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Prosper thy neighbours
Published on: Sunday, April 16, 2017

By Datuk Seri Panglima Wilfred Madius Tangau
According to Dr Mark Zachary Taylor, an associate professor at Georgia Institute of Technology who specialises in international relations and science and technology policy, “good” or “bad” national innovation systems are not determined entirely by domestic factors.

He pointed out that the institutional keys to a country’s success in science, technology and innovation (STI) do not lie in a particular type of government or economic system.

Rather, he said, government do not only have to solve market failures in achieving national STI success; they have to solve network failures too. Countries that enjoy advanced innovation rates were typified by strong international networks.

For example, Israel networked with financiers in New York and San Francisco to establish linkages in finance, marketing and technology transfer.

As a result of this and other policies, Israel is now globally competitive in computer software, defence technologies, medical equipment, pharmaceuticals and telecommunications. Foreign companies now invest $ 4 to 5 billion annually in Israel’s R&D, an amount that equates 40 to 50 per cent of what Israelis themselves put in.

Taiwan has also reaped similar benefits from their extensive international STI network. During the 1970s, Taiwan started to reach out to American technology experts and executives at top U.S. high-firms who were often of Chinese descendants. They formed an alliance in the U.S. to regularly advise the Taiwanese government and STEM experts in strategic STI investments.

Meanwhile South Korea’s “chaebol”, a term for a large, usually family-owned business conglomerate, are converging points of domestic and international networks. They brought together STEM talents and capital from the state and local businessmen. STEM employees were sent to advanced STI countries for training.

In Malaysia’s STI sector, we are most committed to the ASEAN Committee on Science and Technology (ASEAN COST) through the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI) since 1978. In 2014 our region was known as the seventh-largest economy in the world, projected to rank as the fourth by 2050.

Realising this potential, the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) was established in late 2015 to promote a competitive single market, allowing the free flow of goods, services, talents and capital among member states.

One vision of the AEC is to develop “a competitive, innovative and dynamic ASEAN”.

Therefore it was most timely that ASEAN reaffirmed her commitments in STI advancement, beginning with the ASEAN Plan of Action on STI 2016 – 2025, adopted at the 16th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on S&T in Lao, 2015.

Last year we adopted the Implementation Plan at the 9th Informal ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on S&T in Cambodia, both of which I attended.

In the short term, we could see an increase in collaboration in research, talent mobility, smart partnerships among STI enterprises and STI enculturation among ASEAN member states. In the longer term, as I have proposed in the meeting in Cambodia, Malaysia aims to champion a foresight initiative for ASEAN.

ASEAN needs to take guided and strategic steps to respond to the technological revolution that would hit our shores very soon. It would certainly be wiser for us to face the technology behemoths in developed and emerging nations as “One Vision, One Identity, One Community”.

Malaysia is an evident avid advocate of South-South cooperation. Besides our commitment with ASEAN in STI, we have our very own Malaysian Technical Cooperation Programme managed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which since 1980 has organised more than 100 short, specialised trainings to more than 25 000 participants from 140 countries.

MOSTI through its agencies are very supportive of these technical workshops, this year for example, we look forward to conduct programmes on geopark management, radiographic testing and developing halal standards.

Most recently, as part of my official visit with the Prime Minister and Malaysian delegation to India, I visited the Centre for Science and Technology of the Non-aligned and other Developing Countries (NAM S&T Centre) that is based in New Delhi.

The Non-Aligned Movement was initiated in 1961 based on the principle that developing countries should not align with the Western or Eastern blocs in the Cold War. Later on the NAM S&T Centre was set up in 1989 as an inter-governmental organization to follow through the decisions made by government leaders at various Summits and to promote South-South cooperation in S&T.

Forty-eight developing countries have so far joined the Centre as its member.

Malaysia through MOSTI joined NAM S&T Centre in 1993. Most of the joint collaborations have been in knowledge transfer through international workshops, research fellowship programs and publications.

In 2016, an MoU was signed between the Centre and Malaysia’s International Science, Technology and Innovation Centre (ISTIC) in August 2016 to implement joint programmes relating to South-South cooperation in STI.

My working visit to the Centre was especially meaningful as Malaysia is expected to host the NAM S&T Centre Governing Council meeting this September. I look forward to welcoming these international visitors, as we are prepared to share with the council members our experiences in conducting capacity-building through South-South cooperation.

In the spirit of “prosper thy neighbours”, Malaysia would continue to devote to strengthening bilateral and multilateral relations with our neighbours in the region, and other developing countries through science diplomacy.

Such as for ASEAN, where we celebrate our 50th founding anniversary and the purposeful establishment of NAM, these relations serve as the fulcrum of peace, prosperity and stability among developing countries.

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