Much has been talked about the role of technopreneurs – entrepreneurs who combine their passion for all things tech with business know-how in transforming Malaysia into a knowledge-based economy.
Government and government-related agencies have, on their part, created an environment that encourages start-ups. Organisations such as MDec, Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (Magic), and Cradle Sdn Bhd offer funding opportunities, business advisory services and physical infrastructure.
The founder of a leading Stem (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) educational provider, sees the partnership with MDec in the company’s early years as one of the turning points.
The provider, which was started in 2012, was one of the pioneers in using Lego in the teaching of Stem subjects.
A few years after the company was set up, MDec introduced the Digital Maker Initiative in line with the government’s education policy to encourage Stem, and made the provider a partner.
The educational provider has since mapped its curriculum against the country’s education blueprint, collaborating with the Education Ministry, MDec, as well as other government agencies and international schools to offer a variety of Stem-based programmes and camps throughout the country.
These cover a variety of themes from robotics to mechanics engineering and construction.
Over the years, the company has grown from strength to strength. Besides schoolchildren, the company offers courses for teachers and educators as part of its goal to build teaching capabilities.
Partnerships with organisations governmental agencies and non-governmental organisations on a variety of projects saw rural school children exposed to Stem, 3D printing and other disruptive technologies. In addition, the the company also worked alongside the Selangor state government to implement its Stem Selangor initiative, which promoted hands-on, participatory approaches to teach science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Hothouse For Ideas
Apart from government and government-related agencies, the innovators credit their alma mater for inculcating the spirit of entrepreneurship.
One of the innovators stated that that universities in general are an ideal place for students to learn and hone entrepreneurial skills, whether through organising events, fundraising or running projects.
In his case, subjects like business and accounting have helped him in running his company.
The other innovator credits his final year project supervisor for helping him commercialise his project which became the basis of his start-up.
While creativity and innovation have long been one of the outputs of universities, increasingly institutions of higher learning are seeking to marry this with entrepreneurship, helping students get their inventions to market.
At UTP, for example, students are offered mentoring and coaching to help them determine the value proposition of their invention and designing their business model.
The head of UTP’s Technopreneurship Office stated that UTP’s goal is to have 10% of its students pursue entrepreneurship and set up their own companies by 2025. In addition, the university assists students financially through seed funds to start micro businesses on campus and funding to upgrade their prototype for early market validation.
The university also has a co-working space and workshop with rapid prototyping machinery (like 3D printers, fabrication tools, to name a few), computer labs, fabrication workshops, booths and business outlets as well as networking events with UTP Alumni who are entrepreneurs. There are also start-up master classes and workshops.
The rationale is to change from the job-seeker to the job-creator mindset among students. The goal is for 10% of UTP students to pursue entrepreneurship and set up their own companies by 2025.
Since its establishment in 2016, UTP’s Technopreneurship Office has incubated 36 start-ups and helped to successfully commercialise 30 projects. A further six technopreneurs are currently being developed.
The aim is to have more governmental agencies, private companies and institutions of higher education working to help develop the technopreneurs of Malaysia.