Strengthening support for Malaysia’s public research organisations crucial to revive growth.

World Bank’s latest report, “Assessing the Effectiveness of Public Research Institutions: Fostering Knowledge Linkages and Transferring Technology in Malaysia” has highlighted that strengthening support for Malaysia’s public research organisations and universities is crucial to revive growth.

According to data from Elsevier-Scopus, the world’s largest abstract and citation database of peer-reviewed scientific literature, scientific output from Malaysia increased 4.5 times between 2008 and 2018, however, the quality of research as reflected in the citation impact index of scientific publications remains low when compared to high income countries.

In terms of research spending, Malaysia’s research intensity is higher than its regional peers but lags behind richer countries. The country’s R&D intensity peaked at 1.44 percent of GDP in 2016, but it has since been declining, falling short of the levels seen in high-income economies.

“The key challenge today in Malaysia is, therefore, how to facilitate and accelerate the transition to this innovation based growth model in Malaysia, and what policies and institutions could more effectively encourage innovation, technology adoption and commercialisation of research,” said Khairy Jamaludin, Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, who launched the report today.

“This new World Bank report calls for deeper partnerships among the science and technology players in Malaysia in coordination with the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI) to elevate the quality and outcomes of the research ecosystem in Malaysia.”

“The transition to a more innovation-based growth model is even more urgent in the current uncertain global context. While the GDP growth rate has proven resilient in recent years, declining oil and gas output, coupled with economic shocks, including the recent Covid-19 pandemic, have dented the growth momentum,” said Firas Raad, World Bank Group Representative to Malaysia and Country Manager.

The Bank has also pointed out that policy changes made in performance-based budgeting have seen improvements in publications and patents, as well as collaborations with industry.

“However, there has been little progress seen in the commercialization of research outputs and technology transfer activities from research organisations to industry. This situation has led to a lack of coordination to facilitate and encourage research commercialisation and the transfer of new knowledge and technology. Other key challenges most cited in the field include funding inconsistencies, mismatched incentives and differing expectations between academia and industry,” the World Bank said.

Among the report’s recommendations is the urgent need for greater coordination and long-term strategic planning across the research and innovation ecosystem in Malaysia.

Such efforts would include better implementation of academic incentives towards technology transfer and commercialization of research, and other reforms including the establishment of a centralised research management agency which has been mooted since the publication of the 11 th Malaysia Plan.

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