedes Malaysia’s potential as a preferred destination for startups.

To ensure that we do not get left behind, moving with speed is absolutely essential. To do this, we need to streamline our processes, get rid of any overlap or ‘legacy’ inefficiencies and utilise technology to digitalise or automate for efficiency.

And in this regard, MRANTI aims to be the one-stop centre for technology and innovation acceleration, regardless of which stage the innovation or solution is at – as we take ideas to impact.

SI: What has MRANTI clocked in since you helmed MRANTI a year ago, though the agency was only formalised in January this year? What have been some of the challenges?

DAB: Merging TPM, a 26-year-old entity, and then seven-year-old MaGIC, comes with its own set of operational and external challenges.

Core challenge: culture integration, added with pressures of managing the bottomline. Thankfully, the merger was completed in record time – under a year.

Much of my time in the last 12 months: spent on onboarding stakeholders and key players to see this transformation of TPM to MRANTI Park.

My immediate goal: capital investments, policy, incentives to raise MRANTI Park’s relevance and profile.

I’m pleased to say, we are now on the cusp of profitability. With a formidable team, we have put in place a strategy to transform TPM’s Profit & Loss and achieve its technology development mandate for the country. My team and I are focused on improving the infrastructure for the 686 acres MRANTI Park (10x larger than KL Sentral) located in Bukit Jalil, to attract global players. The park is now the only fully 5G-enabled innovation park facility in Malaysia, giving it the edge in ultra-fast and stable connectivity.

Speed is the name of the game, and MRANTI Park will be the fast track for innovators.

SI: What are your targets?

DAB: My aim is to make MRANTI Park a global name. My team and I have been relentless in developing the prioritised tech clusters as announced under Budget 2022 at MRANTI Park to make it the foremost innovation hub in Malaysia.

Our integrated facilities are being enhanced for higher capacity and higher value services. RM30 million funding allocated for MRANTI in the Budget 2022, we are kicking into high gear.

2022 Targets : MRANTI, as a 4IR Innovation Hub aspires to

○ Impact 5,000 aspiring entrepreneurs exposed to 4IR technology ie Dronetech,
○ Assist 50 companies to successfully build proofs of concept (POC), prototypes and products,
○ Enable 1,250 business owner to benefit through various facilities and programmes, and
○ Foster RM500 million in Value creation.

Our longer term targets:

The 12th Malaysia Plan (2021-2025) has set several R&D related targets by 2025;

  • 2.5% of GERD to GDP (from 1.04% in 2018)
  • 70% of R&D expenditure by the private sector (BERD) to GERD (we are about 43.9% in 2018)
  • 500 products and solutions commercialised through the National Technology and Innovation Sandbox (NTIS) and Malaysia Commercial Year (MCY) by 2025
  • Top 20 ranking in the Global Innovation Index in the same period (from 36th in 2021)

SI: What is MRANTI’s Masterplan?

DAB: In shaping MRANTI, benchmarked against:

○ Thai Digital Park, Singapore’s A*Star, and Innovate UK, are all a result of strong policy, investment, talent pool and market environment.

To attain a Top 20 position in the Global Innovation Index (GII) by 2030, from where we have been in the last 5 years – in the 30-somethingth position, we have much to do. This includes upgrading our Engineering, IT, Biotech and other building infrastructure in order to meet the changing demands of industries and the start-up ecosystem. Under the 4IR Hub Initiative, we aim to support prototyping and tech immersion programmes through our maker space and innovation centres.

Ultimately, MRANTI Park will be redesigned to make high potential research and development and early technology products economically viable through holistic and comprehensive commercialisation support.

Our MasterPlan involves the development of 4IR solutions in areas of

○ Computer vision, speech recognition, natural language and human/robot, folding in the development of technology and talent, data management, R&D and a commercial ecosystem across 5 clusters – greentech, biotech, smart manufacturing, agritech and smart city.

Today, 5G coverage is now available within our campus. The recent collaboration involving DNB and Ericsson entails the deployment of 5G coverage and capabilities at MRANTI Park, the creation of MRANTI’s on-campus “5G Experience Centre” with support from DNB, as well as comprehensive knowledge sharing and education efforts for enterprises and the community in MRANTI’s innovation clusters.

Among other components and functions of the centre include:

Research and insight library – MRANTI Park will be a place for researcher and innovators to conduct case studies on 5G technology
Testing and development function – for developers to conduct 5G application assessment and improvement
Showcase, awareness, training and advisory function – It will be a venue to develop prospective digital transformation actors and become a centre for technological innovation, development, and application of ICT in the future 5G era.

● MRANTI Park Phase 2 & 3: includes a Masterplan for land, leasing and property development that will cultivate Malaysia’s capabilities in 4IR – from IoT systems, end-to-end IP services and laboratory to contract manufacturing facilities with advanced technologies.

○ 5-acre Area 57 Centre of Excellence for UAV is the first and only park of its kind in Kuala Lumpur intended to help Malaysia achieve its goal to become one of the leading players in the drone technology industry in the global drone market which is forecasted to achieve US$41.3 billion in 2026.
Commercial zones: will infuse the elements of lifestyle, learning and business.

A Hyperscale Data Centre (HDC) will also be a core service that will support a host of technologies that will take flight in the coming years. HDCs would be one of the many tech sectors MRANTI will look to grow and cultivate within the AI Park. It is not just about housing HDCs but looking at the entire incubation of research and development players from academia and industry.

In essence, this is what MRANTI is about – bringing IDEAS TO IMPACT. Our goal is to create impact – so these can be recognised, appreciated and celebrated the world over.

SI: What partnerships are you looking to build, specifically what kinds of investments and investors are you looking to attract?

DAB: Past 12 months, partnerships with Huawei, Ericsson, Digital Nasional Bhd, SUKE TV and Telekom Malaysia – for 5G services, eServices, content and more in the pipeline.

Also inked MOUs with Malaysia’s premier public universities for research including Universiti Malaya, Universiti Teknologi Petronas, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Universiti Teknologi MARA and Multimedia University.

More updates are in the pipeline as we knock on more Technology Transition Office (TTO) doors to bring more research out of the lab into real life.

Through the NTIS, and within just a year, we have amassed a strong network of 35 Innovation Acceleration companies – leading technology multinationals, legal firms, financing partners, and various experts on board in 12 Sandboxes. And this list is fast growing! Synergy will be key for us to progress.

SI: What sets MRANTI apart from other government agencies?

DAB: MRANTI is the “glue” that brings together solution providers, such as researchers, startups and solutions seekers such as corporates. MRANTI enables a conducive environment for impactful discourse, exchange of ideas and a matching platform.

A key differentiator for MRANTI: the speed at which we connect Government with Industry, Academia and Civil Society – the ‘quadruple helix’ for an innovation ecosystem to thrive.

SI: What are some of Malaysia’s innovations – commercialisation chasms that MRANTI is looking to address?

DAB: SUPPLY. We need to build a strong pipeline, as we have the talent and good inventions that have yet to find a clear pathway to market and eventual profitability.

TRANSITION: getting past the “valley of death” ie TRL4 to TRL6 – where a lot of drop-outs happen

OUTPUT: It is important to support commercialisation, including providing the correct infrastructure and development programmes in Malaysia’s journey towards becoming a tech producer.

SI: Are there specific industry sectors that you will focus on? Why these?

DAB: We are guided by MOSTI’s Dasar Sains & Teknologi Negara (DSTIN) or MySTIE 10×10 (10 high technology areas for x10 socio economic clusters). These are deemed high-impact areas with multiplier effects e.g strengthening local innovators; creating a high-skilled talent pool and quality employment opportunities; leveraging advanced technologies; and addressing pressing national and global issues.

MRANTI will also prioritise 4IR technologies involving blockchain, robotics, sensor tech, advanced materials and drones, among others. For example, in terms of Medtech, we will be developing a MRANTI Healthcare Cluster that will accelerate the exploration and development of work in healthcare and medical technology, offering capacity building programmes, laboratories and incubator facilities to conduct stress tests on ideas, prototypes, applications and various related innovations.

MRANTI Park will also feature a Sustainable Food and Agritech cluster which will feature:

i. a bioscience R&D lab with state of the art equipment and facilities
ii. an incubation garage to host commercialisation efforts of high potential food/agritech innovators
iii. a vertical farm infrastructure including IoT fertigation for urban farming systems

SI: What are living labs, maker labs, 4IR, etc which will be featured at MRANTI Park – and how does this fit into the end to end “R&D&C&I” scheme of things?

DAB: Early Stage: Ideation & Applied Research. Aimed for innovators at all ages, it is ideal for sandboxing smaller scale ideas, as well as tinkering of hardware and software in a dedicated space. It fosters a culture of learning by-doing, innovation, hands-on exploration.

Example: MakersLab – a 4IR-themed playground featuring a spectrum of IR4.0 focused tools, technologies and technology immersion programmes.

Mid Stage: Prototyping & Viability Testing. Getting past the labs into controlled environments for testing, validation, reiteration, etc. Example: Living Labs and Centers of Excellence: ie Drone, UAV.

Market-Ready Stage: Scaling Up & Commercialisation. This would encourage communities to gather for experiments and collaboration in order to increase local inventions . There’s also NTIS, GAP, GMP Programmes.

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