Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Universiti Sains Malaysia is a worthy APEX University

I wish to congratulate USM for being chosen by the government as the sole APEX (Accelerated Programme for Excellence) University. Kudos to USM’s Vice Chancellor, Prof Tan Sri Dato’ Dzulkifli Abd Razak and his team.

I am not a local graduate. But I have dealt with a few universities and institutes of higher learning in Malaysia over the course of my professional life. I would rank UIA, UM and UKM, as among the other top universities in Malaysia. I noted that the people from University of Malaya behaved like elitist, though I think they are far from it. I used to admire UM when Prof DiRaja Ungku Aziz was the Vice Chancellor.

I think USM differentiated themselves from the other universities in terms of their approach towards preparing their graduates for the real world. The lecturers are largely made aware of the real working conditions outside the university, and some having been seconded to relevant industry to share their expertise.

I also like USM’s approach towards commercialisation of their in-house research and development activities. Under their own strategy of R-D-C-E (Research, Development, Commercialisation and Entrepreneurship), researchers are encouraged to develop their innovation into viable business concepts and aim towards commercialising the product. The researchers themselves will then partly own certain equity interest in the commercial entity set-up to sell and further develop the product (i.e. the researcher may become entrepreneur).

Usains Holdings was set up for that very purpose, as an investment holding vehicle for USM. I think Mlabs (a company listed on the MESDAQ Market) benefited from such programme. A few more should be in the pipeline.

The Deputy Vice Chancellor, Prof Asma Ismail is a researcher-entrepreneur in her own right. She undertook research on detection of typhoid and developed a gadget for that. A company was established to commercialise the typhoid detection gadget. She strongly encouraged her students to think R-D-C-E when she was the Founding Director of Institute for Research in Molecular Medicine (INFORMM), a unit under USM. I bet that she will be a the next VC of USM (see Prescene 5)

With the APEX University status, USM can grow tremendously higher. They should be able to obtain higher amount of funding from the government. They have been practising meritocracy for a long time, and have succeeded in doing so. I hope there will be more researchers-entrepreneurs being created by USM in the future. It will augur well for a knowledge-based society that we Malaysian should aim forward.

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