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In the year 2014, Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR) continues to make progress and gain recognition as one of the leading research universities in Malaysia. This is the fourth annual report on the various aspects regarding Research & Development of the university. The Faculties, Research Centres and supporting units made significant progress in the year 2014 as can be seen their respective reports.

In today's highly competitive and globalised environment, it is imperative that organisations such as universities continuously enhance their roles in knowledge and value creation to ensure their relevance to the economy and society. Research, development and commercialisation (RDC) thus become the key activities of universities. UTAR, being one of the many institutions of higher learning in the country, continues to focus and excel in RDC to ensure its long-term survival, relevance and recognition. UTAR has defined and continues to refine its direction and approach in transforming itself into a world recognised research-focused university.

Research Roadmap of UTAR

To achieve worldwide recognition, it is imperative that UTAR focus and excel in research, development and commercialisation (RDC) activities. Hence, a 5-year research roadmap (2010 2014) for UTAR has been defined and announced to the university community in Aug 2009.

This research roadmap is an outline of the important outcomes and the corresponding key performance indicators (KPIs), the recommended approaches and steps for UTAR to pursue in order to achieve Research University status as defined by the Ministry of Education (MOE) of Malaysia (formerly known as Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE) of Malaysia). Clear and measurable key performance indicators (KPIs) have been defined and relevant benchmarks have been set in the roadmap.

To perpetuate UTAR further into realizing its goals, the "UTAR Research, Development and Commercialisation: Enhancement Strategy and Plan for 2013" encompassing detailed improvement plans for Human Resource Development, Research Funding, Postgraduate Programme Promotion and Intake, Data Management & Reporting and UTAR Internal Research Funding Allocation were drawn up and implemented accordingly. The initiatives introduced include UTAR Strategic Research Fund, UTAR Postdoctoral Research Scholarship Scheme, UTAR Research Publication Scheme and UTAR Undergraduate Research Scheme.

Since 2013, UTAR has strengthened the pursuing of certain key milestones as set in the UTAR 10-year Strategic Plan (2013 2022). The following 5 strategies were formulated under the Research & Development Focused Area of the Strategic Plan.

  • Cross-disciplinary research to solve real world problems
  • Diversification of research funding sources
  • Publication and Patent filing
  • Commercialisation and Consultancy
  • International collaborations

The inaugural R&D Colloquium was held in 2014 with the prime objective to promote regular interactions among the twenty seven (27) research centres, to establish research co-operations which are cross-discipline and to bid for local and international research funding. The initiative is in line with one of the initiatives/action plans devised under Focus Area 3: Research and Development of the UTAR 10-year Strategic Plan 2013-2022 i.e. Strengthening of Cross Disciplinary Research Centres.

Research, Development and Commercialisation Process in UTAR

In UTAR, the relevant organisation structure, support and services are shaped and streamlined based on the research, development and commercialisation process chain as depicted in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Process Chain, Input and Output for Research, Development and Commercialisation in UTAR

In UTAR, the entire RDC process chain is handled by the following institute and department:

1. Institute of Postgraduate Studies and Research (IPSR);
2. Department of Consultancy and Commercialisation (DCC).

IPSR consists of two main units:
  • Research and Development Unit (RDU);
  • Postgraduate Studies Unit (PSU).

  • R&D management and the facilitation of postgraduate studies are two important aspects in every established research university. With both units managed under IPSR, UTAR hopes to achieve coherence and synergy between the two aspects such that greater and more significant output and impact can be generated.

    In recent years, IPSR has focused and worked on various facets of the RDC process chain to further enhance the processes and outputs in UTAR.

    Research Initiation

    • Good quality research ideas can only come from an academic and research community that is highly motivated and has strong healthy research culture and diversity of disciplines and specialisations. Thus far, much effort has been spent for such purposes.
    • For the year 2014, an additional research centre had been established and as of December 2014, 27 research centres were available to group researchers for their activities such that more cooperative and comprehensive research projects, better facility and resource utilisation, etc. can be enhanced.
    • Frequent discussions, dialogues and workshops among researchers of different research centres, background and disciplines are held to stimulate more research ideas across discipline/s and relevant to the socio-economic problems faced in the country.

    Research Plan

    • Guidance and support are constantly provided by IPSR to assist academic staff and researchers of UTAR to transform ideas into feasible research project plans.
      • Workshops and Consultation Sessions on Proposal Writing for Research Grants as well as Consultation Session on Application for external Research & Development (R&D) grants were conducted to guide researchers and young PhD holders to develop proposal writing skills as well as facilitate their submission of external funding applications.

    R&D Budget and Funding

    • IPSR continues to look out for additional potential external sources of funding for research activities in UTAR. Such information are constantly disseminated to the university community; support and advice provided so that a good match between the interests of the researchers and the funding agencies can be attained and thus enhancing the success rates of fund biddings.
    • The UTAR Research Funding scheme (UTARRF) was established since 2005 with an initial amount of RM1 million allocated per annum. The allocation is intended to serve as seed fund to kick-start implementation of new projects with good potential. This amount was subsequently increased to RM3 million in year 2010. In years 2011 till 2014, the amount of this seed fund was further increased to RM5 million respectively to enable additional and larger scale projects to be initiated.

    Project Implementation and Monitoring

    • IPSR provides the support and services required throughout the research project implementation such as project financial account setup and maintenance, procurement, manpower sourcing, progress monitoring and report, output measurement, etc.
    • Close monitoring of project progress and outcome measurement have been one of the main focuses of IPSR. For this, IPSR facilitates to ensure that projects have been carefully planned such that deliverables and outcome are measurable and clearly mapped to major research key performance indicators (KPIs) of individuals, departments, faculties and university.

    Research Commercialisation

    UTAR strongly believes that further steps should be taken to explore on how the findings and output of the project can be applied in real life. Hence, DCC takes on the task to look into the post-completion phase of research projects in UTAR. DCC continues to work closely with IPSR in year 2014 to further enhance the transition of research projects into commercialisation phase. Among the steps taken are as follows:
    • Support, guidance and advice on commercialisation process have been further strengthened to minimise problems and hindrances faced by researchers to commercialise their research output/s;
    • Seminars and workshops on various aspects of commercialisation have been conducted for awareness enhancement and information dissemination;
    • Constant dialogues, discussions and match-making with external parties such as venture capitalists, commercialisation seed funding agencies, private corporate industries, etc. have been held.