CM wants Sarawak to be an R&D “innovation lab” for South-East Asia

Abang Johari (second left) and members of his delegation being briefed on innovation by an official at Swinburne University. - CM Office

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KUCHING: After observing Swinburne University’s work on research and development in Melbourne, Australia Sarawak Chief Minister, Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg, believes the state could replicate that work in local universities and turn Sarawak into “an innovation lab” for the whole of South East Asia.

“This is my personal ambition for Sarawak,” Abang Johari said of the need to explore new ideas and develop new ways of doing things.

The chief minister, who is currently on a week long study tour of Melbourne and Tasmania, was at Swinburne University this morning.

Among his delegation are senior state government and university officials

His first step towards realising that dream was to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the university on the field of research and development .

In the MOU, the university’s branch campus at Simpang Tiga in Kuching and other local universities in Sarawak would be collaborative partners.

The chief minister’s optimism was further reinforced when the university, in a briefing that followed the signing, disclosed that its Kuching branch campus was already undertaking research projects on creating a culture of innovation in the society, transport innovation and the development of digital technology.

He was also particularly impressed with the research on human DNA compositions which the university hopes could lead to identification of certain types of protein that could be used to repair human DNA.

Sarawak’s rich biodiversity, he said, might have a lot to offer to that research.

On something more practical, Abang Johari said the university could perhaps look for something that could be more useful for the large oil palm industry in Sarawak, Sabah and neighbouring Kalimantan – the East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA).

Abang Johari said he believes the industry is looking for a machine that not only could pick and transport fresh fruit bunches (FFB) but have the ability to determine which FFB is ripe enough to be harvested.

He said if such a machine is available, the industry in Sarawak and Sabah would be more mechanised and less labour intensive, especially its dependence on foreign labour.

Abang Johari and members of his delegation were later taken on a guided tour of the “Factory of the Future” facility at the campus.

The facility showcases digital and technological innovations to create an autonomous factory environment.

In the afternoon the chief minister paid a courtesy call on Victoria’s Governor, Linda Dessau, at the Governor’s official residence.

He was accompanied by the State Secretary, Tan Sri Morshidi Abdul Ghani, the Consul-General of Malaysia in Melbourne, Westmoreland Palon and the chief minister’s Principal Private Secretary, Wan Khalik Wan Muhammad.

During the visit the chief minister presented the Dessau handwoven Iban Pua ‘kumbu” scarf, Orang Ulu bead necklace and a Sarawak travel book as gifts.

He also officially invited Dessau to visit Sarawak.

This was followed by calls on Australia’s Parliamentary Secretary for Multi-cultural Affairs and Asia Engagement, Hong Lim and Commissioner for Victoria to South East Asia, Jeff Brett.

Meanwhile, members of the state delegation took part in a round table discussion hosted by the state government of Victoria where ICT and technology development, connected cities and public wi-fi programme, strategic communication and engagement, and protocol, transport innovation, investment and engagement were discussed. –