Early sparks of success
By Dr. Viraj Perera September 7, 2018
- 175 SMEs provided with funding and facilitation for commercialisation up to June 2018
- 42 projects have been commercialised and have generated RM45 million
A KNOWLEDGE-based economy places strong emphasis on technology transfer and commercialisation of intellectual property rights.
Mechanisms are designed and executed for improving the quality and quantity of national R&D output and essential skills are developed and deployed for smooth transfer of IP rights from academia and research institutes to local and international businesses for commercialisation and monetisation.
Some salient examples from around the globe include vibrant innovation industry clusters that have been developed around reputable knowledge powerhouses such as the University of Oxford, University of Cambridge and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Transfer of technologies and diffusion of knowledge from creative researchers’ minds to fast-paced and fastidious businesses is no easy task.
Most technologies transferred from universities to industry are at very early stages of development, need significant investment to commercialise and unquestionably demand herculean-spirited entrepreneurs to successfully drive them to the market and maintain sustained business over time.
The level of effort that needs to be exerted in terms of investment and skilled human capital development for the above to work should not be underestimated or undervalued.
As the saying goes ‘small is the new big’, SMEs in most economies help energise and drive the economies.
Malaysian SMEs are no exception and form the backbone of the country’s economy. Over 97% of all businesses in Malaysia are SMEs and account for over 65% of the country’s employment capital.
These businesses are crucial in contributing to knowledge and technology absorption from local universities and research institutes for their full development to commercialisation. However, the critical problem that has hindered this process is the lack of a platform to support the transfer of early-stage technologies from academia to SMEs followed by sustained support provided to SMEs to fully develop the innovations through to commercialisation.
Further, the same platform could support resource-restrained SMEs with in-house developed innovations to fast-track or successfully move their innovations to the marketplace.
PlaTCOM Ventures – a wholly-owned subsidiary of Agensi Inovasi Malaysia (AIM) formed in collaboration with SME Corp – was established nearly five years ago to address the aforementioned gaps in the Malaysian innovation ecosystem.
The entity was formed as the national technology commercialisation platform to deploy High Impact Programme 2 (HIP2) of the SME Masterplan 2012-2020.
Innovation Business Opportunities (IBO) – an online intellectual property rights trading platform that was previously established by AIM – was also placed under PlaTCOM with its inception due to the programme’s relevance with the mandate of the newly-established platform.
In driving its mandate to date, PlaTCOM has made strides in helping Malaysian research organisations and SMEs in commercialising their intellectual property rights. Since its inception in May 2014 through to June 2018, PlaTCOM has supported 175 SMEs by providing funding and facilitation for commercialisation of Malaysian innovations.
To date, 42 projects out of the 175 have been commercialised (i.e. generating revenue for the companies) and have generated RM45 million – an ROI of approximately 83% based on funding committed by the government to the 42 companies.
Another noticeable result produced by PlaTCOM is the 190 licence deals that it has facilitated in terms of technology transfer from local universities, research institutes and B2B thus aligning itself at its best to the mandate given to PlaTCOM to facilitate technology transfer.
The multitude of facilitation assistance provided by PlaTCOM to SMEs include technology licensing facilitation, funding assistance, IP strategy and IP protection, support for prototype development/proof-of-concept, productisation, testing and validation, regulatory certification, technical assistance, incubation and market intelligence.
Not only has PlaTCOM made strides in becoming a notable entity within the Malaysian innovation ecosystem but has also helped Malaysian SMEs to collaborate with international universities and SMEs from the UK and France to co-develop innovations for monetisation enabling international knowledge transfer and expertise – thus truly embracing the concept of open innovation.
As such PlaTCOM was successful in leveraging on funding from the British government and BPI France in creating value for local SMEs through challenges such as the Dengue Tech Challenge 2016 (with the British Council, MIGHT and the UK government), Urban Innovation Challenge 2017 (with MIGHT and Innovate UK) and French-Malaysian Innovation Challenge 2017 (with the French Embassy KL and BPI France).
In addition, recognising Malaysia’s aspiration to be the global halal hub, PlaTCOM had organised Halal Hi-Tech Challenge 2015 and 2016 that expanded its scope to an Islamic Innovations Challenge in 2017.
The winning companies of these challenges were expected to create innovative solutions and bring immense value to the practice of Islam in the local and global landscapes.
Good governance, leadership, clear strategy and transparency, design and implementation of a model that truly addresses end-to-end facilitation from ideation to market, constant development of ‘skilled’ human capital in technology transfer and innovation have all contributed as success factors in PlaTCOM’s journey to date.
It’s a model that has produced early sparks of success that can be upscaled to support more innovative SMEs to fast-track or simply commercialise their innovations while also continuing to support local universities and research institutes to monetise their R&D outputs.
As such PlaTCOM Ventures could well continue to add significant value to the Malaysian innovation ecosystem in its journey into the future.
Dr. Viraj Perera is the CEO of PlaTCOM Ventures Sdn Bhd.