RESEARCH, DEVELOPMENT AND COMMERCIALISATION IN UTAR
In the year 2015, Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR) continues to make progress and gain recognition as one of the leading research universities in Malaysia. This is the fifth 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 2015 as can be seen in 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. A 5-year research roadmap (2010 – 2014) for UTAR was defined and announced to the university community in Aug 2009.
The 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 Higher Education (MOHE) of Malaysia. Clear and measurable key performance indicators (KPIs) were defined and relevant benchmarks were set in the roadmap
To perpetuate UTAR further into realising 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
UTAR R&D Colloquium 2015 (1.0) and (2.0) continued to be held in 2015 to promote regular interactions among the twenty eight (28) research centres, to establish research co-operations which are cross-discipline and to bid for local and international research funding. This 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.
The University has also approved a budget allocation of RM23,550 from its UTAR Research Fund in 2015 for the Document Delivery Service which facilitates for UTAR academic staffs with research projects and postgraduate students to obtain journal articles requiring purchase.
The UTARRF Top-up scheme is another initiative established in 2015 to encourage and motivate UTAR researchers to continue to actively apply and secure external research grants. It is an internally allocated funding scheme which allows a UTAR researcher who is an external R&D grant recipient to top-up on the funding categories approved in his external R&D grant.
The UTAR Research Scholarship (RSS) and Project Research Assistantship (PRA) schemes were further enhanced in 2015 to allow for top-up of monthly stipend/salary and the offer of Tuition Fee Scholarship from UTAR Education Foundation. It is envisioned that the proposed improvements will help ensure the successful completion of research projects funded by UTAR Research Fund (UTARRF) and other Research and Development (R&D) grants from external agency/institution/organisation, attract the best brains to conduct research in UTAR, as well as recruit more postgraduate students by research mode for UTAR.
RESEARCH, DEVELOPMENT & 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.
- 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 2015, the Centre of Social Change and Trends and Centre for Media and Creative Communication were merged under the Centre for Social and Media Studies. The Centre of Sustainable Architecture and Centre for Cyber Security were added in 2015, thus making a total of 28 research centres. These research centres were formed 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, backgrounds and disciplines are held to stimulate more research ideas across discipline/s and relevant to the socio-economic problems faced in the country.
- 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/briefing Sessions on Application for external as well as internal 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 are 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 the years 2011 till 2014, the amount of this seed fund was increased to RM5 million respectively to enable additional and larger scale projects to be initiated. The allocation was further increased to RM7.45 million in 2015.
PROJECT IMPLEMENTATION & 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.
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 2015 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.