In late April 2015 Mah Siew Keong, the Malaysian government official in charge of the Southeast Asian nation’s innovation efforts, visited KTH Royal Institute of Technology to witness first-hand the collaboration between academia and industry.
“I want to see how the universities here collaborate with industry,” Mah said. “This is very important because in Malaysia we want the universities to work closely with industries, especially in innovation and research.”
The leader of Malaysia’s Gerakan Rakyat (People’s Movement) party, Mah is the cabinet minister responsible for the country’s Innovation Unit. He says that he hopes to import some of the ways of working that Sweden relies on to foster innovation, as part of Malaysia’s drive to increase competitiveness and raise its own standard of living.
“We have a vision that in 2020 we want to be a developed nation that accomplishes social well-being, world class educational standards, a progressive society, (and) an economy that is competitive, robust and resilient,” Mah said.
That means taking steps to ensure that more research from Malaysian universities is commercialized, he said, pointing out that he was impressed with the continuous interaction between KTH and Swedish industries.
Johan Schuber, KTH‘s director of strategic partnerships, was part of the university delegation that met with Mah. “It was a pleasure to show how KTH is working strategically with society,” Schuber says. “We invited Pontus de Laval, CTO of SAAB, and Gunnar Björkman, director of the City of Stockholm, who both talked about cooperation with KTH. That was really strong.”
The significance was apparent to Mah. “KTH is so oriented toward industry,” Mah says. “In our country, if you are in the academy you are in the academy. If you are in the private sector, you are in the private sector. And maybe they meet up once in a while, to discuss how to cooperate. But here … there is interaction throughout the year.
The Malaysia representative could see how big corporations have researchers and engineers within the universities vice versa, with a great “spillover” effect.
Mah said that in order for Malaysia to build closer cooperation between universities, industry and government, the country will also need to adopt Sweden’s “mindset”.
He was also impressed by their innovative spirit.
“I think it’s a mindset. It’s the ecosystem … it goes into all aspects, beyond just industry. In terms of social issues, in terms of coming up with solutions, I can see that you are very adaptable. You welcome change, and you welcome movements and … new ideas,” he said.
Mah said that Swedish innovation is widely admired in Malaysia, where Ikea is emblematic of the highest standards in innovation. Swedish companies have been involved in a number of technology transfers in Malaysia and many other activities have been planned to continue to bridge the two distant places, he said. “We are going to invite more of your industrial leaders and academics to Malaysia to help us to be a more innovative country.
Come October, Swedish companies will host an innovation week in Kuala Lumpur, in cooperation with the Swedish Embassy and SAAB Group.
Swedish academics and trainers, especially in the field of innovation, will be invited to give a talk how it is carried out in Sweden—so that Malaysian industrialists and universities will also be able to follow, said the innovation minister.
Photo KTH: Jann Lipka