JAKARTA (ANN): President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo (pic) said on Tuesday (Dec 3) that the government is still focusing on infrastructure and human capital development before advancing research and development.
Before allocating more state funding to research, the President said research institutions should be revamped to make sure their output could be used by industries.
“If we take a measure from our GDP [gross domestic product], the percentage for research and development is still very small even though the figure is about US$1.8bil per year.
“What I’m asking is, where are the results? It should have an end result that is useful for people, small industries and the country, ” he said at the Merdeka Palace.
Jokowi said the establishment of the National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN) should be the centre for Indonesia’s innovation and he would allocate funds to the agency.
According to the 2019 Global Innovation Index (GII), Indonesia still lags behind neighbouring countries in terms of innovation. Indonesia was in 85th position among 129 countries or 14th among 15 Southeast Asian and Oceania countries. Malaysia was at 35th and Singapore topped the regional list in eighth place globally.
Meanwhile, according to the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) 2019 Global Competitiveness Index, Indonesia ranks 50th, down five places from last year. The country’s Research and development capability is ranked 47th, and its R&D expenditures ranked 116th out of 141 countries.
BRIN was established last month by a Presidential Decree and was assigned to conduct integrated research, development, study, and innovation. It also acts as a coordinating body between various research institutions and researchers to increase the output and quality.
“There shouldn’t be (overlapping) research that is conducted by three or four different agencies without any coordination, ” Research and Technology Minister Bambang Brodjonegoro said.
Bambang, who is also head of BRIN, said that there were 329 R&D institutions inside various ministries and government agencies. He added that the agency would integrate research conducted by government agencies and state-owned universities starting in January.
Meanwhile, the ministry’s research and development director, Kemal Prihatiman, said that other than a lack of coordination, major obstacles faced by research agencies included the low number of researchers and outdated research instruments.
“It does not mean that the research institutions do not have the capabilities, but it is not enough, ” he told The Jakarta Post on the sidelines of the event. “They must unite all of their potential.”
This way, he added, “researchers will know what they don’t have and other [research agencies] have so they could cooperate and increase their output.”
Kemal said that the government had conducted a mentorship programme to upgrade 137 R&D agencies to become Superior Innovation Centers (PUI).
Other challenges that affect the country’s R&D development are the lack of an ecosystem to support innovation, low awareness of the community about the importance of research, limited and scattered government funding and the low quantity of researchers, according to Irsan.
He said that BRIN can be the solution for the research bodies’ lack of coordination, if it acts as a regulator and facilitator, without doing the research itself.
Despite its huge role in uniting the fragmented research institutions, BRIN is still hampered by a funding shortage.
Indonesia's spending on R&D only accounts for 0.25% of its GDP, far less than what neighbouring countries spend.
To complement the limited budget, he urged research bodies to seek funds from private and state-owned companies through joint research programs or grants.
“We should be able to cooperate with the business sector because they’re the ones who understand what the public needs for R&D and its end products, ” he said. - The Jakarta Post/ANN