Malaysia’s R&D spending more than Finland’s, but is it worth it, asks think tank

Malaysia reportedly spends 1.3% of its GDP on research and development.

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia spends more money on research and development than Finland but produces far fewer innovations than the latter, according to an independent public policy research and advocacy organisation.

Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy said Malaysia currently spends 1.3% of its gross domestic product on research and development.

“Finland spends three times less than we do but produces more innovations. Are we getting value for money out of the money spent?” he asked.

He was speaking to FMT after a forum titled “Promoting Innovations in Malaysia Baru” organised by the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs today.

He said 30% of Finland’s workforce consists of graduates from the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) stream.

P Kandiah.

“Our target is supposed to be 500,000 STEM graduates, but we now have only 68,000 such graduates. Even then, the highest number of unemployed graduates here is from the STEM stream,” he said, adding that one of the reasons given by employers for not hiring these graduates was that they lack communication and language skills.

He urged the government to help students become familiar with scientific terms in English and improve their communication skills.

Meanwhile, former president of the Malaysian Intellectual Property Association P Kandiah said in addition to a lack of language skills, some science and technology students in local universities are not being exposed to the concept of intellectual property (IP) rights.

“They are the people involved in the (innovation) industry. This is a sad state of affairs,” he said during the forum.

He proposed that the government organise additional classes for students to be exposed to the advantages of IP rights and the commercial value of patenting local products.

Ong Boo Seng.

Ong Boo Seng, the present Malaysian Intellectual Property Association president, said a common platform should be created for private companies, universities and government agencies to work together.

At the moment, he said, there are too many government agencies involved in matters related to IP.

Ong said the one-stop centre could mix and match private companies and universities and enable industry players to discover the type of research needed and gain more information on grants and other matters.

Mohamed Ikhwan Shahdzul Bakri, director (business development division) of MyIPO, said unlike Japan where 80% of the IPs are owned by locals, in Malaysia only 15% of IP rights are owned by locals.

“This is a big contrast. That is why Japan is doing so well,” he said, adding that Malaysia’s target should be at least 40% to 50%.

Kyungjin Song, chairman of the International Cooperation, Innovative Economy Forum of South Korea, said the IP industry had spurred her country’s economic growth.

She said between 2010 and 2015, about 30% of Koreans worked in the IP sector and earned 50% more than those in the non-IP industry.