Saturday, July 03, 2010


By Dr. Mahathir Mohamad
on July 4, 2010 2:00 PM

1. The Government has been urging Malaysians to do research and development and to be innovative. The response may not be overwhelming but quite a number have tried. They usually find no one to finance them in the development of their original and innovative ideas. And many gave up.

2. Others scrape some money to pay for their research and many lost the few Ringgits that they have not because their ideas are bad but because they do not have enough money to complete their research and development.

3. But a few succeeded and came up with functional products. But will they really work? They need to test out on a reasonable scale. For this they need more money. But no one would put up money on something that is uncertain.

4. People with money have been successful doing something else. Though they could afford to allocate the money for the final tests, they are comfortable making money with what they are doing.

5. Others just could not understand the technology. If it is an improvement on their products they would not like to see a competing product.

6. For a thousand reasons nobody wants to put money into inventions and innovations.

7. Finally when the product is proven nobody in Malaysia would buy something invented by Malaysians in Malaysia.

8. Frustrated they come to see me, to demonstrate their products. While some are of doubtful value, many are really good products and should be worth investing in or buying. They can be quite unique Malaysian inventions, can help make Malaysia known for its innovativeness and inventive capacity.

9. If investors would help finance their development and production Malaysian inventors and Malaysia would gain a name for inventiveness and innovative skill.

10. Some of these people have gone abroad with their product samples. But invariably they would be asked if Malaysia is using them. When they shake their heads, that was the end of the presentation. But some Malaysians actually succeed in foreign countries even when they can sell none in Malaysia.

11. Some suggest that the Government should in whatever way possible extend help. Maybe this can be an answer. Maybe Government can finance the final phase of the research and test of concepts. Maybe the Government might buy for its own use.

12. But it is very doubtful that the officers manning the Government agencies would want to buy anything untried produced by Malaysians. Even if the product proves to be workable and even cheaper than what the Government is presently using, there would be a great reluctance to terminate the present suppliers, even after the contract is finished.

13. The products I have identified which have real potential include a security system for video discs, additives for fuel products, conversion of waste to oil, conversion of padi husks to charcoal, uses of oil palm waste, electronic information systems etc. If we want to see Malaysian original products reach the market, Government officers must not look for returns on investments but must accept that in research, development and innovations, the risks are very high. But even if one in ten make the grade, in the long run it will pay. Government must be prepared to lose money if it expects Malaysians to go seriously into research and development.

14. The Government, the civil servants, the business community need to change their mindsets if Malaysia is serious about research and development.

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