Research, Development &
Commercialisation in UTAR

In the year 2021, Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR) continues to make progress and gain recognition as one of the leading research universities in Malaysia. This is the eleventh annual report on Research & Development of the university. The Faculties, Research Centres and supporting units made significant progress in the year 2021 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 August 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 continued to strengthen its pursuance of certain key milestones as set in the UTAR 10-year Strategic Plan (2013 – 2022). Strategies for each of the following 5 focused areas 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 UTAR Research and Development (R&D) Roadmap 2021 – 2032 for faculties and research centres was introduced in 2021 to further enhance R&D activities in UTAR. This is a continuation of the Research Roadmap which ended in 2014. This Roadmap is the start of a big conversation on what actions need to be taken and how we can maximise the economic, environmental and societal impact of research through effective application of new knowledge.

Notwithstanding the Covid-19 pandemic, UTAR academic staff successfully secured over RM6.6 million of external funding in 2021 from related government agencies and corporate industries.

The inaugural UTAR International Collaborative Partner (ICP) & Research and Development (R&D) Colloquium 2021, themed Post Pandemic: New Path in Research and Education and aimed at exploring new paths in research and education was successfully organised in November 2021.

Year 2021 saw the introduction of new and further enhancements to the research policies and guidelines as follows:
  1. Revision to Guideline on Research Centre Administrative in April 2021 to allow Research Centres to pay honorarium to invited Speakers;

  2. Revisions to Financial Support for Journal Paper Publication by Staff (FSJPP) policy in June 2021 to allow the combination of FSJPP scheme with UTAR Research Publication Scheme (RPS) to cover publication fee that is more than the supported amount under FSJPP scheme; 

  3.  The UTAR Postdoctoral Research Scholarship Scheme (UTAR PRS) was renamed as UTAR Postdoctoral Research Scheme in June 2021 to incorporate the UTAR-Industry Postdoctoral Programme (UTAR IPP);

  4. The UTAR Strategic Research Fund Scheme was renamed as UTAR Strategic Funding Scheme (UTARSF) in June 2021 to comprise two (2) categories i.e. UTARSF – Strategic Research and UTARSF – Strategic Partnership. The purpose of incorporating guidelines for Strategic Partnership is to assist researcher(s) to explore joint or contract research project with industry partners such as SME/SMI companies, NGOs and etc.

  5. A new Guideline for R&D Grant Management Fee was introduced in September 2021;

  6. Revisions to the UTAR Global Research Network Policy in October 2021

Research, Development and Commercialisation 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 1-1: 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: 
  1. Research and Development Unit (RDU);
  2. 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 and Research Plan 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 2021, thirty five (35) research centres in UTAR continued to implement and carry out their respective activities as well co-operate in comprehensive research projects to improve better utilisation of facilities and resources.
  • 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

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. 
    •  The MOHE Grant applications Evaluation Workshop held in February 2021 resulted in the successful award of RM2,942,521 to twenty eight (28) FRGS projects in the MOHE Grants Application Phase 2021.

R&D Budget and Funding

  • IPSR continues to look out for additional potential external sources of funding for research activities in UTAR. Such information is 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 R&D Fund was established in 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 projects with good potential. This amount was subsequently increased to RM3 million in year 2010. The University management further increased the annual allocation for UTAR R&D Fund to RM5 million for each year of 2011 till 2014, RM6.25 million for 2015 and subsequently to RM6.39 million and RM6.42 million for 2020 and 2021 respectively. It enables additional and larger scale projects to be initiated as well as boost research & development activities geared towards realising the goal for UTAR to invigorate intellectual pursuits through research and innovation that have impact on society.

Project Implementation and Monitoring & Research Commercialisation

  • 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 2021 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.