Innovation. It may be the most overused word in the management and leadership syntax, yet it is fundamental.
Innovation and technological advancement have the capability to not just change the industries and push the country to be a high tech nation and globally competitive but also change the way our society operates on a daily basis.
With the introduction of new technologies in different sectors like agriculture, and healthcare, we are seeing innovations that actually make day-to-day work not just easier but also safer. For example unmanned drones are helping farmers with fertilisation and pest control. In hospitals, where patients need to be isolated, robots are being deployed to help clean the wards.
These tech advancements start with just an idea, but the potential for impact is huge. They are made possible when they are given the opportunity to be stress-tested in a live environment, coupled with facilitation in regulatory matters, capacity building and the fund to expand further. This is where the National Technology and Innovation Sandbox (NTIS) comes into action.
The vision of the NTIS is conceived with two goals. First is to champion local innovation and to create a smoother pathway for Malaysian technology to be commercialised. The second goal is to use NTIS as a testing ground for revolutionary technologies that will allow Malaysia to address some of the concerns that have been aggravated by the pandemic.
Almost two years on, the initiative has accepted 160 innovative solutions to be accelerated to market through provision of test sites, regulatory facilitation, funding and commercialisation support. Up until early this year, 4 of those companies have managed to commercialise their products.
“NTIS is a critical platform to accelerate the effort to transform the nation from being tech users to tech producers. Through NTIS, we are able to foster more locally-developed solutions by providing sandbox sites to stress-test these solutions, regulatory facilitation and funding to take these solutions to market,” explains Dzuleira Abu Bakar, CEO of MRANTI, one of NTIS secretariat members.
“It will be an exciting year for us with MRANTI as the NTIS secretariat is planning to expand the sandbox sites to include healthtech, energy and smart city sandbox in addition to the existing sandbox for agriculture, robotics and automation, high tech education and more,” Dzuleira added.
Malaysiakini recently interviewed Yap Thiah Huat, Chief Operating Officer of Archtron, Md Razalee bin Ismail, CEO of Meraque and Jin Xi Cheong, Founder of Poladrone, on their experience in commercialising their products and solutions through NTIS.
Joining hands with the NTIS Programme
Archtron: Your Smart Home Security System
Yap Thiah Huat, Chief Operating Officer of Archtron
Having a home security system is great. Not only does it protect your precious belongings, but it also protects your loved ones and break-ins.
According to Yap, Archtron had patented the “BLUGUARD” home alarm system as the core product and it is now widely used in the local home alarm market. Bluguard-AI Series is the marriage of the Internet of Things (IoT) sensors with Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its convergence redefines the way industries and business functions.
“When we found out that the NTIS programme could potentially speed up our commercialisation milestone and position the company to capture a high-end market share. The company then decided to join the NTIS programme and we are fortunate to get boarded and kick-started the commercialisation milestone in the next 12 months subsequently,” said Yap.
Meraque: Drones At Your Service
Razalee said that Meraque develops local talent that build their own Hybrid Drone Spraying solutions for the agriculture sector and customised enterprise software solutions and bespoke services for clients such as Sime Darby Plantation, DBKL, Boustead Holdings Bhd and Pharmaniaga. Their hybrid technology consists of using fuel and battery and their drone can fly up to 1 hour without changing batteries.
“Through the sandbox programme, Meraque was able to bridge expectations in facilitating the industry's supply and demand. It is a very good initiative in ensuring startups like us are able to expand and test our products for commercialisation not only locally but also overseas,” said Razalee.
Thanks to the sandbox program, we manage to expedite our Hybrid Drone deployment within the plantation sector. With this, we managed to provide high value job opportunities to over 50 youths who come from various backgrounds from rural areas. Technology should be able to improve the lives of the community and that is what we aim to do.
Poladrone: Accelerating the Path to the Drone Revolution
Jin Xi Cheong, Founder of Poladrone
Cheong noted that Poladrone’s Oryctes agriculture drone is a point-to-point agriculture spraying drone built specifically for the oil palm industry. Oryctes is able to perform pesticide application work faster, cheaper, safer, and is more sustainable than traditional practises which typically rely heavily on foreign labour. Their mission is to help companies overcome difficult tasks through innovative and cost-efficient drone technology strategies.
He explained that they decided to join the NTIS programme because they saw an opportunity that would enable them to propel the commercialization of Oryctes, which would greatly benefit the agriculture industry. Plus it also resonated with the mission of NTIS, most specifically, the aim to reduce dependency on foreign labour and increase employment rate for Malaysians.
Test your innovations in a real environment
“We are grateful to be working with the NTIS team who are helpful, professional and accommodating especially during the application process, development and commercialization phase,” said Yap.
He further explained that the NTIS provides Sandbox sites for them to conduct testing, technology validation and verification before full commercial deployment. They have executed various testing at sites to gather data and parameters, and these procedures have prepared their product for subsequent regulator compliance such as SIRIM and CE certification.
“NTIS team are very welcoming in guiding us throughout the process. They guide us on the criterias to receive the grant and also ways to become a NTIS solutions provider. NTIS functions as a gatekeeper in proposing solutions, evaluating and assessing startups business models in order to ensure they gain market acceptance at a fast pace,” said Razalee.
According to Cheong, working with the NTIS team has been an amazing experience. With the hard work and support of one another, they were able to accelerate the commercialization of their products, which made the market adoption of Oryctes a much quicker process.
Poladrone has now expanded their Oryctes 3S operation centres in Kluang, Johor and Alor Setar, Kedah as part of their effort to provide opportunities for the locals to get access to locally developed drones with better quality and maintenance services. This will ensure the use of drones in agriculture in rural areas are safe and following industry standards.
Product and services that were being tested under the NTIS programme
For Archtron the NTIS sites validation test incorporates an extra layer to the controlled smart home by adding artificial intelligence, context awareness, and communication medium. This layer of smart homes has been tested with more intelligent services and intelligently controlled items such as lighting, HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning), appliances, security locks of gates and doors.
Under the NTIS programme, Meraque’s software and hardware components were tested. The testing was inclusive of their engine, nozzles, flying hours, efficiency of spraying and also their position agriculture software solution.
Poladrone on the other hand, was able to engage with both commercial and regulatory stakeholders, which enabled them to roll out their products in a safe and sustainable manner. They took part in Sandbox 3 of NTIS – which was to accelerate commercialization of Oryctes.
Celebrate remarkable innovations through NTIS
“Our significant achievement is we have managed to reduce time to market from conventional 24 months to 12 months through the Sandbox programme. This is a tremendous success as we were able to launch our product 1 year ahead of our schedule. Not only can we execute testing and functional validation faster in designated Sandbox Sites, but we manage to move in the commercialization phase which involves product design, moulding fabrication, product development, regulatory compliance with the support from NTIS,” Yap explained.
“The space that NTIS gave for us to grow, made our innovation to be quickly evaluated by Sime Darby. Currently we are spraying roughly 2 million seedlings every month in the agriculture sector. Plus, we have been announced as the world’s number 19th drone company. Another unique aspect is we provide job opportunities to those with SPM, STPM and Vocational qualification and we upscale their talent from there,” Razalee said.
One of our memorable achievements is that through NTIS, Poladrone has been able to engage closely with the Civil Aviation Authority Malaysia (CAAM) where our training academy, ‘Drone Academy Asia’ was recently certified as the first Remote Pilot Training Organisation in Malaysia’s history. This certainly opened new doors for Poladrone to grow further.
Do not miss the golden opportunity to sign up for the NTIS Programme
Yap strongly urges companies out there to sign up for the NTIS programme, particularly start-up companies that often require testing sites for product validation. NTIS Sandbox provides a good platform to conduct a pilot run, gather data and insight of parameters before moving into the mass commercialization phase.
“I believe the NTIS programme functions as a career ladder and a stepping stones for startups and local businesses to reach greater heights, therefore businesses’ should sign up for the programme to discover their true potential,” Razalee added.
“In order to further revolutionise technology, businesses’ should sign up for the NTIS programme to generate new and innovative ideas that can help contribute to society. NTIS – as the name suggests, is a sandbox where innovators can test and try new crazy ideas, then act as a launchpad to commercialise their solutions into the real world, said Cheong.
If you have an innovative idea that you wish to be in the market, feel free to visit the NTIS website at https://sandbox.gov.my/.
Whether you’re an individual with a neat tech solution, a tech-based startup, established tech-based organisation or academia; we love to talk about innovation and how you can fit into the ecosystem.
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