KUALA LUMPUR (Dec 27): Technology plays a vital role in developing a country economically and socially. It has the potential to drive economic growth and enhance social wealth by increasing the income levels.
For Malaysia, the high-technology industry has been the key contributor to the national economy, contributing US$90.3 billion of exports in 2018, mainly from manufacturing exports which stood at 52.8%. (According to the Malaysian Industry-Government Group for High Technology — MIGHT)
In addition, Malaysia has also achieved a double-digit growth in high-technology exports for the last two years, with year-on-year growth of 17.2% in 2017 and 22% in 2018.
High technology (hi-tech) is defined as the use of new technologies to create products or services not previously available.
ITRAMAS Corporation Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Lee Choo Boo said the use of high technology is important and opens up opportunities to bring the country into the next level in terms of a high-income nation, as well as having high-skilled and knowledge workers.
“We see an opportunity to take Malaysia to the next level… We have to differentiate ourselves from some countries in this region and I think we need to accelerate not just our technology adoption, but also the creation of new technologies and new products.
“For example, we should not depend on the conventional or basic economic sector. Of course, we are growing through infrastructure development but with the world is now talking about the fourth industrial revolution (4IR), green technology, 5G and so on, I think this is the right time for Malaysia to move forward in the area of high technology,” he told Bernama in an interview recently.
ITRAMAS is a leading Malaysian engineering company in green technology and public works. It has extensive experience in implementing large-scale projects in the areas of renewable energy, energy efficiency, electronic manufacturing, and smart city solutions.
Lee said apparently, with the Covid-19 threat, the high-technology industry, especially digital technologies, becomes more significant, as digital tools and platforms become enablers to mediate the effect of the social distancing policies.
“Not just the crisis, I think high technology is critical going forward in the next 10 years. So, it is the time for us to be in the development and the process.
“Collaborating with Russia, which is a developing player in high level of technology, for example, to establish the Russian-Malaysian Hi-Tech Centre (RMHTC) will help accelerate advanced technologies in Malaysia and transform the country into a high-technology nation,” he said.
The RMHTC, which aims to be the hub of Russia Hi-Tech in ASEAN, will be an accelerator for the Russian-Malaysian collaboration in entrepreneurship and education using Malaysia as a springboard into the rest of ASEAN.
The centre is to serve as a home for leading Russian Malaysian Hi-Tech Joint Ventures, a showcase of Russian Hi-Tech, a centre of Russian Science and Technology education, and a comprehensive support base for Russian technology businesses and universities in Malaysia.
The centre was officially launched virtually in Moscow, about a month ago with the official signing of the shareholders’ agreement among the three shareholders, namely, ITRAMAS, Russian-based information technology (IT) and semiconductor solutions provider Tronic JSJ, and a leading Russian hi-tech non-profit organisation, the Technological Sovereignty Exports Association (ASSETS).
Lee said the RMHTC was about one and half years in the making, dating back to two years ago when he was travelling through Europe and looking at some technological components to be incorporated into ITRAMAS’ smart city solutions, and bumping into some people in the United Kingdom who were working together with Russian companies.
“After some talking, we’d got interested and realised that there were many technology houses in Russia. So, I made a trip to Moscow, where I met up with the president of ASSETS and subsequently we went to Siberia. Actually, I was surprised by the level of technology that they have in Russia.
“(I feel) The Russians are not very good in terms of marketing but they do have great technologies… There are opportunities for Malaysian companies not just ITRAMAS to tap into the knowhow and co-develop for this part of the world, as well as use Malaysia as a springboard to expand into the rest of ASEAN, so this is how it started,” he explained.
Lee said coincidently, the Russian government had already taken the initiative to expand to commercialise the technologies beyond Russia.
“The centre’s objective is to facilitate collaborative efforts between Malaysian and Russian educational institutions and also both Malaysian high-tech companies to develop products using core Russian technologies, or whatever we have developed over the years, as well to come out with products that will be used in ASEAN and to be exported.
“We hope the purpose of the centre is to facilitate the whole process of the collaboration and also to develop new technologies to produce new products,” he added.
Trade Representative of the Russian Federation in Malaysia Dr Nikita Ponomarenko said the government authority always supports initiatives that would benefit the country and Russian companies.
He said the decision to create the RMHTC in Cyberjaya, Malaysia, was made in October last year during the first meeting of a joint intergovernmental Russian-Malaysian Commission on Economic, Scientific, Technical and Cultural Cooperation.
“It was based on the proposal from ASSETS to organise a centre to boost business-to-business (B2B) cooperation between the two countries.
“We support the centre’s development by focusing on the most promising and breakthrough technologies and at the moment recruiting new companies (in the industrial sector) to join in,” he said.
Ponomarenko said among the technologies involved are advanced digital production, industrial Internet of Things, robotics, bid data analysis, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, systems of the distributed registry, and virtual augmented realities.
“We also plan to create technological partnerships in the areas of 3D printing and aerial drones, which we expect to be highly demanded in future.
“We believe the strategic development programmes in Malaysia such as Industry 4.0 and the 10-10 Framework of Science, Technology, Innovation and Economy (MySTIE) programme will support the centre towards becoming a hub of technology in the ASEAN region,” he added.
The RMHTC is privately funded by ITRAMAS and Tronic and supported by the Russian Trade Representative Office in Malaysia and ASSETS.
Ponomarenko said among the positive traits which bode well for Malaysia to become a hub of technology in ASEAN were being a most developed country in the region, strategic geographical location, good infrastructure, government support in high technologies, and skilled workforce.
“When we think about the centre, the idea was to create products here locally for the ASEAN market, and also products which will be manufactured here will not be just for the Russian market but also worldwide,” he said.
Asked whether the bilateral trade between Russia and Malaysia will increase following the establishment of the RMHTC, he said there may be some increase.
“But, it is not just about statistics, of course, we think there might be some increase but most of it is about bringing Russian companies to (enter into) joint ventures with local companies here, more about investment attraction, and development of this region,” he said.
Lee said two major projects have been identified, namely concentrated solar and medical technology.
“As we go along we will add more areas of collaboration, so for each one of those mentioned, maybe we take about two to three years, we can use existing technologies from Russia and combine with whatever we have for commercialisation and development of the next level of products,” he said.
He said it is an ongoing process, so it will be interesting in the next few years, as more products will be rolled out.
Meanwhile, ITRAMAS International Sdn Bhd chairman Datuk Loo Took Gee said the collaboration with Russia is one area of cooperation which is much welcomed.
“We know the Malaysian government or at the level of ASEAN, we have collaboration with many blocks in the world, for example the EU, the US, ASEAN-US, ASEAN-EU, ASEAN+3 with China, Japan, Korea, and ASEAN-Russia. This is also one area of collaboration, so, the time has come for us to take on board or take action of the collaboration.
“Previously, I noticed there was not much collaboration between Malaysia and Russia. One possible reason for the low level of collaboration could be marketing or language problem, which we encountered. But we believe now with Dr Nikita driving this agenda and (we are) confident that we can take this level of collaboration between Malaysia and Russia to a higher level,” she said.
Based on the data provided, the level of collaboration was actually concentrated in the purchase of coal in Russia, hence, Malaysia can take this matter up further in forging more collaborations in the areas of high technology, such as renewable energy (RE).
As Russia excels in high technology of this area, he said, “We would like to share this with the Malaysian medical fraternity too.
“So, going forward, we would be identifying more areas of collaborations with Russia. Probably, we are not just looking at just importing basic elements from Russia such as coal. Of course, this is a captive market for Russia, as we have many coal-based power plants in Malaysia, but in terms of technology, so that we can move further with the establishment of the RMHTC,” she added.
Loo hopes the centre would be a success story on the history of the Malaysian-Russian collaboration in trade and investment, especially in the area of high technology.
“Previously, it was scattered through collaboration, but now at least you can see things being focused through this centre. We really need to work hard to increase the trade level between Malaysia and Russia,” she added.
Loo said the vision is to see the centre turns into a technology hub not just for Malaysia but also uses Malaysia as a springboard for ASEAN.
“What we hope to do is basically incubates with development among hi-tech companies and this will eventually translates into manufacturing and into other areas that can be exported,” he said.
Ponomarenko hopes to see the centre becoming a fast-moving fast-growing society of businesses.