Updates to New Asian Innovators

To those asking for information on when NAI will be updated regularly again: we have decided to merge this stream with our sister (and main) site at NewAsianist.com. As well as having all our news in the same place, the move also aims to shift the focus more towards the people and personalities involved in moving Asia forward into the next age.

We look forward to bringing you more interesting stories and original content about Southeast Asia and its impact on the wider world, which is sure to increase as these economies build on existing strengths and find new ways to power through the coming decades with innovation, talent, entrepreneurial spirit and vision. Stay tuned and, as always, your feedback and suggestions are welcome.


Government: Malaysia needs to solve its innovation crisis

Does Malaysia have an ‘innovation crisis’? Apparently the Malaysian government thinks so, as it formed the Malaysian Innovation Agency (AIM) quickly in December 2010 to tackle the issue. The problem is, according to Special Innovation Unit CEO Dr. Kamal Jit Singh, that the country is endowed with wealth but isn’t utilizing it properly, putting it in danger of standing stil or even regression as the rest of the world advances.

Innovation needs to be focused on wealth creation and society’s wellbeing, he said, and Malaysia needs to become globally competitive. AIM has identified four pillars: the education system, higher learning institutions, government, and industry (especially SMEs) — all of which need to work together, abandon their silo mentality and foster the country’s natural talent for the benefit of all.

Some might say that if a country needs a special government body to highlight the need for innovation in these obvious areas, then it might indeed have an innovation problem. And it’s always our opinion here that too many government programs can stifle progress in the long run, no matter how well-intentioned they are. But as Kamal Jit says, Malaysia does not suffer from a lack of talent. It’s a matter of being able to adapt that talent more to suit the economy’s present needs. Malaysia’s new Talent Corp is already playing its part by identifying key needs and attracting Malaysian talent back home, and hopefully AIM will build on their efforts.

source & article: Bernama

Forbes Asia: the Indonesian startup scene

Here’s a nice Forbes Asia article on the determined startup scene in Jakarta, which sounds pretty much like startup scenes anywhere, but works to bring products and services to a market that doesn’t get enough attention from the corporate giants. Heads turned toward Indonesia when the story of social network Koprol and Yahoo! started to spread last year, and young entrepreneur groups are showing what can be achieved by networking and sharing knowledge.

Mentioned here are startups like city directory Urbanesia, e-publisher Evolitera, and e-commerce platform Tokopedia. So far these businesses have grown by focusing on the local market, showing their skills by delivering services not available to Indonesians or Indonesian-speakers on the wider web. They meet at local cafes like Jakarta’s hip Potato Head and joining them on the scene are physical product sellers and marketers like t-shirt company Gantibanju, antique dealer krazymarket, various coupon programs and Adadiskon, which does retail promotions.

Singapore govt to invest heavily in R&D

from NewAsianist:

The Singapore government spent a record $2.3 billion, or 0.87% of its GDP, on research and development in the past year, according to a report by the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR). The government has promised to increase that amount to 1% of GDP to make Singapore a global R&B hub and “Asia’s innovation capital” with an economy dominated by entrepreneurs.

Gross expenditure (including private sector spending) on R&D actually fell between 2008 and 2009 thanks to a reduction in the private sector’s capital expenditure from $2 billion to $712 million. Capital expenditure includes one-off purchases of fixed assets such as land, construction and equipment. The government, however, will prop up the shortfall with plans to spend a total of S$16.1 billion (US$12.2 billion) on R&D between 2011-15 as part of its Research, Innovation and Enterprise 2015 plan.

source & article: Straits Times

Singapore: startups & cultural shifts

The BBC’s globetrotting business reporter Peter Day has been in Singapore again, collecting profiles for another installment of his ‘start-up stories‘ series. He finds once more a country with a unique position in the world as the only fully independent city-state, the challenges past and present necessary to its survival, and how it has turned to entrepreneurship once it had achieved its modernization goals.

The government has done its bit with startup grants and impressive institutes like Biopolis and Fusionpolis attracting researchers from around the world. But does Singapore have the culture of risk-taking and individuality he says is necessary to produce a vibrant startup scene? Safe jobs with the government and large multinationals still seem more ideal to young Singaporeans, while government grants to startups may be counterproductive to cultural change.

The conclusion in this report is that Singapore will change, and quickly. It has to, to compete with larger corporations who seem more comfortable these days going directly to China and Asia rather than using Singapore as a gateway. Singapore has always defied the pessimists in the past. But there’s still some way to go before Singapore’s entrepreneurial spirit matches the place everything always gets compared to: Silicon Valley.

source: BBC: Can Singapore become a start-up hub?

Indonesian businesses won’t fear free trade if conditions improve

Entrepreneurs in Indonesia don’t fear free trade or competition with foreign companies, but would instead prefer the government to focus on infrastructure development and business efficiency — according to Sofjan Wanandi, the chairman of the Indonesian Entrepreneurs Association.

Indonesia has a “high cost economy” and has been unprepared in key areas like energy, transportation and investment, he said, allowing China to produce goods at far lower prices for sale around the world and to Indonesia itself, creating an imbalance. Small businesses in Indonesia should prepare for a free trade environment rather than retreating from it.

article: tempointeractive

NTU’s 5-year strategy to become global innovation leader

Nanyang Technological University is aiming to become one of the great global universities by 2015 with a new five-year strategy based on innovation, while leveraging its existing reputation for excellence in business studies and engineering. The plan, announced Tuesday, sees NTU as the training ground for Asia’s next generation of leaders in key fields as well as a contributor to Singapore’s economic base. The plan identifies five “peaks of excellence” which will affect the region in future:

Healthcare: takes NTU’s research at the College of Engineering, as well as its 200+ research projects in biomedical engineering and use of technology in healthcare;

New Media: will work on cross-campus collaborations through the Institute for Media Innovation;

Innovation Asia: new programs designed to inspire an entrepreneurial mindset and promote social responsibility among future business leaders;

‘New Silk Road’: to branch out further than China and forge new links between NTU and other institutions in Asean, India and the Middle East;

Sustainable Earth: build on NTU’s existing niche in environmental technology, sustainable development, urbanization and water reclamation research.

article: Straits Times