SMEs should leverage existing networks for research and development
INVESTMENTS into science and innovation have become essential as industries rely more and more on the advancement in technologies to improve productivity and efficiency.
Sirim Bhd president and group chief executive Prof Ahmad Fadzil Mohamad Hani has urged businesses, particularly small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), to tap into its network to leverage its research work and technology development as the country moves towards the implementation of Industry 4.0.
“Sirim is now a strong group with six subsidiaries. Our activities are streamlined to better support initiatives to increase innovation, R&D and commercialisation among SMEs.
“As the leading research and technology organisation in Malaysia, we are proud to impart our knowledge in varied sectors as seen in Sirim’s core activities which are focused on research and technology development, standards and quality which includes certification, testing and inspection, training and consultancy and technology transfer,” he says.
Sirim recently carried out a technology audit on 360 SMEs and has found that most of these companies were still at the Industry 2.0 level. The company has since introduced new processes, technology and products to about 60-70 of these companies to help them move forward.
“Sirim works as the bridge between R&D and the industry,” he adds.
Ahmad Fadzil was addressing some 200 participants at the recent “Exploring technology and innovation with Global Research Alliance (GRA)” forum where SMEs, trade organisations, academicians and government officials were exposed to opportunities in the GRA member countries as well as technology and innovative models that are available to increase the effectiveness of future approaches to SME development in Malaysia.
GRA is an international network, formed in 2000, of seven applied research organisations that work to promote the application of science and technology to solve issues facing developing countries.
The half-day session was organised by Sirim and officiated by Science, Technology and Innovation Deputy Minister Datuk Wira Dr Abu Bakar Mohamad Diah.
Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft executive vice-president of finance, controlling and information systems Prof Alfred Gossner, a panellist at the forum, advises emerging countries to “invest cleverly in science” amidst a cut in government spending across countries.
“You need not have to cover every area in the full value chain. Countries might have specialised fields. Emerging markets should invest in converting basic science into practical science for the public.
“It is expensive because there is no certainty that every research project will pan out. But you should do research with companies that are close to the markets so that you don’t lose relevance and the opportunities available,” he says.
Gossner cited Fraunhofer’s own research into mp3 in the 1990s as an example.
“We never planned for it to be what it is today. We were just looking to condense data because bandwidth was scarce and storage was expensive. But because of that technology, we have the success of the mp3,” he says.
GRA president Dr Ramesh Mashelkar concurred that investing into innovation and technology was no longer an option for businesses to be sustainable.
Nonetheless, Mashelkar noted that innovation was not merely in products and services but should be applied to other fields such as policymaking, education and financing to cultivate an ecosystem that truly encourages innovation and investment in science and technology for the future.
Meanwhile, Abu Bakar reminded SMEs that there are various funds and grants that are provided by the Government and he encouraged businesses to fully utilise them to innovate their businesses.
“Digital technology has ultimately changed the industrial and manufacturing world. The convergence of the Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence and robots, has enabled smart factories and provide the quantum leap into Industry 4.0.
“As Malaysia braces for her own transformation in manufacturing, various ministries and agencies are paving the way to establish a foundation that will push the nation toward a technology-driven economy based on the progressive ideals of Industry 4.0,” says Abu Bakar.