Friday, October 30, 2009

Institutionalising innovation?

I get the idea of setting up a National Innovation Centre. But I don't get the idea of a chain of innovation centres of excellence to be set up throughout the country.

I really don't get the proposal to set up an iconic innovation centre similar to the Multimedia Super Corridor. The word "iconic" sounds expensive.

Besides, can innovation be institutionalised?

Innovation is about creativity. Creativity is about being inquisitive. Being inquisitive means having a burning desire and having an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and information. This means being a self-starter. This means having the street smarts to look things up oneself and being completely unaware of time and space.

Setting up a Centre is fine. But to be sure, such a Centre should purely be a catalyst to point Malaysians towards trends such as nanotechnology.

Such a Centre should have a substantial focus on whether the school curriculum can be improved and teaching methods improved in order to foster innovative thinking instead of creating automatons.

The spark comes from within, not without
Innovative thinking cannot be institutionalised. It can only be sparked from within each Malaysian. This kind of spark can only come from having a sound and solid education. It does not come from iconic buildings. It certainly won't come from having mini-iconic centres, all of which sounds expensive.

Tax incentives for R&D spending will help to spark innovation
Instead of spending on building an iconic Centre, which really does sound expensive, really, there should be triple and quadruple tax deductions for R&D spending. That's how the Government can foster genuine and meaningful innovation.

It's the education, stupid
And, greater resources should be put into improving the school curriculum instead of wasting money with buku pinjaman untuk semua. Resources should be put into training better teachers. More allocations should be given to the remuneration of teachers so that the best and brightest will want to enter the noble profession. And, the teachers must have the skills to generate the inquisitive spirit and thirst for knowledge. That's where the real spark of innovation starts.

That's the way to foster innovation.

What I'm seeing so far is blah, blah, iconic centre...spend money on buildings..blah, blah, blah.

Innovation is software, NOT hardware
Just to be sure, it must be understood that innovation is a SOFTWARE item. It's about enhancing the quality of the human resources of Malaysia. Done correctly, the fruits of higher income and value-added can be reaped for generations.

In contrast, building innovation centres is only about HARDWARE. There's only one round of making money from the construction contract and, then, only a small coterie of cronies benefit.


etheorist said...

Instead of Centre, maybe Council.

Instead of spending money on Centre or Council, better to spend the money on tying up programmes in technical colleges and universities with business groups on specific projects.

To invest in equipment and resources for research - or rather, search and re-search process - towards some kind of a "new" product or technology.

Anonymous said...

"spend money on buildings"

Make hay, while the sun shines.

hishamh said...

A centre of innovation sounds like an oxymoron.

I fully agree with you on tax incentives - it's probably more efficient to get the private sector moving, rather than bureaucratising the process.

de minimis said...

Etheorist and hishamh

excellent suggestions.

Anonymous said...

Well, I'd say this sort of proposal bears the hallmark of the typical Malaysian's (read: government) effort in recognizing and solving a problem which doesn't even exist in the first place. 1Malaysia anyone?

Patricia said...

CT, forgive me for this: but I think you don't get it at all. It is not about the Centre - whatever it is called. At all.

walla said...

It was mentioned the proposal would be similar to that of the MSC Innovation Centre.

Which is this:

The only vestige of life there seems to be only one short software testing course; nothing on the trainers and what have been innovated, though.

Therefore, if the new focus will now be nanotechnology, some eyes will probably be lighting up like christmas trees considering you will need expensive inhouse equipment to design, prototype, test and configure applications at nanoscales. In addition, you will need experts and technicians to interact with people who come forward with ideas from the private sector or academia. Which means the innovation centre in mind is something which could be a hybrid of, say, Mosti, Sirim, Might, IMM, MNA, Minds and some of those entrepreneur promotion entities.

Then again a Malaysian Nanotechnology Centre has already been coined ( and 9MP talks about RM2.5 Billion allocated, doubled-half the year before without it seems anything to show for that.

On the other hand, if they mean it to be just a meeting place of glass and steel with projectors and photocopiers and coffee bars and refrigerators, then there are many such buildings already in place and probably underutilized. The super-quiet Mimos comes to mind. Or why not MDC itself? How about a wing of Multimedia University? Heck, if you just want coordination meeting rooms, refurbish some of those vacant Rakan Muda complexes and populate them with people in the mould of Mida's one-stop centres, or even the people running the secretariats of incubation parks; just make sure it's hiwifi-ed so that people can bring their laptops. Come to think of it, starbucks exudes a more conducive environment for innovative thinking than a starchy show-case environment with swipe cards.

Functionally, let's say the centre is to coordinate efforts to translate ideas and proposals into actionable investments and production. Coordination needs rolodexes of key contacts. If this be a new industry for Malaysia, who are they and how thick be that rolodex? Otherwise the poor chap in that seat will be just making calls which could just as well be done by the initiators themselves using their own contact lists in their PDAs. Why not just put every damn thing into a portal and open it to all?

Which thus comes down to what the soft side of innovation should be. It's a two-layered onion; the core is what the innovator will be systematically doing in his own organization in accordance with the seven rules of innovation; the skin is the eco-systemic networking that will right-shape ideas in the light of shared or researched customer insights.

So it remains to say that before they even move a finger to spend another vault on just something plucked from the web, they should sit down and answer their own two questions:

- how to attract really productive and authoritative resources to make the centre a success?

- how to prevent it from coming to a torpid standstill as we have seen in too many such off-the-head proposals all over the country.

And they need to do this before they even think of setting up dozens of such centres all over the country.

Whimsicalities are fine, subscribed to mind. Real-estate and procurement plays are redolent of third world mindsets which are however unproductive antibodies against cutting edge activities, as common sense would say.

Cursories on nanotech's:

i am walla, ...(etc).