TECHNOLOGY – BASED INNOVATION ESSENTIAL TO MALAYSIA’S BIOECONOMY
YBhg Dato’ Dr Mohd Nazlee Kamal, CEO
If you drive through the highway near Pajam, Negeri Sembilan, you will see a huge tank at QL Resources Chicken Farm. This tank is part of their Chicken Manure Biogas Renewable Energy project. In this project, they are using chicken manure to generate electricity through fermentation process and the biogas produced then will be used for power generation. The digestate from the biogas plant could then processed into organic fertilizer. This demonstrates how technology is used to convert waste material into high value products.
Technology development and innovation (TD&I) is an important tool for growth in bioeconomy. TD&I are critical for the success of Malaysia’s Bioeconomy Accelerator Programmes (Bio Accelerators). It will enable the introduction of new processes and products into our programmes by leveraging on our natural resources, agriculture industry by-products and the utilization of agricultural waste.
A US – based company, Verdezyne, has successfully developed a process that will convert lauric acid, a by – product of oleo chemical industry into the chemical namely adipic acid, dodecanedionic acid and sebacic acid used in nylon production through its metabolic engineering technology that can produce a high value acid with fewer greenhouse gas emissions. Sime Darby has recently invested into the company after seeing the potential of this technology in Malaysia.
CJ Bio and Arkema are pioneering a new process of producing L-methionine via the fermentation process of second – generation sugar. L-methionine is traditionally used as animal feed and conventionally produced through a chemical process using a by – product of petroleum industry as raw material. CJ Bio and Arkema’s joint venture has started in Kertih Biopolymer Park.
These companies have seen the opportunities provided by TD&I and have successfully implemented their projects. It is time for Malaysia to emulate the successes of others and strengthen our focus on this tool for growth.
Focusing on sustainability, renewables and environmental friendliness as a start, Malaysia will move in the right direction in our progression to become a developed nation. A Technology Roadmap is needed and Malaysia needs to up the game and accelerate in innovating new processes and products. This can be done through collaboration and partnership. The Roadmap will be critical in our success. Together with Michigan State University Bioeconomy Institute, BiotechCorp will foster collaboration with universities and research institutes to coordinate adoption and development of new technologies.
The roadmap will pave the way for us to chart the direction of the technologies that need to be developed or acquired. In return, there should be a coordinated effort by local universities and research institutes to leverage on this opportunity, master the relevant technologies and implement with the private sector for the successful realization of our economic agenda. The commercialization of home – grown initiatives should be given priority.
Our universities and research institutes have long searched for a way to unleash the potential of their academic work and industry players have repeatedly voiced their challenges in reaching out to our academia.
SIRIM has been successful in developing the pilot-scale production of bio-plastics from oil palm derivatives. The project started in 2006 and developed more than seven patents. However, the project has not progressed to the next level, as it needs private sector participation to bring the project to commercial production scale.
The Bio Accelerators will become a common platform for academic and industry to join together in mutually – beneficial projects. Complimenting the Technology Roadmap, a framework for public – private partnership in this area will sharpen our focus even further.
Malaysia already has all the ingredients of a successful push into bioeconomy. Our intellectual infrastructure, diversity of resources and capable human talent will enable us to make an effective push into the global bioeconomy.
I am confident with this framework, Malaysian companies can be strengthened with technological superiority and consequently paving the way for them to succeed in global business.