The innovation process is characterised by two intended outcomes that are at times at odds with one another – complexity and speed. As technological innovation time to market shortens considerably, companies have increasingly explored new ways of expediting the innovative process. These include joint innovative centres, technology sandboxes, strategic alliances, and co-research facilities.
Digital transformation and the coming together of information technology giants such as IBM, Microsoft and Amazon is a case in point. Beyond simply creating state-of-the-art IT products, the collective expertise of IT and industry experts resulted in the charting of new pathways for digital solutions for the future.
Co-creation makes sense on so many levels, the least of which is the removal of barriers in technology and commerce which results in a faster return on investment and increasing the scope and scale of technological offerings. The innovation process inevitably faces issues including market uncertainties, insufficient talent, and financial constraints which are often times challenging for an organisation or entity to single-handedly address. Among these, co-creation provides a unique blend of control, cost, and time to impact.
Addressing strategic needs of nations
Taking it a notch higher and going beyond the obvious benefits to companies and industries, co-creation is also a useful tool in addressing strategic needs of nations. The ability to move strategic initiatives at a fraction of the cost, increased speed and with multiple impact is an attractive proposition.
The ‘co-creation and succeeding together’ philosophy was employed in full force by the COVID-19 Turkey Platform in vaccine and drug development. Coordinated by the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBITAK) the project involved 436 researchers from 49 different institutions working on 17 vaccine and drug development projects. TÜBİTAK is currently collaborating on bilateral basis with 93 organisations in 65 countries through research and innovation collaboration projects, and researcher exchange programmes. In 2021, thirty-four distinct bilateral calls were initiated with 22 countries.
Extending the concept to the larger intent of national self-sufficiency for Malaysia, similar collaboration in strategic areas of food security, health, digitalisation, and energy among others, will prove beneficial. Co-creation and co-design, while in line with Malaysia’s own National Research and Technology (R&T) agenda, will tap upon a vast knowledge pool and edges the country further into the global supply chain.
Co-creation hits many birds with one stone. Development in the area of defence, for example, affects both civilian and military technologies advancement and use. Satellite technologies impact communication, agriculture and security, all key areas in the push for self-sufficiency. Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), apart from having direct military use, are also immensely useful in the areas of search and rescue, weather monitoring, firefighting, logistics and distribution and healthcare.
Focused and concerted effort
What is key is a focused and concerted effort, soundly developed through deliberate design and not left to chance. Tracing the development of the nation through every significant milestone, one finds that organic growth has not resulted in much significant leap in Malaysia’s economic landscape. From the birth of the electronics industry, especially semiconductors resulting from the ‘knock-on doors’ efforts in the late 60’s and early 70’s, to the introduction of palm oil which supplemented as a major commodity earner, economic prowess has always been the result of bold forward-thinking measures.
A co-creation roadmap built on the MIGHT’s F.I.R.S.T framework of high technology ecosystem will put Malaysia in good stead in charting its own path to self-sufficiency and technological strength. It will build on skills and industries already of potential and Malaysia will not be starting from zero, but with dynamic partner will do twice the job in half the time and double the impact. Technical skills and competencies will also improve substantially to levels required by the sophisticated requirements of industries such as aerospace. This effectively shortens the innovation-to-commercialisation learning curve.
Datuk Dr Mohd Yusoff Sulaiman is President and CEO of the Malaysian Industry Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT).