Building an ecosystem through innovation


In conjunction with our sister publication’s 2021 annual issue, BusinessToday will be featuring content that was published in the issue. We have compiled a list Local Personalities of The Year to highlight their achievement and milestones in the tech and startup field through their role.

Featured here is Matt Van Leeuwen, the Chief Innovation Officer of Sunway Group and Director of Sunway iLabs.

Matt van Leeuwen is Chief Innovation Officer of Sunway Group and Director of Sunway iLabs. Sunway iLabs is a smart partnership between Sunway University, Sunway Group and Sunway Ventures to foster entrepreneurship and stimulate market-driven innovations with the end goal to help entrepreneurs build their business and accelerate scale up.  He is also an active Council Member of the Malaysian Business Angel Network.

Previously he was a commercialisation specialist in PlaTCOM Ventures, an initiative under the National Innovation Agency in Malaysia, and gained significant entrepreneurial experience through three start-ups he co-founded in the UK, Singapore, and Malaysia. Before he started out as an entrepreneur, Matt was a consultant at the Cambridge-MIT Institute and Library House in Cambridge (UK) and an Analyst at Imperial Innovations in London (UK), one of Europe’s leading Tech Transfer Offices. 

Matt is trained at the University of Utrecht (Netherlands), where he gained a BSc in Biomedical Sciences and a MSc in Science & Business. He was also a Research Scientist at the Medical Research Council Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge and served as an Exco member of the Cambridge University Entrepreneurs student society.

Matt believes that education is the key foundation needed to create awareness and inculcate entrepreneurial and sustainability mind sets, with the objective to impact communities and societies. At Sunway iLabs, Matt and his team have worked tirelessly to build a unique innovation ecosystem for students, start-ups, and the industry at large.

This ranges from hackathons for students, accelerator programmes for start-ups and corporate innovation solutions for various industries. Sunway iLabs has also started to explore innovations in education to build a robust talent pool with skill sets ready for the digital economy and Industrial Revolution 4.0. This integrated innovation platform has turned into a living laboratory with five labs or verticals at its core: Smart Cities, Edutech, Digital Health, Food & Agritech, and E-Commerce.

Matt’s Achievements through Sunway iLabs

  • Built the Sunway iLabs startup ecosystem through collaborations with a large conglomerate, a corporate Venture Capital unit, a university (Sunway Group, SunSea Capital & Sunway University), and over 90 strategic partnerships around the world.
    • Won the #1 Startup Ecosystem Award by the Malaysian Venture Capital Association in 2019.
    • Launched Sunway iLabs Makerspace which has provided an innovation space for students to build prototypes and solutions to solve real life problems.
    • Created a structured startup accelerator programme that has seen 60 startup graduates and made equity investments in 10 startups.
    • Mentored more than 1,000 students and budding entrepreneurs
    • Hosted more than 300 pitching days, hackathons, entrepreneur bootcamps and corporate innovation programmes
    • Established Sunway FutureX, the first skills-building hub in Malaysia that focuses on 3 areas: talent development, urban farming, and a testbed for entrepreneurs.
    • Created 42KL, in partnership with Ecole 42 from Paris, a ground-breaking coding school with a disruptive educational model that was designed to develop the skills needed to jumpstart a career as a software engineer using a project-based learning approach.


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