TM R&D deepens its engagement with TM, industry

  • Talent development, retention and management gets a renewed focus
  • Aims to be seen as an ecosystem friendly knowledge, innovation centre


TM R&D deepens its engagement with TM, industry


JUST like any incoming chief executive officer (CEO), Dr Sharlene Thiagarajah, CEO of TM Research & Development (TM R&D), has a lot on her plate with her primary objectives being to get closer to the parent company, Telekom Malaysia Bhd (TM) and to rebrand the image of TM R&D as an energetic, vibrant and exciting place to work.

In achieving the former, she also plays the role as the vice president of Technology & Innovation, TM. The dual roles offer her the opportunity to create alignment between both sides. “We need to bring the research closer to TM and provide technical solutions for them,” she says.

Applying and sharing its expertise, knowledge and technology to help alleviate TM’s technological challenges will then give TM R&D the credibility to reach out and engage the national tech ecosystem with Dr Sharlene aiming for the organisation to be seen as an ecosystem friendly knowledge and innovation centre.

Being more outward looking is not easy for an R&D unit but TM R&D has already started this process, working with some global equipment providers. “This includes requesting them to evaluate our research and gauge the commercial value of our work. This is an ongoing process for TM R&D, where 60% of the headcount has at least a second degree."

The R&D arm of TM had its research work on Advance Internet Lighting Application (AILA) awarded with the Chairman's Award at the World Information Technology Services Alliance (WITSA) Global ICT Excellence Awards, held in conjunction with the 2014 World Congress on Information Technology (WCIT) in Guadalajara, Mexico. While in 2015, their work on Time and Wavelength Division Multiplex Passive Optical Network (TWDM PON) won the Best Broadband Partnership Category at the Broadband World Forum Awards in London.

At the same time, better managing and retaining, attracting and developing the talent pool is also a key challenge for Dr Sharlene who on a visit to the Silicon Valley recently observed that even there, talent was a key top of mind issue for many.

“I’m looking at how attractive we are as a research centre and how we can provide a career development plan for the researchers,” she adds.

Fast moving technology cycles also put a strain on R&D centres to keep their talent one step ahead.

Open to widening the talent pool available, Dr Sharlene is considering partnering to bring in overseas talent (researchers) who may want to experience working and living in Malaysia. “This could be for a three year stint,” she says, emphasising that opening up the talent pool at TM R&D is critical even though the organisation has done very well from an intellectual property aspect with 262 patents applied for with 119 granted thus far.

Dr Sharlene believes that TM R&D needs to change the way it looks at talent management and by planning and accommodating to their needs for career growth, she can position TM R&D as a place researchers wish to work and solve real market issues, be it for TM, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and even startups.

“My goal is to make this an energetic and sophisticated environment for researchers to work at.” At the same time, she shares that it is also an exciting time for TM R&D in supporting TM towards realising their new vision: To Make Life and Business Easier for a Better Malaysia.

While her aim will be on supporting TM and enhancing the talent pool, the ecosystem outreach is already kicked off with Facilities as a Service where TM R&D has made preparation to make available in near future its facilities and even staff to SMEs and startups that can come in and work on their problems with TM R&D’s assistance.

Another example of their engagement at the ecosystem level is a three party collaboration with Agensi Inovasi Malaysia (AIM) and an SME partner of AIM. “We have licensed a technology we have developed called C-CUBE, which is a three dimensional (3D) colour code designed to store a high capacity digital data such as text, images, music and video in a pattern of tiny squared sized coloured cells. The combination of vertical and horizontal dimensions coupled with the colour feature enhances the capability to keep more data inside a small rectangle code. The information stored on the code is accessible via most mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets.

"Through a partnership with our SME partner, we are now working with them through their feedback to make enhancements to C-CUBE so that it can be market ready,” says Dr Sharlene.

Such collaborations, Dr Sharlene believes, will help TM R&D to play a meaningful role to elevate the Malaysian innovation ecosystem.

“We are going through that cycle of working with partners and building a portfolio of market-ready products that is stronger,” she concludes.


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