ASM PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS
BY PROFESSOR DATUK DR ASMA ISMAIL FASc
Assalamu’alaikum w.b.t salam sejahtera and a very good morning to
Distinguished Senior Fellows and Fellows of the Academy,
Statesmen for science that champion STIE,
- Welcome to our 26th Annual General Meeting. This is the second time that we are meeting virtually. I am pleased to share that we have exceeded last year’s numbers, with 191 Fellows out of 392 in attendance now. This is the highest attendance so far; as we had 184 last year; at an AGM in our history of 26 years.
- I believe that we are now more well-versed with attending meetings online so, there should be little or no glitches this time. However, should any glitches occur, I would like to request for your kind understanding.
- Before we begin our meeting today, I would like to invite Fellows of the Muslim faith to recite Al-Fatihah and Fellows of other faiths to observe a minute of silence as a mark of respect and remembrance in memory of our dearly departed Senior Fellow Academician Professor Emeritus Dato’ Dr Khalid Yusoff FASc and our fellow Professor Dr Hamdani Saidi FASc. Al-Fatihah.
Thank you, everyone.
Senior Fellows and Fellows of the Academy,
- About a decade ago, the Academy fully embraced the role of a thought leader and started to publish flagship studies that made our stakeholders sit up and take notice of the areas that the Academy is championing, which demonstrated our capability to steer evidence-based decision making. Since then, we have received more and more requests from Ministries and agencies for the Academy to become a strategic partner to provide STI-related input for the drafting of policies and strategies over the years.
- As a result, we have established a strong track record in developing impactful and insightful policy papers and cross-cutting national plans which has enabled the Academy to move from being an STI advisory body to a voice of influence and a change maker.
- We are also working with organisations that are in areas beyond the traditional confines of STI such as those who are involved in providing financial capital for the development of the STI ecosystem. We have been approached by international bodies like the World Bank, the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB), Commonwealth, UNESCO and more.
- We have noticed that the UK Government, World Bank, OECD, UNESCO among others have been monitoring all our studies and initiatives and referring to it in their evaluations and reports.
- For example, the UK Government, through the School of International Futures, published a study titled “Features of effective systemic foresight in governments around the world”. They chose eight countries as case studies to see how these countries integrate foresight into policy making in a comprehensive way and Malaysia was selected as one of the countries, alongside Canada, Finland, New Zealand and Singapore among others.
- Our Foresight study, Emerging Science & Technology study, National Policy on Science, Technology and Innovation (NPSTI) 2021-2030 and 10-10 Malaysian Science, Technology, Innovation and Economic (MySTIE) Framework were recognised as the key milestones in deploying effective foresight in policy making as part of the study. We are delighted to see that our studies are looked up to by key nations and used as a model for countries globally who are interested to adopt the best practices.
- Congratulations and well done to all Fellows who were involved in these studies. This is something we could not have achieved without your insight, commitment and perseverance to make a difference.
Senior Fellows and Fellows of the Academy,
- The hallmark of the year 2020 was seeing ASM recommendations and efforts to mainstream science, technology and innovation (STI), towards building a sustainable ecosystem, now becoming a reality. This is something that the Academy has been championing since the first edition of the Science Outlook was published in 2015.
- Many, especially among the international academies, are asking what is ASM’s formula in successfully reaching out to policymakers and decision makers. Actually, it is derived from two factors.
- The first factor is the Academy’s ability to engage diverse stakeholders by virtue of being an independent body that has garnered the trust of our stakeholders. We need to continue upholding the trust because when ASM calls, stakeholders now know that their concerns will be addressed to make a change in the current system.
- Allow me to share some news to illustrate this point. If you remember, our General Assembly in 2019 brought up the topic of Hydrogen Economy. We then set up the Hydrogen Economy Special Interest Group (SIG) which was led by Professor Dato’ Wan Ramli. Just yesterday, Datuk Tengku Azzman led the Academy’s team, which consisted of Professor Dato’ Bakar and the SIG Chair, Professor Dato’ Wan Ramli, in a meeting on Hydrogen Economy that was chaired by Y.B. Dato’ Sri Mustapa Mohamed, the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department for Economic Affairs and attended by entities such as Nano Malaysia and UMW.
- The points put forward by the Academy, Nano Malaysia & UMW will be integrated as a way forward to address Hydrogen Economy for the nation. This attests to the fact that the industry and other potential partners in our ecosystem have no qualms working with the Academy as they see us as a neutral entity working in the interest of the nation. This is testament to the fact of how the Academy has garnered the trust of players in the ecosystem, which is a factor in our formula for success.
- This is also the result of our persistence and the continuous engagement and positioning of the Academy’s work among central agencies like EPU and relevant Ministries. It has taken us three attempts to get the attention of policy and decision makers on hydrogen. Thank you to Datuk Tg Azzman as the Chair of the Policy & Strategy Working Group under STIPAC for providing valuable insight that enabled for the refining the presentation and key messages. This allowed us to develop messaging that is more succinct and easier to understand by the policy makers.
- The second factor is how the Academy is strategically positioned in the national landscape by being a member of the National Science Council and the National High Tech Council. We are also sought after by other national Councils like the National Mineral Council and the National Water Council to name a few. This allows us to have the opportunity to present key takeaways from our flagship studies to the highest level of decision-makers. To date, the Academy has presented 13 papers to the various national Councils from 2014.
- We are now strategically placed in a channel that gives us the advantage of experiencing the whole chain of the development, ideation, implementation, monitoring and evaluation. Change usually starts at the bottom and works its way up, first to society on a mass scale, and eventually, lawmakers and people in power.
- But, many a times, the push can also take place from the top down. The Academy uses both approaches to ensure we can mainstream STIE to our society. This has allowed us to attain success in mainstreaming STI and creating the ecosystem since 2016 which can be seen through the adoption of some of the SIG/Studies/Policies like:
- The National Policy on Science, Technology and Innovation (NPSTI) 2021-2030 led by Professor Datuk Dr Awang Bulgiba Awang Mahmood FAsc and Professor Emeritus Dato’ Dr Rahmah Mohamed FASc
- The 10-10 Malaysian Science, Technology, Innovation and Economic (MySTIE) Framework, which is a collaborative effort between Professor Dr Mahendhiran Nair FASc and his team & Fellows of the Academy and our team of analysts; and
- Most recently, the Nanotechnology Policy which was drafted by a team led by Professor Dato’ Ir. Dr. Abdul Rahman Mohamed FASc and Professor Dr Zainovia Lockman and is soon to be presented to the Cabinet
- We are also laying the foundation through the top-down approach to adopt ideas from Fellows that are ahead of the curve such as precision medicine, precision biodiversity, hydrogen economy and precision agriculture as part of the 30 national niche areas.
- This will establish a path for our Fellows to create roadmaps or programmes through the bottom-up approach by allowing them to put forth programmes or research projects that will enable us to be more competitive nationally and globally. Some of the SIG’s/Policies/Studies that are in the pipeline to be presented to Cabinet or the Central Agency are:
- Precision medicine to be presented at Cabinet in June 2021
- Precision biodiversity to be evaluated under RMK12 (2nd rolling plan) and
- Hydrogen economy to be included in RMK12 initiative
- Over the last year as well, we have been sought out by multiple ministries to provide input for 15 Cabinet memorandums such as the Paper on Data Governance, the Paper on Immunisation Plan and the Paper on Biosecurity to name a few.
- Within this virtual hall of august minds, we need to combine our areas of expertise in this era of the convergence of knowledge. The confluence of expertise, extensive and rich engagement with stakeholders as well as the strength of our analysts and officers from the Academy, creates a winning combination that enables effective communication of findings and recommendations of studies in a manner that can be easily digested by our stakeholders.
- As Fellows, we should join all platforms available through the Academy or other bodies/institutions and listen to the opinions of others and share in what could very possibly be difficult conversations in order to put forward impactful recommendations to the stakeholders. We need to continue to be persistent to push the STIE agenda.
- I’m happy to see more and more Fellows being involved in the Academy’s studies and initiatives. At present, the biggest ongoing study is the Roadmap for the National Agenda on Water Sector Transformation 2040 (WST2040) for the Economic Planning Unit which involves 162 experts and 34 analysts. This study is expected to be completed by the end of the year.
- I hope all Fellows will play a more visible role by being a voice of change representing the scientific community to ensure the credibility and quality of the Academy’s strategic inputs. I hope these efforts will also include representation from other parts of the Academy, be it from the Young Scientists Network or the Top Research Scientists of Malaysia.
Senior Fellows and Fellows of the Academy,
- The concept of Science, Technology, Innovation and Economy is the brainchild of the Academy. For the first time, the two sectors have been linked for value creation and impact realisation through these two national frameworks. This is the way forward. If there is one thing that COVID 19 pandemic has taught us, it is that in order to remain resilient, we need science to power our economy especially in the post COVID 19 era.
- To ensure Malaysia remains competitive globally, the government needs to continue its efforts to mainstream STI as a driver of economic growth in its transformation plans.
- With rapid change of technology brought about by Industry 4.0, we need to instil innovation in our industries in order to move productivity. We need to create STI-based industries that use our own indigenous technologies. Only then, can Malaysia be a producer of technology instead of merely just a user of technology to be able to compete in the knowledge-based economy.
- Two of the studies that we have been involved in that will assist towards this and set off systemic change in the innovation ecosystem are the NPSTI 2021-2030 and the 10-10 MySTIE Framework. While we provided the insight for this edition of the NPSTI, the 10-10 MySTIE Framework is a brainchild of the Academy.
- The NPSTI 2021-2030 and the 10-10 MySTIE Framework were launched by the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, YB Khairy Jamaluddin on 8 December 2020.
- I am happy to report that the 10-10 MySTIE Framework transformation book has been sought after locally as well as internationally. To date, the transformation book has been downloaded 3,230 times by people in 30 countries within the space of four months. This is our biggest blockbuster among our key books published.
- While NPSTI is the launchpad for the aspiration to be a high-tech nation by 2030, the 10-10 MySTIE Framework provides a systemic approach to transform Malaysia into a knowledge-intensive economy by design. It serves as a tool to ensure that projects are strategically and inclusively implemented. The 30 niche areas from the 10-10 MySTIE Framework have been adopted as the base of the Malaysia Grand Challenge (MGC). The MGC Grants will fund innovators and researchers to see through their effort.
- With these policies, we’re pushing for systemic change in the national STI landscape to advance Malaysia’s competitiveness and socio-economic development.
- Let me share the STIE landscape that the Academy had proposed and has been approved by the Cabinet. Under this landscape, the Academy has proposed for the National Science Council to be reinstated under the Pakatan Harapan government and continued under the Perikatan Nasional government and the formation of the High Tech Council under MOSTI to strategise the high-tech initiatives in the country.
- We also proposed the formation of the Malaysia Science Endowment (MSE) and Technology Commercialisation Agency (TCA), which is equivalent to the A*STAR (Agency for Science, Technology and Research) in Singapore, to complete the ecosystem.
- TCA & MSE, as two entities, will complete the innovation ecosystem to address the RDCI&E value chain. In this landscape also, we have positioned the 10-10 MySTIE Framework as the national STIE Framework to facilitate the STIE initiatives for the country.
- We’re currently in the midst of giving input on the function of the three main entities of RDCI&E, namely Research Management Agency (RMA), TCA & MSE that has been approved by the Cabinet.
- To ensure that all the players of the STIE landscape are institutionalised, MOSTI has appointed Professor Datuk Dr Aishah Bidin FASc, as a representative of the Academy, to lead the drafting the STI Act.
- We hope with this landscape, we could create a robust innovation ecosystem. Innovation in this context is about our industries/enterprises using the 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 by the nation’s industries.
- Let me share now about MSE. The main function of MSE is 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 RDCI&E and reduce dependence on government funds.
- The Cabinet has approved for the Academy to be appointed as the anchor agency for this initiative. We are in the midst of structuring MSE within the Academy’s structure and hope it can officially function earliest by the end of this year.
- In line with our appointment, we have initiated a discussion with IsDB about collaborating to raise international RDCI&E funds for Malaysians scientific community, modelling the approach of the Newton-Ungku Omar Fund (NUOF).
- TCA has just been approved by the Cabinet. It will function as a catalyst, enabler and convenor of innovation to spearhead economic-oriented research (demand-driven R&D and market-driven delivery system), bridge research and technology commercialisation through the creation of spin-offs and nurture industry-ready talent.
- Within the Academy, our pilot project- the Malaysian Collaborative Network for Innovation (i-Connect)- is building the mechanism towards demand-driven R&D and market-driven delivery system. We have started this in 2019 and the proof of concept of this mechanism will now be applied by TCA.
- To date, four platforms have been formed and managed by four neutral entities in the area of Halal, Industry 4.0, Medical Devices and Fintech in Islamic Finance and we have been able to involve 145 companies in four areas for them to start setting the collaborative platform among the four quadruple helix to create knowledge clusters, disruptive innovation and talent hub. We hope to deploy this pilot to TCA when TCA is fully established.
- The STIE Landscape that we had planned through our recommendations has almost materialised, but our role does not stop at the formation of the institutions or agencies. As a matter of fact, the journey has just begun. We need to be continuously giving direction, monitor and lend our expertise to ensure it functions as aspired.
- That is the value chain for impact approach that we have adopted in monitoring all of our recommendations to ensure positive change by design happens in our nation.
Senior Fellows and Fellows,
- How can Fellows contribute to ensure the change happens? What role can we play? Fellows need to be the change-makers in order to elevate our scientific community towards being involved in research projects that are impactful to the society, economy, nation and humankind. How to do that? We need to collaborate internally and externally. Internally, we need to garner all experts beyond Fellows in our network, such as TRSM, Associates, YSN-ASM and the Mahathir Science Award Laureates. We should work together and leverage on each other’s expertise in order to face the STIE changes and needs. Through this, we are more inclusive in our practices.
- Externally, we need to choose a strategic partner that will drive our agenda faster at the national, regional and global stage. With that, Council has decided to extend our chapters to other regions in Malaysia.
- We have newly established three chapters in Sabah, Sarawak and the East Coast. Please join me in congratulating Dr Rahimatsah Amat FASc, Emeritus Professor Dato’ Ir Abang Abdullah Abang Ali FASc and Professor Dato’ Dr Mohd Tajuddin Abdullah FASc who have accepted the appointment as the chairs for these three chapters. They will join the existing Southern and Northern chapters.
- I hope all five of the chapters will take on the spirit of the Academy through the initiatives that will be organised over the next year and make our activities more inclusive. Each chapter will include the ASM Expert network (TRSM, YSN-ASM & associates) as active members in their respective chapters.
- The future of research is about creating impact. Through the integrated and collaborative approach required for MGC grants, our scientific community hopefully can be transformed to have a WOW mindset, which means World Class (pace-setting), Outstanding (opportunity-creating) and Winnable (transformative and impactful and will win the hearts of the community, policymakers etc). This is a creative concept created by our fellow Professor Mahendhiran Nair FASc.
- With the roadmap and funding that is available for them through the MGC and MSE, our researchers will be able to move the 10 socio-economic sectors to the next level by providing disruptive solutions and innovations. This will enable us to take our technology to the world-class level. We need more researchers to think about the WOW factor in RDCI&E to ensure that their projects/initiatives is impactful to the society, economy and country.
Senior Fellows and Fellows of the Academy,
- Besides being involved in the national STI Governance initiatives, we have also been increasingly approached by several ministries to carry out policy studies and national roadmaps or blueprints. Some that have recently taken off are:
- National Robotics Roadmap (MOSTI) – Led by Professor Dr Ir Khairul Salleh Mohamad Sahari
- Study on Strengthening Environmental Governance (KASA) – led by Professor Dato’ Dr Ir A. Bakar Jaafar FASc (our Vice-President)
- National Biotech Policy 2021-2030 (MOSTI)
- Some that are in the final phase of being firmed up are:
- National Nuclear Technology Policy (MOSTI) – Led by Tan Sri Dr Ahmad Tajuddin Ali FASc
- RDCI&E Roadmap (MOSTI)
- The Academy also played an instrumental role in drafting the National COVID-19 Immunisation Programme handbook by taking on the role of writer and mediator between MKN, JPM, KKM and MOSTI. This role was accorded to the Academy as it is an independent body that has the capacity to add value and communicate with all parties.
- I’m proud to share that the document was completed and has been published in four languages (Bahasa Malaysia, English, Mandarin and Tamil) within the stipulated two-week deadline. All graphics in this book was also done by the Academy.
- The Academy was also called upon to help the Jawatankuasa Jaminan Akses Vaksin Covid 19 (JKJAV) to construct modelling for risk calculation and with the simulation about the deployment of the vaccines in Phase 1, 2 and 3. This initiative is led by a member of the Young Scientists Network- Academy of Sciences Malaysia, Associate Professor Ts. Dr. Nurfadhlina Mohd Sharef, who is working together with a team of nine data scientists to develop the necessary for JKJAV. The Council has approved the formation of a data scientists services platform, which includes the training by Malaysian Open Sciences Platform (MOSP), within the Academy to strengthen our capability with relation to data science, data science analytics and visualisation.
- We realised the importance of our data analytics and data stewardship skills among our scientific community. To date, under the MOSP training programme, we have trained 56 data stewards in 2020 while 178 will complete their training in June 2021. We have also attracted participation from South-South nations with the collaboration of ISTIC-UNESCO to train 100 participants in the Asia and the Pacific Region. Our data scientists team are also in the midst of developing data scientists training module to be incorporated under the MOSP and the data analytics programme. This is how the Academy is planning to address the gaps of data scientists in Malaysia to move cutting edge sectors like precision medicine, precision biodiversity and precision agriculture.
- Congratulations and well done to everyone involved in all these initiatives! Your effort has allowed the Academy to further strengthen ourselves as a thought leader as well as a doer for selected projects.
Senior Fellows and Fellows of the Academy,
- We have revived estidotmy, which was a collaborative effort between the Academy, MOSTI & Utusan Malaysia that ran from 2002-2012. In the decade that it ran, Estidotmy enjoyed huge success as it reached out to 350,000 readers on a monthly basis from across the nation.
- We hope that the electronic version will enjoy the same level of success, or greater. I’m happy to report that to date, the new revived estidotmy has attracted 45,000 views, the highest impression and is viewed by readers not only in Malaysia but in nine countries (US, India, UK, Canada, Singapore and more).
- The current edition of the magazine- accessible to all through a click of the mouse or tap of the finger- is how the Academy now aims to develop an interest in the next generation about the vast opportunities available in STEM. If you’d like to contribute articles for the site, please reach out to our Secretary-General who is the Chief Editor.
- We have explored other means of reaching out to the press, such as a video press release. Congratulations to Professor Dato’ Ir Dr Wan Ramli Wan Daud FASc for being involved in this unique take of a press release about the findings of the Sg Kim Kim & Pasir Gudang report. The outcome of the report was covered in Utusan Malaysia and in BFM- with Utusan giving the news front page coverage, in living colour!
- I’m also pleased to share that the topic selection of the most recent ideaXchange – “Moving Towards the Innovation Driven Growth Model: the challenges between policies & implementation” – was also the focus of Star’s Educate section recently, on the 18th of April 2021. This is part of our effort to push for systemic change to the innovation sector by raising awareness on the areas.
- We have been also receiving a lot of inquiries from the press about matters relating to blue ocean, science and the economy, environmental issues and more over the last few months, which required for rapid response from Fellows. The Council have approved for the Secretary-General to lead the ASM Media Response & Public Domain Focal Group.
- The roles and responsibilities of the committee will include to ensure the facts and information provided is accurate and timely; to be the focal communication point for the Academy, to ensure that the Academy is at the top of mind for media houses, and to enable for the Academy to be seen as a thought leader in the areas of science, technology, innovation and socio-economy.
- I’d also like to share that we will be launching a podcast channel in October that will expound on all things STIE in a vibrant manner. Make sure to keep an eye out for the announcement within the next few months.
- Having a strong grasp of effective communication is important as members of the public look up to all of us Fellows. Hence, we need to be responsible in how we communicate our thoughts to the community. I hope we can all play a role in being responsible about what we share- whether in person, through WhatsApp or our social media accounts.
- As scientists that believe in evidence and facts, we should be responsible enough to ensure that information shared is accurate. Likewise, we should verify information shared by others before we pass it on. This is to ensure that the stature of the Fellows and the Academy remains valued and continues to be a point of reference for all stakeholders.
Senior Fellows and Fellows of the Academy,
- Since the Academy was established, one of the major initiatives that we have focused on is our international network. Through our networking effort, and with the mode of meeting being virtual, we have been able to attend close to 30% more international meetings, an opportunity for us take the advantage of strategising our new programmes under the new norm.
- To date, we have signed 20 MoU’s, are connected with 51 science academies and 22 International STI organisations globally and are hosting two international office on behalf of the Malaysian Government.
- Currently, our annual budget has an allocation of more than 20% that goes to international programmes. However, the efforts are not showing the impact that it should. As such, it is timely for us to review our achievements over the last 25 years and re-strategise our approach to ensure that it really has an impact to the Academy, the nation, and our partners.
- I believe that the philosophy to ensure the impact is to “build inside, deploy outside”. The time has come for a more practical and viable framing of international cooperation that resonates with deep rooted national interests.
- Science diplomacy efforts will remain sustainable if what is built at a national level is translated to the like-minded regional level. By building inside through the strategising, positioning and the building of networks and platforms for concerted action, disparities can be reduced, inclusivity can be enhanced, impact can be delivered and resilience can be built in the new era.
- Let us put our minds together and review our international programmes to ensure that we can maximise the impact through resources and effort.
- This is our next agenda that we’d like to focus on restrategising our approach in international programmes.
- I hope that Fellows will continue to support all our initiatives and look forward to the start of a fruitful decade ahead. Let us continue our journey in building up our nation by putting together all the building blocks needed by our country:
With that, I look forward to a fruitful meeting today. I leave you with the launch video of NPSTI & 10-10 MySTIE from last December.
Sekian, wabillahi taufik-walhidayah wassalamualaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh.