KUALA LUMPUR – As digitisation has become an inevitable change that needs to be adapted by businesses, be it big or small, the Malaysian Global Innovation & Creativity Centre (MaGIC) has emerged as a catalyst for many local startups.
Its chief executive officer, Dzuleira Abu Bakar said Malaysia’s overall innovation ecosystem has strengthened over time as it is now featured in the top 30 countries, despite some setbacks along the way, as reported on Bernama.
“However, we have to admit that there are still challenges facing the start-up ecosystem.
“These include the lack of investments and participation from the private sector, regulatory red tape, low commercialisation rate after research and development, as well as high dependency on foreign talent for high-technology solutions,” she said in an interview with Bernama.
Dzuleira said along the way, Malaysia has lost a number of prominent startups to other countries such as Singapore due to hiccups in accelerating innovation efforts, which are now being actively recalibrated.
She asserted that COVID-19 has become a wake-up call for many entrepreneurs, with many startups affected by the economic slowdown.
“Based on our survey, during the first week of the Movement Control Order (MCO), 46% of startups and social enterprises said they would collapse if the COVID-19 pandemic stretched beyond six months,” she said.
Following the first survey, MaGIC has conducted two other surveys that showed improvement.
In order to push the national innovation efforts by the government, Dzuleira said that the Prihatin Rakyat Economic Recovery Plan (PENJANA) introduced several initiatives for startups and social enterprises that have enabled the ecosystem to survive.
Under PENJANA, the government has allocated RM100 million for the National Technology and Innovation Sandbox (NTIS), Social Impact Matching grants (RM10 million) and Technology Startup Funding Relief Facility (RM100 million).
“The NTIS will further drive Malaysia into becoming a high-tech and high-income country through innovative solutions, focusing on commercialising research and development by allowing relaxations in certain regulatory requirements for testing and solution development for ear-marked projects,” she said.
The NTIS is projected to deliver return on investment (ROI) of almost RM300 million in the next five years.
Six pilot projects have been identified, including advanced technology robotics for the healthcare, agriculture and manufacturing sectors. The NTIS has processed 182 of 882 applications received.
As the lead secretariat for the NTIS, MaGIC will focus on capacity building, orchestrate end-to-end results. These include identifying issues in five key sectors which can be alleviated with the application of advanced technologies.
“The government is taking several measures and responding quickly to accelerate Malaysia’s pace of innovation,” Dzuleira said.
Since its set up in 2015, MaGIC has assisted thousands of startups and in 2019 alone, it recorded value creation of RM409 million, organised 271 programmes for 20,609 individuals, accelerated 153 start-ups, and created 690 jobs.