Government commits US$31m over 10 years
CEO aims to create a R&D culture in the E&E space
THE lack of research and development (R&D) in Malaysia’s electrical and electronics (E&E) ecosystem sticks out like a sore thumb. Aside from a few companies such as Intel, Motorola, Altera,Silterra, Agilent, AMD and a handful of others, the four-decade old industry has not triggered a culture of R&D.
Enter the Collaborative Research in Engineering, Science and Technology (CREST) and its CEO Jaffri Ibrahim. A former vice president at Malaysian Debt Ventures, Jaffri took time off from back-to-back interviews with five candidates to fill positions in CREST to speak to Digital News Asia in his first interaction with the media.
“Our goal is to create an R&D culture in our E&E sector,” he says. It is a bold objective because the plan is to create, in the next 10 years, what could not be created in the past 40-plus years.
But armed with a RM100 million (US$31.4 million) budget over 10 years from the Malaysian Government, Jaffri feels that CREST – with its collaborative based, single-minded focus on the E&E sector, coupled with the desire of the industry itself to contribute in the effort to create this change – can make this happen.
“I may have only come in this month (June), but we are hitting the ground running as the work started many months ago, with key industry players placing staff here on secondment,” he says.
He also points to the “FasTrack” program by TalentCorp, which saw 98 engineers serving apprenticeships with five E&E players.
Jaffri says that industry players have been looking at 30 R&D projects in the E&E space and have picked 10 to invest in. What is interesting here is that CREST will also invest in these companies.
This is the new collaborative effort Jaffri is speaking of. “Industry will invest a total of RM4.6 million (US$1.4 million) and we will contribute RM3.1 million (US$1 million) into these companies.”
With the research projects picked by industry, the time to complete the research is an aggressive 18 months.
This initiative to invest in R&D projects will be ongoing and happen twice a year, says Jaffri.
“We are already looking at the second batch or R&D projects now,” he says, adding that this regular investment by multinationals and large local companies into promising R&D projects will inspire and catalyze more serious research by small and medium enterprises in the space, private sector and academics.
Besides finding full time staff for CREST, an immediate target for Jaffri in the next three months is to work with the universities to determine which areas within the E&E industry that Malaysia has genuine competitive strengths in, to target the specific areas that the industry wants to focus on for the future and map needs with resources, prioritize and collaborate to plug the gaps.
“This includes working with overseas research institutes and universities,” he says.
Working on these initiatives and executing fast and with focus will help CREST accelerate economic growth of the E&E industry in Malaysia, Jaffri believes.
Because the E&E ecosystem is strongest in Penang, CREST will be based in Penang.