28 September, 2009

Majlis Penganugerahan Mahathir Science Award 2008 dan Penyampaian Sijil Perlantikan Felo Kehormat, Felo Kanan dan Felo Baru Akademi Sains Malaysia

YB Datuk Dr Maximus Johnity Ongkili,
Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation

Your Excellencies Ambassadors and High Commissioners

Senior Fellows and Fellows of the Academy of Sciences Malaysia

Terlebih dahulu izinkan saya mengucapkan berbanyak-banyak terima kasih kepada Kementerian Sains Teknologi dan Inovasi (MOSTI) dan kepada Akademi Sains Malaysia, kerana telah sudi menjemput saya bagi menyampaikan anugerah yang penuh berprestij ini. Saya kira majlis anugerah ini amat bermakna dalam usaha kita memajukan agenda teknologi dan inovasi tanahair, dan saya amat berbesar hati kerana dapat menyampaikan anugerah ini buat julung kali pada malam ini.

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen.

1. First of all, allow me to thank the Academy of Sciences Malaysia for the invitation to address this learned gathering comprising some of the best scientific minds of the nation, members of academia, leaders in technological research and development, Government officials, Captains of Industry, and other stakeholders in Malaysia’s scientific advancement.

2. It is a great pleasure for me to be with all of you at this prestigious event, an award ceremony aptly named after the Father of Modern Malaysia, a leader whose tenure as Prime Minister saw not only a period of spectacular economic growth, but also Malaysia’s spirited entry into the Information Age and the age of high technology. It is my hope to see the Mahathir Science Award grow steadily in stature and influence and be recognized in the hall of fame of international STI awards.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

3. The importance of strengthening science, technology and innovation as a driver for economic growth in the context of a dynamic global economy needs no elaboration. Indeed Malaysia’s aspiration to become a developed nation by the year 2020 cannot be achieved without further and continuous progress in the nation’s capabilities in science, technology and innovation.

4. Malaysia, having transitioned from an agriculture-based economy in the post-independence era to a resource and manufacturing based economy in the eighties and nineties is now faced with the challenge of shifting to an innovation-led economy. Of course an innovation-led economy requires the harnessing of innovative science and technology across all sectors. Only through this, can we generate new knowledge and translate ideas into cutting-edge technologies, products and services which will lead to the growth of knowledge-based enterprises for wealth creation, economic development and societal wellbeing.

Ladies and gentlemen,

5. Many of us tend to forget that Malaysia has a remarkable history in scientific research. In actual fact, We can be proud of our achievements and exploits in the rubber and oil palm industries where we continue to lead the world in scientific advancement and innovation. In the course of our history, we have seen the establishment of several research institutes such as the Institute for Medical Research (IMR) in 1901, the Rubber Research Institute (RRIM) in 1925 and other bodies that have contributed immensely to the spearheading of R&D in the nation and placing Malaysia in the global map of scientific research and discovery.

6. Many decades on, Malaysia’s scientific credentials have been further enhanced by Government efforts in the development of various S&T infrastructure as well as incremental investment in R&D starting from the 5th Malaysia Plan to the current 9th Malaysia Plan. Malaysia did not miss the internet-led technological revolution of the 1990s, moving along with the most advanced nations in embracing the information super-highway and the whole gamut of technological advancements that came with it. More recently, we have even joined the ranks of nations who have gone to space in the quest of greater knowledge and discovery.

7. Having started on the right footing, the question we need to ask ourselves now is, “Where are we today in science, technology and innovation (STI), what is the impact of STI to national development and global competitiveness, and, where are we headed as a nation?” Given the unprecedented challenges and demands of today’s globalized environment, there is no doubt that our economic progress and competitiveness will be increasingly determined by how well we manage and enhance our knowledge resources and technological assets, as well as the extent to which we are able to embed STI in every sector of the economy. It is quite evident that our quantum leap forward can only happen by way of greater and far more widespread innovation in all economic activities. There is no more time for “business as usual”. Its time for us to pull ahead of the herd. It is time to strive to become extraordinary.

8. If science, technology and innovation are to be a primary driver to fuel an innovation economy for the nation, it is imperative that STI be prioritized in the mainstream of economic planning. We need to benchmark ourselves with countries such as South Korea, Japan, India and China, all of whom have made significant progress by embracing the full capacity of STI. We must then re-examine how we manage and deploy our resources for STI, in particular for research and development, and find ways to reap maximum benefits from our investment

9. In doing this, the key element is the need to develop high calibre STI human capital in the nation. We need more scientists and researchers; We need more innovators; We need pioneers in science and technology . Our target under the Ninth Malaysia Plan is to have 60 researchers, scientists and engineers (RSEs) per 10,000 workforce but at the moment we have only achieved 18 RSEs per 10,000 workforce. Clearly this is far from satisfactory and something must be done to improve the situation.

10. We must identify the reasons for our inability to nurture a bigger number of science professionals. If it is a brain drain, we must find ways of reversing it. We must bring the talents back and provide incentives to keep them home. Whatever it takes we must address the shortfall in scientific talent. We must invest in building a strong R&D base and sustainable pool of talent in the various disciplines of science.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

11. In forging an innovation-led economy in the nation, there needs to be a seamless flow from Research to Development to Commercialization to knowledge-driven enterprises. The critical requirement for Malaysia would be to have a competitive edge by generating and owning indigenous technology platforms and scientific discoveries. In order to achieve this, it must be recognized that it is vital for the nation to have a balanced strength in basic and applied research.

12. Strategic frontier science and basic science research provide the knowledge base to drive technology to the next level and this dynamic combination creates innovations for the global market. Therefore we cannot afford to neglect the development of strategic and basic science research in our quest for quick value added products and services. Both aspects must be developed strategically, and concurrently.

13. I am happy to note the significant efforts of the Academy of Sciences in championing strategic and basic sciences research. As I understand it, the Academy has achieved tremendous success in the management and implementation of the ‘Scientific Advancement Grant Allocation’ (SAGA) funding for basic science research from the year 2004-2008. It has resulted in 606 international publications from 89 research projects, 88 PhD and 124 Masters graduates among other outputs. This is a commendable achievement and I congratulate the academy on its success. I am confident that it will continue to produce positive results in the advancement of scientific research in this country for many years to come.

14. In the same token, I must also say that I am encouraged by MOSTI’s leadership in bolstering research, development, innovation, commercialisation and entrepreneurship. MOSTI’s efforts will energise and drive a sustained national collective effort, coordinating and fascilitating all scientific endeavours across the nation so that Malaysia can truly emerge as a main player and contributor to STI in various economic sectors in the future. We need to reaffirm the critical necessity of fundamental research in sustaining these scientific endeavours. As such MOSTI should continue to be the lead ministry spearheading the STI agenda for the nation.
Ladies and Gentlemen,

15. Allow me now to congratulate Professor Gurdev Singh Khush and the Forest Research Institute Malaysia, the recipients of the 2008 and 2009 Mahathir Science Award for their contributions in solving problems in the tropics through STI. Tropical research is a vital area that must be taken to heart by scientists not only in the region but worldwide as there are so many challenges that require STI interventions in the tropical countries. I hope that this award will encourage the recipients to continue their work for the benefit of the environment, the region and mankind as a whole.

16. My heartiest congratulations also go to the newly elected Honorary Fellow, Senior Fellows and Fellows of the Academy. Given the intellectual capital, expertise and experience of its Fellows who are eminent scientists, engineers and technologists in the country, I am excited at the prospect of leveraging on the Academy of Sciences Malaysia for fresh ideas, valuable input and foresight for strategic directions in STI.

17. As an apex STI body in the country with vast local and international linkages, I also call upon the Academy to continue to play its role in facilitating useful and purposeful interactions and triggering positive action among decision makers in government and industry; among research communities; international STI organizations; national academies; the media and other stakeholders towards advancing the STI horizon of the nation and impacting the global STI arena. I also wish to assure the Academy of the commitment and support of the Government as we work hand in hand in continuing to build a progressive and technologically advanced Malaysia.

18. On that note I wish the Academy of Sciences Malaysia every success in its future undertakings. Thank you.

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