AI City and TPM’s transformation

TPM’s new CEO Dzuleira Abu Bakar (pix) tells StarBizWeek her plans.

AS potentially the largest hub for hyperscale data centres (HDCs) in the country, Technology Park Malaysia (TPM) is becoming a key player in the ecosystem.

TPM itself is undergoing a major change. In April the government announced a plan to consolidate TPM with the Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (MaGIC) into a technology commercialisation agency (TCA). TPM is a fourth-generation technology park with physical incubators and tech infrastructure, while MaGIC has served a role in cultivating technology startups.

TPM’s new CEO Dzuleira Abu Bakar (pix) tells StarBizWeek her plans.

Can you tell us the big picture plan you have to take TPM forward?

In its 25 years, TPM has contributed tremendously to nation building, in particular to the development of the tech startup ecosystem. TPM has provided a platform to tech industry players such as Telekom Malaysia, Astro, Petronas Dagangan and Iris Technologies, and are looking at bringing in more top technology companies as anchor tenants. TPM is also in talks to build an artificial intelligence (AI) city offering an integrated AI ecosystem for development and commercial purposes.

To date, TPM has also incubated entrepreneurs in robotics and drone tech and has provided support to tech driven SMEs. Total investments in terms of providing world class infrastructure and a comprehensive eco-system to these businesses are in excess of RM1bil.

My immediate focus is rejuvenation and revitalisation of the park to transform its state to what it should be – a hub that enables innovation and technology. Also, aspirationally to spearhead economic oriented research through a multidisciplinary approach with increased collaboration across traditional boundaries and organisations.

We are here to provide a business focused capacity and capability to accelerate research and technology commercialisation. Ultimately we want to enable more demand driven technologies to meet specific needs of the country.

TPM has tremendous potential and we have only just scratched the surface in terms of offerings to the tech startup ecosystem, and I’ve been tasked to unlock the potential and value of this organisation through this transformation.

The first thing to do is to understand the fundamentals of the organisation, it’s strengths and shortcomings and potential growth areas.

My priority includes transforming the culture, making TPM relevant to its internal and external stakeholders. More importantly a customer friendly organisation. We will then seek to grow TPM dynamically and prime it for the strategic consolidation with MaGIC to form TCA.

TPM has a lot of potential waiting to be unlocked. Firstly, TPM sits on 686 acres of prime land with proximity to the KL city centre, with 371 acres already developed through collaboration with technology MNCs.

Technology play will continue to be a core to developing the remaining 315 acres, which will include a development zone for technology testing, validation and incubation as part of the National Technology & Innovation Sandbox platform.

In addition, the commercial zones will be activated to infuse the elements of lifestyle, learning and business. Ultimately, TPM will be redesigned to make high potential research and development and early technology products economically viable through holistic and comprehensive commercialisation support.

Can you give us an update on the much-touted AI Park City that TPM has been associated with?

As you’re aware, the AI Park at TPM involving several parties, is earmarked at a total investment of more than US$1bil (RM4.15bil) over the next five years. It is a designated 300-acre plot which will serve as the platform for the development of AI solutions in areas of computer vision, speech recognition, natural language and human and robot.

Ultimately, the park will accelerate the development of technology and talent, data management, research and development and commercial ecosystem which could assist the Malaysian government to elevate our AI ecosystem. There is a huge opportunity for AI to flourish in Malaysia and the government recognises its potential in the nation’s growth. Among the work-in-progress are securing data centre partners, equipping the park with 5G technology and securing strategic investors.

In addition to the AI Park, there is also a Drone Development Zone – a five-acre dedicated land bank which will be developed as a centre of excellence or drone development area for flying, testing, research and development activities.

We are in active discussion with several partners and are still finalising the plan for these parks soon, and will take it forward for approval by the government.

We understand that TPM is in negotiations with global giants to have their HDCs in TPM. How would you describe these opportunities for TPM and for Malaysia, especially at a time when economic sentiment is low and FDI’s coming in Malaysia are declining? Is the plan to make TPM a global hub for HDCs, opportunities for which we understand are growing by leaps and bounds?

There is great potential and we need to capitalise on the interplay between science, technology, innovation and physical hubs – with sustainable impact in mind.

The plan is to make TPM an innovation centre with a focus on both developmental and commercial outcomes. HDCs will 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 TPM 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.

A KPMG study released recently confirmed the important role and value technology hubs such as TPM play in this regard. Kuala Lumpur was ranked ninth amongst cities in the Asia Pacific region surveyed. TPM is already working with several global companies to have their HDCs set up here at TPM due to our strategic location and offerings.

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