Tuesday, March 19

GSIAC to push innovation in economic transformation

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NEW YORK: Renowned members of the Global Science and Innovation Advisory Council (GSIAC), which will be set up here next week, will provide valuable input and a fresh perspective to uplift Malaysia’s economy by hastening innovation, leveraging on the nation’s strength in information and communications technology and  improving science and engineering education and skills.

FRESH PERSPECTIVE: GSIAC will bring together international leaders and experts from government, industry, and academia to provide a fresh perspective on Malaysia’s rapidly growing economy with an emphasis on implementation and tangible results.

Ultimately, the aim was to push the envelope in innovation via Malaysia’s economic development programmes and producing tangible results that would enhance prosperity for the country, the president of the famed New York Academy of Sciences (NYAS), Ellis Rubinstein, told Bernama in an interview yesterday.

GSIAC would bring together international leaders and experts from government, industry, and academia to provide a fresh perspective on Malaysia’s rapidly growing economy with an emphasis on implementation and tangible results.

Rubinstein, a Pulitzer prize winner in science journalism, emphasised that members not only have their own individual areas of expertise but also constitute a large, diverse network that could be harnessed in order to connect Malaysian companies and institutions to others abroad to partner in key common areas of interest.

He cited how Malaysia could accelerate innovation in the palm oil industry and its derivatives relating to biomass and biofuels as well as leverage on the country’s prowess in ICT to resolve social, economic, and environmental challenges through smart cities-smart village concepts.

The Council could also provide the direction for Malaysia to improve science and engineering education and skills while creating and linking university research areas that complement the innovation needs of industry.

The GSIAC’s first council meeting would be chaired on May 17 by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak as part of his official visit to New York.

The Prime Minister has been very earnest in using innovation as a key driver towards Malaysia meeting its aim of achieving a high income economy under the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP).

Against such ideals, Rubinstein, who has been described as an innovator and change agent, noted that Malaysia has an excellent reputation in the IT industry, including in electronics manufacturing, multimedia, and programming work, and is also known as one of the international centres of excellence in palm oil.

Furthermore, Malaysia was increasingly building its manufacturing expertise in the aerospace, automotive, and other industries.

“GSIAC  will play a crucial role in advising and helping implement projects that will help improve innovation and prosperity, particularly in the palm oil industry, Smart Cities-Smart Villages, and capacity building.

“It will also enable people-to-people meetings, providing real-time technical assistance, and play a role in the design and implementation of subsequent projects,” said Rubinstein, who is also chief executive officer of the 194-year old academy.

Malaysians would benefit from these endeavors at many levels as not only does a more innovative economy generate entrepreneurial opportunities and jobs, it also creates prosperity and increases income levels among all segments of the population.

A further benefit to Malaysia which he highlighted was that rising education and skills capacity would open up increasing opportunities for those Malaysians who were willing to take advantage of these attributes.

Rubinstein said the endeavour was led by the Prime Minister and his advisors, within the purview of the Malaysian government and GSIAC as an advisory body.

As a neutral, non-profit scientific organisation, NYAS would play a critical role not only in the planning of the May 17 GSIAC meeting but also in the organisation of subsequent implementation projects.

There had been many individuals involved in the creation of the GSIAC,  but it was the Prime Minister who had the foremost vision and dedication to create the Council to propel Malaysia forward, Rubinstein stressed.

The Prime Minister’s Science Advisor Dr Zakri Abdul Hamid and Malaysian Ambassador to the United States, Datuk Seri Jamaluddin Jarjis, had also been instrumental to this end.

The Malaysian Industry Group for High Technology (MIGHT) and New York Academy of Sciences have played an important role in the creation and organization of the Council.

When asked why was it important to emphasise science and innovation, and not technology – which has been Malaysia’s focus, he replied, “Innovation is a broader concept than technology.

“While technology is important, innovation refers to the creative use of technology to solve specific problems or develop new products, often incorporating other non-technical competencies such as ergonomics and design.” To a question on how GSIAC could focus on innovation vis-à-vis Malaysia’s development plans such as the Economic Tranformation Programme (ETP), New Economic Model (NEM), and National Key Economic Areas (NKEAs) and importance in achieving high income levels, Rubinstein believes that the ETP, NEM, and NKEAs are critical to Malaysia’s economic future.

He said that GSIAC’s focus on innovation would complement these ongoing and evolving plans where areas like capacity building will be cross-cutting among most areas of economic focus.

“It also harnesses Malaysia’s IT strengths to solve pressing social and economic challenges through all the concept and envisions with the coordination of the implementation phase with governmental and industry leaders responsible for other components of the aforementioned plans.”

Rubinstein said competition was global, (therefore) Malaysia must focus on ways to enable its companies to compete in higher value-added market segments as opposed to commodity markets (and) innovation is the way to do this, generating wealth, prosperity, and jobs.

NYAS has been at the forefront of science, technology, and innovation since its establishment in 1817 and is well-positioned to help convene the Council and undertake subsequent follow-up projects in partnership with the Malaysian government.

As an independent non-profit organisation, the Academy serves as a neutral nexus of the academic, industrial, governmental, and NGO communities in the US and internationally.

“The Academy harnesses this neutrality, its global network, and an experienced staff to help address society’s challenges through science-based, public-policy solutions,” he added.

In recent work with Mexico, Russia, and New York State, the Academy  has highlighted the importance of science and its related institutions in addressing the needs of society.

“We believe these demonstrated capabilities combined with the knowledge and experience gained from this recent project work make the Academy uniquely qualified to undertake this partnership,” he said.

For instance, based on the academy’s work with Mexico and in 2007, the Mayor’s Office of Mexico City had embarked on a global search to identify organizations to advise the city on best practices for fostering innovation, science, and economic development based on technology.

The led to an alliance with the Academy, which leveraged on its core strengths and international network of members in transferring critical knowledge to a major developing city besides trying to improve the lives of its populace.

In September 2008, the Academy organized a groundbreaking event in collaboration with the Innova Trust of Mexico City.

And under the guidance of Mayor Marcelo Ebrard, the Science & Innovation Week event, officially launched by the Mayor’s initiative to foster innovation and economic development through science and engineering and brought together key stakeholders from across academia, industry, and government with both local and international experts.

“NYAS is now working on the next phase of the project whereby it is advising the Mayor’s Office as it builds a Biomedical Knowledge City within Mexico City.

“This will be followed by a Sustainability Knowledge City focused on urban sustainability, said Rubinstein. — Bernama