Creating a seamless innovation ecosystem for SMEs

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PlatCOM was launched by Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Najib Razak to remove market and financing barriers to innovation for SMEs.

PlatCOM was launched by Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Najib Razak to remove market and financing barriers to innovation for SMEs.

By T.K. Tamby

Malaysian small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are expected to contribute 41% to the gross domestic product (GDP) by 2020 and for that they would need to embrace innovation, to enable them to move up the value chain and remain relevant in the global business environment.

Past efforts to promote innovation amongst SMEs have been a series of fragmented initiatives that created gaps in areas such as securing funding, excess to facilities, expertise, certification and marketing.

The recently launched PlatCOM Ventures Sdn Bhd provides a solution to these problems by providing SMEs direct access to the national innovation ecosystem.

This initiative launched by the Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Najib Razak recently would link all facilities to ensure that they are seamless for SMEs to move from one stage to another in the innovation process, including link to early stage financing.

“It is designed to remove market and financing barriers to innovation. This will be done through the provision of access to technical assistance, market information, incubation facilities, testing facilities and other services, all in a single platform,” he said at the launch.

PlatCOM Ventures, a wholly-owned unit of Agensi Innovasi Malaysia (AIM), is a new approach to public-private partnerships, whereby the platform is owned by the Malaysian Government and the company is managed by a team from the private sector.

The company itself is a collaboration and amalgamation of two national initiatives: the Innovation Business Opportunities (IBO), which is an AIM initiative, and the High Impact Programme 2 Technology Commercialisation Platform, under the SME Masterplan 2012-2020.

Its programmes are designed by AIM, SME Corp and the World Bank, incorporating best practices from successful models, such as Isis Innovation of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom.

AIM said that the new entity, which will address market gaps in the different stages of the innovation process, will unleash the innovative capabilities among SMEs that has been lying dormant due to the lack of access to knowledge and market opportunity.

The Chief Executive Officer of SME Corp Dato’ Hafsah Hashim (pic) said that PlatCOM is a crucial link to opportunities for innovation as SMEs have limited diffusion of technological innovations due to lack of participation in the national innovation system.

PlaTCOM Ventures is scheduled to roll out next month and expected to increase the number of high-growth and innovative firms to realise a higher contribution of SMEs to the nation’s GDP, raising it from 33% to 41% by 2020.

The first batch to benefit from the programme will involve between 10 and 15 SME players.

AIM’s Chief Executive Officer Mark Rozario (pic) said that Malaysia has its own strengths in producing new ideas and solutions that are innovative in nature.

“The challenge has always been in identifying innovations that have a market value and are market ready. In order to achieve this, what is needed is a bridge between academia and industry to ensure that the needs on both sides can be fulfilled, thus eventually raising the per capita of the nation.

“We need to go beyond stopping at just the R&D stage and move onto the next stage of commercialisation,” he said.

Both AIM and SME Corp will be working to develop clear key performance indicators and track the output and outcome KPIs on a regular basis to ensure that the programme can be further refined and enhanced as it progresses towards achieving its goals.

SME Corp will provide required support and initial funding in addition to conducting monitoring and evaluation to track progress in ensuring that the goals of the SME Masterplan are achieved. It will also undertake capacity building and training programmes with AIM.

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