Businesses Can Spur Innovation by Setting the Agenda and Funding More Research

KUALA LUMPUR, MAY 25: Business leaders in Malaysia need to take the lead in driving innovation, particularly in setting the agenda and making more funds available for research and development.

At a panel discussion of General Electric (GE) Global Innovation Barometer, the four-man panel consisting of GE Malaysia chief operating officer Azli Mohamed, GE Digital South East Asia general manager Alvin Ng, Agensi Innovasi Malaysia (AIM) corporate sector innovation and strategic impacts projects executive vice president Abdullah Arshad and Google Malaysia head of marketing Jon Day concurred that business leaders have a key role to play in assisting the government in developing an innovation-oriented community.

“The most important element is leadership. Some 20 to 30 years back, more developed countries also experienced what we are going through, where CEOs will ask about returns on investment and are most concerned about finances.

“(The agenda of) innovation is top down, where the top will set the strategy, insist on development of ideas and willing to take a certain amount of risk,” said AIM’s Abdullah.

GE Digital’s Ng said it was important to encourage curiosity to spur innovation.

“The fundamental aspect is being curious and brave. By being curious and brave, it allows you to overcome the fear of technology and get ahead,” he said.

GE Malaysia’s Azli said as with any venture, there has to be some room for failure.

“We are not championing failure, but there has to be some allowance for failures. That’s why it is important to fail fast and fail cheap,” he said.

Azli highlighted that businesses must be committed in funding R&D, citing GE as an example as it constantly sets aside 5-6% of its annual revenue for R&D and innovation.

Abdullah concurred with this, pointing out that the ease of funding and the level of collaboration between academia and industries are crucial in charting Malaysia’s growth in innovation.

“Research is about dollars and cents. We have not reached that level, for example, like MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), where private companies are channelling money because the level of their research is so good,” he said.

He added that the education system needs to be improved to inculcate critical thinking skills.

To help students, Azli said GE has been partnering with universities by helping them with curriculum building. “Rather than looking at the problem, we try to help with solutions,” he said.

Google Malaysia’s Day said employers can pitch in by opening up more internship opportunities for students. “Not everything can be learned in a classroom. Malaysia needs to open up more internships and provide them with work experience,” he said.

Ng added that while talent has always been a challenge, he is optimistic that the right talent are available. “The talent pool may not be huge, but if you continue to innovate and look sexy, people will come. At GE, we are so intimate with our customers. We listen to their problems and we can’t help but develop solutions for them,” he said.

GE’s Global Innovation Barometer is an international survey which takes place across 23 countries, gathering perception of innovation in the world today. In this edition, insight from over 2,700 innovation business executives and nearly 1,350 innovation educated members of public to deliver a comprehensive report on the global perception of innovation.

In Malaysia, GE gathered insight from over 100 business executives, revealing our own national perceptions of innovation.

Stay ahead. Head on to GE Reports Malaysia & GE Reports ASEAN for the latest Industry Insights.