Zurina Che Dir
Senior Vice President, Bioeconomy Programme & Delivery Management
TOWARDS A BIOECONOMY NATION: RETHINKING INDUSTRIES
Bioeconomy is everywhere in our daily lives, from the food we consume, the medicines we take, and even to the fuel that we drive. Simply put, bioeconomy refers to all economic activities derived from the continued commercial application of biotechnology, encompassing the production of renewable biological resources and their conversion into food, feed, chemicals, energy and healthcare wellness products. Bioeconomy serves to add value to the current bio-based production, reduce dependence on depleting natural resources, ensure environmental sustainability, and elevate the nation’s quality of life towards development.
Bioeconomy as an Industry
The pursuit for a comprehensive development of bioeconomy in Malaysia is crucial in ensuring the economy remains competitive and is able to elevate the nation to a developed and high-income status. In 2016 alone, there are estimated 19,000 bio-based companies in Malaysia generating a total of up to RM430 billion in revenue per year. Meanwhile, the size of bioeconomy in Malaysia amounted to RM141.5 billion which includes, among others, sectors in agriculture, food and oil processing, renewable fuel, and chemical processing.
The upstream agriculture (including oil palm cultivation, rubber plantation, livestock, forestry and fishing) remains the largest component of bioeconomy, encompassing almost 75% of the share. Meanwhile, the downstream sectors (oil and fats, beverages, renewable fuel, wood products, organic chemicals and food processing) account for 25% of the bioeconomy.
According to Companies Commission of Malaysia, a higher portion of bioeconomy-related professional services are concentrated in Wilayah Persekutuan, Selangor and Negeri Sembilan. For chemicals and pharma related companies, Wilayah Persekutuan, Selangor, Penang, Negeri Sembilan and to some extent Kedah and Kelantan have a sizeable portion of these industries. Meanwhile Pahang, Sarawak, Terengganu, Perak and Kelantan show a large share of forestry-based companies.
Getting the most out of Bioeconomy
As the country develops, emphasis is placed on several areas to develop bioeconomy further. This includes value-adding the downstream-related industry through manufacturing elements such as renewable fuel or organic chemicals. Next is enhancing knowledge and services activities including R&D activities, business of consulting, or trading, as the main source of industry growth.
It is also imperative to utilise novel, efficient and effective technologies in upstream sectors, such as the development of high value agricultural products and propagation through biotechnological processes. Bioeconomy Corporation under its Bioeconomy Community Development Programme leads this initiative, which generates higher value and income to benefit the communities involved, while providing companies with the required raw materials for downstream processing.
Meanwhile, established companies involved in bio-based or biotechnology-related industries could take advantage of other programmes offered by Bioeconomy Corporation such as the Bioeconomy Transformation Programme or obtaining the BioNexus Status which offers various incentives, market and technology exposure as well as financial assistance.
As bioeconomy moves forward in Malaysia, there is a need for greater contribution from the private sector, for focus to be on specific sectors in bioeconomy, and for changes to be implemented in the direction of bioeconomy post-2020. All of these are necessary because bioeconomy will shape the future of our country and it is a force we cannot ignore.
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