THE call for innovation has been answered again and again by bright, young, Malaysian minds but sadly, most of their creations hardly ever see past development stages due to lack of funding.
"The problem was never with the creation of innovative products in this country. The problem lies mainly in developing that raw idea and taking that prototype out of its research and development (R&D) stage and into the commercialisation stage," said Saripah Radziah Sayed Hamed, head of corporate responsibility at SME Bank.
"We understand that innovation is a big part of the government's plan and I believe it is also part of the Malaysian Education Development Plan 2013-2025 to nurture a culture of innovation in our students and that is why we're holding the SME Bank Y-Biz Challenge," she told the New Straits Times.
The SME Bank Y-Biz Challenge is a six-month long competition, organised in collaboration with the Ministry of Education. It is designed for Malaysian school students, aged 16 and 17, to develop their creativity in innovation as well as entrepreneurship skills.
The second leg of the competition was held from September 2 to 5 at Agrotek Garden Resort in Hulu Langat. It saw the participation of 80 students and 20 teachers through fitness bootcamps, product presentations and product awareness programmes.
"The final leg of the competition will be held in November and there will be three winning schools with a prize money of RM20,000, RM15,000 and RM10,000. SME Bank will help the winning students by matchmaking them with government entities or corporates that might be able to fund further development of their projects," said Saripah.
"That's where the problem is, the funding. There's a huge gap in the innovation linkage as students, schools and university students are unable to get their products pass the raw prototype and into commercialisation as there are no funding for R&D. There cannot be product commercialisation without trial and error," she stressed.
Ismail Rosdi, senior executive at Majlis Rekabentuk Malaysia, who plays a dual role as a judge for the product presentation and camp counselor during the boot camp, agreed wholeheartedly.
"Most people would think that coming up with bright, creative ideas for new products is the difficult part but it's not. It's the funding for commercialisation that is most difficult," he said.
"Until investors alike get out of the mindset of demanding the perfectly developed product to invest in, we will continue to see a dearth in the innovation landscape in this country. They have to understand that to get to perfection, there will be trials and errors and that is where the students will need the funding most," he remarked.
"SME Bank is already acting as a platform for these students to nurture and cultivate their innovation skills but we are just one entity and these students need all the help they can get from the innovation stage to bringing their products further," said Saripah.
"What Malaysia needs is a culture of innovation and to bring more awareness to what innovation is. We're doing our part and we hope that other corporate and government bodies would step in too."