Ida Semurni is a vice president at Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT). Ida oversees the delivery of Newton-Ungku Omar Fund’s programmes; the largest bilateral partnership between Malaysia and United Kingdom in STI since 2015. Following this, the partnership’s impact has rippled through other similar international partnerships with Spain and Qatar. Quite significantly, these multilateral collaborations have injected focus, accountability and speed into member countries’ technology and innovation growth.
Trained as a chemist, Ida graduated from University of Science Malaysia (USM). Her corporate CV to date includes managing Malaysia’s Performance Management and Delivery Unit’s (PEMANDU) National Transformation Programme—increasing high-leverage activities via the “Big Fast Results” methodology. Previously, Ida’s work includes numerous involvements in the development of the National Biotechnology Policy, the National Nanotechnology Policy and the Third Industrial Master Plan (IMP3).
Newton-Ungku Omar Fund: Its impact and future expectations
What are the characteristics of current international collaboration activities?
Most countries today share similar challenges and issues—health, environment and food security and not to forget, COVID19’s impact on people’s livelihoods around the world. However, these challenges come with unique opportunities to create a better future. As such, international partnerships and collaborative efforts are key in order to mitigate these issues together.
Since independence, Malaysia has been open to international partnerships and collaborations. As a country, we participate in numerous inter-governmental organisations namely the United Nation (UN) and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). Local businesses are also encouraged to foster partnerships with global players to accelerate growth and tap into larger global markets. As a result, our higher learning institutions have greatly benefited from such collaborations as a way to advance research and disseminate new applications of knowledge and innovation both locally and globally.
As an organisation that thrives off partnerships with public and private sectors, MIGHT strongly advocates partnerships and collaborations as a key component of organic and nonorganic growth. From day one, we have always welcomed collaborations with both local and international organisations. What lies before us is the opportunity to build a more equitable way of life and partnerships give us tremendous insights and expertise to strengthen our understanding of key industries.
How policies and funding mechanisms encourage international collaborations?
The Newton-Ungku Omar Fund (NUOF) was established as a partnership effort between Malaysia and the United Kingdom government to promote science, technology and innovation (STI). NUOF is a part of the Newton Fund bilateral programme. It promotes innovation partnerships in a bid to unlock new opportunities for both countries.
As NUOF’s country representative and coordinator, MIGHT works hand in hand with United Kingdom’s Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). To date, 30 joint-programmes have been implemented under NUOF and MIGHT’s banner as well as other delivery partners from both countries.
In addition, the funding model introduced by these programmes ensures mutual commitment and win-win propositions for all parties involved. Given this, the success of this model has also attracted other countries’ interests the likes of Spain and Turkey to initiate similar bilateral programmes with MIGHT.
NUOF: “The Fund is creating opportunities to build science skills and capabilities; to forge new partnerships between UK and Malaysian researchers; to carry out fundamental research; and to support the translation of research into innovations that improve economic and social welfare in Malaysia.” HE Charles Hay, British High Commissioner to Malaysia
How would researchers benefit from international collaborations?
NUOF programmes are tailored to meet Malaysia’s national priorities in science, technology and innovation. NUOF gives priority to translational joint-programmes as we seek to bring key research outputs and new technologies from the laboratory to the market. To this end, MIGHT brings together world class researchers, industry players and government agencies to turn our most pressing challenges into shared opportunities. To illustrate, one of our flagship programmes is the Research and Innovation Bridge. Launched in 2017, the programme is jointly managed by MIGHT and Innovated UK
I am proud to see the development of the Kuala Lumpur Multi-Hazard Platform (MHP). It integrates selected meteorological and hazard models onto a common platform designed for managing and communicating risks and enhancing disaster resilience.
and within a short span of time, the programme has pushed through at least two new innovations and real solutions born out of these enterprising research and industry partnerships.
Also, I am proud to see the development of the Kuala Lumpur Multi-Hazard Platform (MHP). It integrates selected meteorological and hazard models onto a common platform designed for managing and communicating risks and enhancing disaster resilience. The MHP is now located at the Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) to support and strengthen the management of flash floods, landslides, sinkholes and air pollution as climate changes. The Kuala Lumpur MHP can be replicated across other cities in Malaysia as well as Asia Pacific. Saliently, the project’s output has demonstrated the importance of leveraging technology and innovation to facilitate a more efficient city management.
We are very keen to see Malaysia-UK collaborations deliver real benefits to both
countries. In today’s almost borderless world, international partnerships are becoming more and more important to
address challenges of the highest needs.
Additionally, another major breakthrough facilitated by NUOF is the Edgibility Data Centre which is now the only Titanium level certified data centre in Asia Pacific and the Middle East. With a PUE metric of 1.046, the data centre uses half the energy of conventional data centres. The Submersify coolant; the Malaysian innovation in this project is renewable, sustainable and biodegradable. These 2 innovations act as notable evidences of partnership and collaborative efforts’ impact in formulating actionable solutions to address pressing global issues such as the climate change.
What are the socio-economic benefits of international collaborations?
Significantly, the outputs and outcomes of NUOF’s joint programmes are far-reaching and diverse. We realise that science communication is important to help our change actors, especially our scientists and researchers tackle the demand of an increasingly competitive global market. Since, we have established a number of science communication programmes. These programmes include masterclasses
conducted by established science communicators from the UK, targeting young professionals in STEM areas to participate. Over the last three years, two of our science communication participants had been recognised as the World’s Best Science Communicators in 2016 and 2018.
Looking ahead, at MIGHT, we are very keen to see Malaysia-UK collaborations deliver real benefits to both countries. In today’s almost borderless world, international partnerships are becoming more and more important to address challenges of the highest needs. Indeed, MIGHT is proud to have been given the opportunity to play such a pivotal catalytic role in engineering impactful partnerships with a reputable partner like the United Kingdom.