Continuing to harness technology’s prevalence in the age of COVID-19, the 26th Annual General Meeting of the Academy of Sciences Malaysia was held on 24 April 2021. The event was attended by 224 Fellows alongside the thought leader’s management team. This number surpassed last year’s attendance, exhibiting that the scientific think tank’s members are embracing the convenience and ease of use offered by the virtual conference platform.
Professor Datuk Dr Asma Ismail FASc opened her speech with a note on ASM’s strong track record of developing impactful and insightful policy papers and cross-cutting national plans. This achievement has enabled ASM to elevate its role into a voice of influence and change maker from being an STI advisory body.
ASM’s growth has caused it to appear brighter on the radar of various international bodies. These international bodies have been monitoring ASM’s studies and initiatives and are referring to it in their evaluations and reports. For example, ASM’s Foresight study, Emerging Science & Technology study, National Policy on Science, Technology, and Innovation (NPSTI), and 10-10 MySTIE Framework were recognised as the key milestones in deploying effective foresight in policy making. These stellar products by ASM have been utilised as a reference by the UK Government’s study (through the School of International Futures) titled “Features of effective systemic foresight in governments around the world”.
The President highlighted two factors with which ASM was able to successfully reach out to policymakers and decision makers. First, ASM’s virtue of being an independent body enabled it to engage with and garner the trust of diverse stakeholders. Second, she attributed the Academy’s success to its strategic position in the national landscape by being a member of the National Science Council and the National High-Tech Council. Additionally, ASM is also sought after by other national Councils, allowing ASM to have the opportunity to present key takeaways from its flagship studies to decision-makers of the highest level. To date, the Academy has presented 13 papers to the various national Councils since 2014.
Continuing her speech, Datuk Asma noted that ASM is now strategically placed in a channel that enables up to experience the whole chain of development, ideation, implementation, monitoring and evaluation.
Aside from significant changes happening from the bottom to the top, Datuk Asma also noted that change can also happen from the top down. She noted that ASM uses both approaches to ensure STIE is mainstreamed by the society.
The President elaborated on an example of a top-down approach. This included the adoption of novel ideas from Fellows into the 30 niche areas. This allows Fellows to create roadmaps or programmes by allowing them to put forth programmes or research projects that will enable us to be more competitive nationally and globally.
ASM’s involvement in providing input for 15 Cabinet memorandums was also spotlighted by Datuk Asma. She stated that a winning combination can be created with the confluence of expertise, extensive and rich engagement with stakeholders as well as the strength of ASM’s dynamic management team. This synergy enables effective communication of findings and recommendations of studies that can be easily digested by ASM stakeholders.
The President expressed her hope to see all Fellows play a more visible role by being a voice of change representing the scientific community to ensure the credibility and quality of ASM’s strategic inputs. She hopes these efforts will also include representation from other parts of ASM’s expert network, such as the Young Scientists Network or the Top Research Scientists of Malaysia.
The linking of STI and the Economic Sector in creating value and realising impact to empower the nation’s economy was also a topic touched upon by the President. She called for Malaysia to create STI-based industries that utilise indigenous technologies to increase competitiveness and elevate the country from being merely a tech user into a tech producer. The National Policy on Science, Technology, and Innovation (NPSTI) 2021-2030 and the 10-10 Malaysian Science, Technology, Innovation and Economic (MySTIE) Framework is believed to be able to assist Malaysia towards reaching those goals and set off systemic changes in the innovation ecosystem. The President noted that while ASM provided the insight for this edition of the NPSTI, the 10-10 MySTIE Framework is ASM’s own brainchild. She applauded the valuable nature of the 10-10 MySTIE Framework book, having recorded 3,230 digital downloads by people from 30 countries.
The President shared the STIE landscape proposed by ASM that has been approved by the Cabinet. ASM pushed for the formation of the High-Tech Council under MOSTI to strategise high-tech initiatives in the country. The formation of the Malaysia Science Endowment (MSE) and Technology Commercialisation Agency (TCA) was also proposed to complete the ecosystem. The President explained that TCA & MSE are two entities that will complete the innovation ecosystem to address the RDC&IE value chain. ASM also positioned the 10-10 MySTIE as the national STIE Framework to facilitate the STIE initiatives for the country.
The President hoped that the landscape could create a robust innovation ecosystem, with innovation coming from industries/enterprises using homegrown solutions and technologies or even the ability to adopt and adapt foreign technologies in their manufacturing systems. This will allow for the introduction of new products, practices, and services.
The President went on to explain the main function of MSE: to strategise and attract alternative funds such as from endowment funds, angel investors, international funds, CESS funds, crowdsourcing and others to ensure sustainable funding for RDC&IE and reduce dependence on government funds. On the other hand, TCA will function as a catalyst, enabler, and convenor of innovation to spearhead economic-oriented research (demand-driven R&D & market-driven delivery system), bridge research and technology commercialisation through the creation of spin-offs and nurture industry-ready talent.
The President explained that ASM has a similar pilot project called i-Connect to build the mechanism towards demand-driven R&D and market-driven delivery system. The President elaborated four platforms have been formed (Halal, Industry 4.0, Medical Devices & Fintech in Islamic Finance) that are managed by four neutral entities under i-Connect. As such, ASM was able to involve 145 companies in four areas for them to start setting the collaborative platform among the quadruple helix to create knowledge clusters, disruptive innovation, and talent hub.
The President called for Fellows’ internal and external collaborations to ensure they act as change-makers to elevate our scientific community involvement in research projects that is impactful to the society, economy, nation, and humankind.
Considering the recently established Sabah, Sarawak, and the East Coast ASM Chapters, the President congratulated the chairpersons of said chapters. She also expressed her hope that alongside the existing Northern and Southern Chapters, these chapters will take on the ASM spirit through initiatives that will be organised over the next year and make ASM activities more inclusive.
Datuk Asma believes that the future of research is about creating impact. The President explained that through an integrated and collaborative approach, the scientific community can be transformed to have a WOW mindset: World Class (pacesetting), Outstanding (opportunity-creating) & Winnable (transformative and impactful). This creative concept is the brainchild of ASM Fellow Professor Mahendhiran Nair FASc.
With the roadmap and funding that is available for them through the Malaysia Grand Challenge and MSE, Malaysian researchers will be able to elevate the ten socio-economic sectors by providing disruptive solutions and innovations. This will bring the nation’s technology to the world-class level. We need more researchers to think about the WOW factor in RDC&IE to ensure that their projects/initiatives are impactful to the society, economy, and country.
In her speech, Datuk Asma also highlighted several policy studies and national roadmaps or blueprints of which ASM was approached to give input: the National Robotics Roadmap (MOSTI); Study on Strengthening Environmental Governance (KASA); National Biotech Policy 2021-2030 (MOSTI); and National Nuclear Technology Policy (MOSTI), which is in its final phase.
ASM’s capacity to add value and communicate with all parties was put to good use in preparing the National COVID-19 Immunisation Programme Handbook as the writer and mediator. The President noted on the good job of ASM in designing and preparing said document, which was prepared in four languages. The President mentioned ASM’s involvement with the Jawatankuasa Jaminan Akses Vaksin COVID-19 (JKJAV) to model risk calculation with a simulation of the deployment of the vaccines in Phases 1, 2 and 3. This initiative is led by Associate Professor Ts Dr Nurfadhlina Mohd Sharef (member of YSN-ASM) together with a team of nine data scientists.
Next, the President noted the revival of the iconic Estidotmy in a digital form, which aims to continue its legacy to develop an interest in STEM within the next generation. Contributions are very much welcomed and encouraged from among Fellows.
The President also congratulated Professor Dato’ Ir Dr Wan Ramli Wan Daud FASc for delivering a video press release about the findings of the Sg Kim Kim & Pasir Gudang report, giving exposure to the outcome of the report on the front page of Utusan Malaysia and in BFM.
Continuing to highlight ASM’s exposure, the President also shared that the most recent IdeaXchange titled “Moving Towards the Innovation Driven Growth Model: the challenges between policies & implementation” was featured in The Star newspaper’s Education section.
Nearing the end of her speech, the President reminded Fellows to be responsible in how they communicate their thoughts to the community. As evidence- and facts-based scientists, everyone should be responsible to ensure that information shared is accurate. Likewise, information shared by others should also be verified before it is passed on. This is to maintain the stature and value of the Fellows, allowing them to continue being a valid point of reference for all stakeholders.
The President noted that to date, ASM has signed 20 MoUs, connected to 51 science academies and 22 International STI organisations globally and is hosting two international offices on behalf of the Malaysian Government.