INDUSTRY-academia partnership has been on the nation’s agenda for years now. Many attempts have been made to strengthen the partnership. Few would dispute that more need to be done.
On May 23, UCSI University again hosted a discourse on how best to strengthen the partnership. This time the focus was on the 4th industrial revolution or industry 4.0. More than 200 participants attended. Minister of Science. Technology and Innovation (Mosti) Datuk Seri Alfred Madius Tangau gave the keynote address on the implications of industry 4.0 on the nation’s future. In his address, he discussed at length how Mosti is taking the lead in various STI initiatives. Top on the list is the development of the nation’s STI MasterPlan where industry 4.0 will be strongly featured.
A strong industry-academia is critical to truly realise the returns from the nation’s investment in education. Investment in education is not cheap. Education produces the talents, while industry harnesses them for business gains. At the end of the day, the nation benefits. Talking about talents, in this era of innovation, industry increasingly needs the right talents to move their R&D in product development and other areas of process improvements.
Unfortunately, we as a nation have yet to attain the level of industry-academia partnership enjoyed by the more developed countries of the world. But over the years, through various initiatives of the government, we do see encouraging progress.
The changing trends in industry also influence talent development. In this age of sustainable development and the green economy, there has been much talk about the new industrial revolution. Some call it the 4th industrial revolution, while there are those who refer the transformation as industry 4.0. Whatever the name, many agree it is set to heavily impact on the way businesses are done. Already many countries around the world have initiated programmes to embrace industry 4.0 in order not to miss out on the opportunities it presents, but also to prepare their industries for the accompanying challenges it brings.
At the UCSI forum on industry 4.0, one panel posed the question whether the nation’s industry is prepared to embrace the new disruptive business operatives involving robotics, Internet-of-Things, Big Data and Artificial Intelligence. The second panel warned of the need for change in talent development to cater to industry 4.0. Both panels agreed that industry 4.0 is unstoppable. As the world continues to pursue sustainable development where resource efficiency and productivity are key imperatives, more and more sectors are moving towards this 4th industrial revolution. This simply means future opportunities in business lie in our adopting the tenets of industry 4.0. As a nation we should not be left out of the global race to master the callings of this revolution.
It is therefore clear we have no choice but to fall in line with the global norm. The big question is, how do we do it? How do we exploit this new platform to further invigorate the industry-academia partnership? Both panels agreed that the nation needs a well structured plan to embrace and benefit from industry 4.0. A plan would not be of much use without effective execution and monitoring. Both panels agreed that collaboration among the relevant stakeholders is critical.
Industry 4.0, as elaborated by the panellists, would demand new skills. Some analysts have predicted that with the 4th industrial revolution, more than 60% of the existing jobs will disappear. They will be mostly replaced by AI, Artificial Intelligence. In fact we already hear of some back room jobs in banks being replaced by machines. This simply means programmes, courses and curriculums in universities will have to be modified to incorporate the new elements. Even the way courses are delivered and assessed will have to change. In other words the universities that we are familiar with now will have to adjust to the new demands. There was a suggestion that instead of pursuing programmes which award degrees, the future learning will be more motivated by the need to acquire competencies. Assessment techniques will also be different. Ignore such demands at our own peril!
PROF DATUK DR AHMAD IBRAHIM
Tan Sri Omar Centre of STI Policy And Strategic Studies