PHILADELPHIA: As soon as a seminar on Food and Agriculture at the Marketplace at the Bio 2005 Conference here was over, two Malaysian scientists working in the United States walked up to Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Datuk Dr Jamaluddin Jarjis.
They expressed interest in wanting to help their motherland in biotechnology development and asked Dr Jamaluddin, who had earlier spoken at the seminar, how this could be possible.
“One of them had written 200 published research papers. He had earlier written to me about the matter. He agreed to come to Malaysia three or four times a year to help in research,” Dr Jamaludin told Malaysian journalists here after the seminar which was jointly organised by Malaysia, New Zealand and Argentina.
He said this was a positive indication that the efforts to create greater awareness on biotechnology among Malaysians was slowly but surely bearing fruit.
The minister, who is leading the Malaysian delegation comprising more than 100 people from the industry for the four-day conference, said this was an important aspect of the country's biotechnology push.
“We are drawing up a new 'brain gain' programme to bring back our biotechnology experts from abroad or get them to contribute. We are working out the details and will be announcing them soon,” he said.
He said this was over and above several measures being put in place to attract FDIs (foreign direct investments) in biotechnology.
The minister said from his meetings and discussions with foreign investors and authorities, Malaysia was on the world biotechnology radar screen and was confident that this would bring in more investment in the sector.
“Mobilising funds for biotechnology is a real challenge as the returns from the investments can normally be seen only after about 10 years.
“The gestation period is long but we will work towards minimising the risks. We are also looking at the Irish and Nordic FDI model as they have been fairly successful in this area,” he said.
Dr Jamaluddin said even an Indian scientist made an enquiry on how biotechnology firms from his country could collaborate with Malaysian ventures, adding that this augured well for Malaysia as India was advanced in this area.
Asked if Singapore would pose a threat to Malaysia's biotechnology push, he said it was India and China that anyone should be concerned about.
“We should not fear any country but should instead talk to them to find out how we can network and collaborate,” he said.
Dr Jamaludin said they were also working with the Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Ministry on ways to control the ripening of seasonal fruits so that they could be marketed year round.
“I find that fruits like durians and rambutans go to waste due to over production,” he added.