Expand abroad, local bio-based firms told
Bioeconomy

By MARK RAO / Pic By ISMAIL CHE RUS

Bio-based companies in Malaysia should look overseas to grow their business, as the industry aims to increase its contribution to the gross domestic product (GDP) to 1.5% by 2025.

Malaysian Bioeconomy Development Corp Sdn Bhd (Bioeconomy Corp) CEO Dr Mohd Shuhaizam Mohd Zain said the bio-based industry or bioeconomy in the country has the research capability, expertise and skills to meet present demand — but requires the right marketplace for products.

“We cannot depend on the local market to use all the bio-based products available — the market is out there and we need to position ourselves to go global,” Mohd Shuhaizam said in a press conference in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

Presently, based on the 286 BioNexus-status companies — international and local firms in the industry that qualify for fiscal incentives and guarantees — under Bioeconomy Corp, the bio-based industry contributes to 0.97% of Malaysia’s GDP with a total value of approximately RM2.1 billion.

Mohd Shuhaizam said the figure is based on the 37 BioNexus companies that went global and undertook business exercises that spilled over into the country’s economy.

He said these companies have come to a stage where they need to look internationally for growth, with the industry now exporting to European and Middle-Eastern markets, and supporting the local and South-East Asian markets through raw material supply.

“To achieve our 1.5% GDP target, we are intending to double production of BioNexus companies, with these industry players to come to maturity in 2019.”

The bio-based industry is set to be boosted by demand resulting from the growing awareness of the need for renewable energy amid climate change threats.

Mohd Shuhaizam said the sector has a longer latency period, with resources, technology and expertise requiring time to develop.

Nonetheless, he said demand for bio-based products and technology will rise due to the issue of climate change and need for alternative energy.

Science advisor to the prime minister Prof Tan Sri Zakri Abdul Hamid said environ- mental awareness is now a global phenomenon.

“Awareness has to come in before demand sets in, and this awareness arose through the new global consciousness of sustainability and the need to address the issues of climate and depletion of natural re- sources,” Zakri said.

In 2012, Malaysia launched the Bioeconomy Transformation Programme in line with this growing awareness and is geared towards the development of the bio-based industry and maximising commercial opportunities for the sector.

The Biotechnology Commercialisation Fund 2.0 mana- ged by Bioeconomy Corp — a development agency under the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (Mosti) — was also launched earlier this year to aid the development of the bio-based industry, allocating some RM100 million for soft loans to companies looking to grow their business.

During the official opening of the BioMalaysia & Asia Pacific Bioeconomy (BAPB) 2017 forum yesterday, three memoranda of understanding (MoUs) were signed worth over RM93 million.

The MoUs include deals between Rural Asset Group of Cos and Oudhcom LLC, Universiti Putra Malaysia and Malaysian Vaccines and Pharmace ticals Sdn Bhd, and Algaetech International Sdn Bhd and Watsons Malaysia.

Meanwhile, Mosti secretary general Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Azhar Yahaya said the agreements serve as a platform for Malaysian companies to bring their bio-innovations to the world.

“During BAPB 2017, we expect to see more potential trade and cooperation in various areas of bioeconomy to benefit the society,” Mohd Azhar said.

“Mosti’s presence at the convention will be centered on showcasing Malaysia’s best practices and innovations in bio-based technology, and attracting investments from institutions and companies located in the Asia-Pacific region.”

He added that Mosti is anticipating more local firms in the bio-based industry to explore the Asia-Pacific market.