UK and Malaysia look to greater science research collaboration
KUALA LUMPUR, 19 APRIL – A science research forum to share insight on the high-value impact of the Newton Ungku-Omar Fund (NUOF) and emerging global trends, priorities and opportunities in science research and industry collaboration was held by the British Council and the Malaysia Industry-Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT) in Kuala Lumpur on 20 March 2023. The "Building connections through UK-MY research collaborations’ event brought together science researchers with government and industry networks that have a vested interest in the future of global science collaboration.
The event celebrated the outstanding legacy and impact of the NUOF programme, which has supported exceptional global science partnerships and science over the last 7 years, as evidenced in a recent NUOF Impact Study by MIGHT. The programme has enabled Malaysia and the UK to use science to change policy, boost economic and career development, improve social welfare and to tackle some of the big global challenges of our times, such as healthcare, climate change and energy security.
Jazreel Goh, Director of British Council in Malaysia opened the event, describing it as:
“..an opportunity to have a deeper understanding of the current research landscape and priorities so that we can continue exploring ways to enhance the building of sustainable and equitable partnerships to encourage international science and research links between our nations. The British Council is exceptionally pleased to bring together graduates, early career researchers and institutions in the UK and Malaysia to collaborate and work together to look at solutions to global developmental challenges.”
The forum presented a selection of research projects across healthcare, energy and climate science that have transformed into commercially viable products, highlighting to research attendees the lessons learned in collaboration and demonstrating the immense value of science to Malaysia and to wider humanity.
“There has been an increase in collaborations between researchers and the industry in experimental development research, which translates research into commercialisation, but we need to encourage more industries to participate”, said Hazami Habib, Chief Executive Officer of the Academy of Sciences Malaysia, one of the invited speakers at the forum.
Trends and opportunities for the two countries to build upon the NUOF legacy were outlined by a stellar line-up of research scientists, entrepreneurs, and policymakers, all who emphasised the power of international collaboration and industry-research partnerships as the key to finding solutions to these challenges. Speakers called for a more connected research ecosystem of collaboration and partnerships between researchers, industry, governments and funders and a shift to greater government focus on the intrinsic value of research, not just its return on investment.
“The Newton Ungku-Omar Fund has been a vital plank of engagement between the UK and Southeast Asia. It has produced tangible impact and proven that science can shape long-term policies that empower meaningful and sustainable change”, said Elinor Buxton, Regional Director, Southeast Asia Science and Innovation, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.
The Newton Fund, a programme managed by the UK’s Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Department and delivered by UK and Malaysia partners including the British Council, MIGHT and the British High Commission, enabled over 200 outstanding research and innovation partnerships to boost international science collaboration. The programme delivered over 140 innovative products and connected 600 British and Malaysia researchers in 55 academic institutions and 250 industry organisations. Malaysia invested RM100 million in NUOF, matched with £20 million by the UK government over five years.
Amongst the success stories of NUOF were the creation of a unique head and neck cancer vaccine, the world’s largest Asian breast cancer database and the largest interdisciplinary climate forecasting project. NUOF also produced two Malaysian world champions of FameLab, one of the world’s biggest science competitions.
The UK and Malaysian governments both have ambitious strategies to continue to strengthen their respective national research profiles and to bring the combined expertise of their science, technology and industry sectors to bear on the economic and social prosperity of their nations and on the wider challenges faced by the planet. With a new ministerial-level UK department for Science, Innovation and Technology and a successor to the Newton Fund likely to be announced shortly, and Malaysia’s sharper focus on increasing business expenditure in research and its recently approved Malaysia Science Endowment Fund, the potential for even greater UK – Malaysia collaboration in science is strong.