Bringing innovation and sustainability to the startup ecosystem

According to the Global Startup Ecosystem Report 2020, Malaysia ranked 11th as the Top 100 Emerging Ecosystem, with an ecosystem valuation of RM 63.5 billion. The study further rated Malaysia as an ideal startup location, citing low prices, high quality of life and expertise, coupled with strong government support as primary reasons for entrepreneurs to either start or move their companies to Malaysia.

Playing an equally important role in building the ecosystem, the Malaysian Global Innovation & Creativity Centre (MaGIC), an agency under the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation malaysia ( MOSTI ) is tasked to empower technology startups and social innovators while developing a vibrant and sustainable entrepreneurship ecosystem.

“MaGIC’s DNA is in creativity and innovation. With a proven track record in the tech startup ecosystem to accelerate the realisation of the country’s innovation policy agency, our mandate also extends to social innovations in line with MOSTI’s agenda to spur wealth creation through innovation,” says Dzuleira Abu Bakar, Chief Executive Officer of MaGIC. Since its inception in 2014, MaGIC has achieved a value creation RM409 million, has organised 294 programmes, accelerated 189 startups and created 690 jobs.

National Technology And Innovation Sandbox

The National Technology & Innovation Sandbox (NTIS) is an initiative mooted to cater for the needs of technology startups in Malaysia. NTIS is also known as the the national solution co-ordination centre that allows innovators and startups to stress-test their products, services, business models and delivery mechanisms in a secure and live environment, with some relaxations from all or selected regulatory requirements.

“NTIS also aims to provide a structured framework for the latest innovations to be tested in a controlled environment for innovators, researchers and product developers. The test will run at a suitable facilitation provided by NTIS partners both from the government and private sectors,” says Dzuleira.

NTIS will facilitate startups operating in heavily regulated industries and technology verticals such as healthcare, drone operations, agriculture, communication, mobility and so on. We have to recognise that technology and innovation, in which case tech startups are usually ahead of their time and operate in grey areas. Regulations and laws unfortunately do not move at the same speed. Hence the conundrum we are in as far as regulating tech & innovation is concerned.

NTIS Funding Schemes

“Through NTIS, we will assist drone powered solution companies by working with regulators such as the Civil Aviation Authority Malaysia (CAAM) to ease and streamline permit applications especially in situations where drone operations pose lower risk,” she adds on.

The CEO further highlights the positive impact that has come from drones in the logistics and healthcare segment. With better case studies and adaptive regulations that promote innovation, she says MaGIC is confident that NTIS will help Malaysia achieve its goal to become a frontrunner in DroneTech.

However, Dzuleira has also highlighted some of the challenges the agency faces in delivering these initiatives. Along with regulatory red tape, the lack of participation from private sectors, high dependency on foreign talent for high-tech solutions and low commercialisation rate after R&D stage has prevented the initiatives from achieving their most.

“The Covid-19 pandemic and the Movement Control Order has also made these challenges more pronounced,” says Dzuleira.

Public-Private Partnerships

As part of their efforts in enhancing social innovation, MaGIC seeks to increase partnerships across the ecosystem value chain. “We look at agencies under MOSTI and across ministries and find many ecosystem players who are ideal partners such as Agensi Inovasi Malaysia, Cradle Fund, MDV and MAVCAP to help achieve inclusive and sustainable growth in SPV 2030 and SDG 2030,” Dzuleira tells BusinessToday.

“In NTIS, we have the Innovation Acceleration Network partners which consists mainly of investors and corporates from the private sector. Their involvement and participation within NTIS are essential and important to bridge the gap between government and private sector and to increase private investments,” she adds on.

 MaGIC has reached out to approximately 31 corporate partners who are acting as supporters and enablers by giving industry inputs. These partners further assist in product and solution commercial viability.


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