Solving Problems Through Inclusive Innovation

KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama) — When and where can we finally find the cure for dengue?

How can we make it possible for a child who lives 60-70 kilometres from the nearest school gain access to education without even moving from his or her home?

What about traffic jams? Will there ever be a reliable solution to end traffic woes once and for all? Teleportation, maybe?

Every advancement in civilisation seems to come with its own set of issues. Fortunately, in Malaysia, we have Yayasan Inovasi Malaysia (YIM), a foundation that dedicates itself to finding solutions for these everyday problems.

YIM AND HIP6

The foundation was appointed as the main agency under the Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) Master Plan to implement the High Impact Programme Six (HIP6).

HIP6’s goal is to foster “inclusive innovation” or innovation projects that benefit those who live on the fringes of society, particularly the low-income group.

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This includes tackling disparities in terms of income and access to basic needs such as education, healthcare and financial resources.

Speaking to Bernama recently, HIP6 programme director Abdul Razak Ahmad said the foundation is working closely with grassroot innovators while welcoming cooperation from any quarter that can come up with innovations of impact. This can be government-linked companies (GLCs) or international companies, such as Google.

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“The innovation may come from the community itself, or it can come from outside the community. Our goal is to facilitate the process so that people can find solutions for a specific problem,” said Abdul Razak.

He said an innovation, in the form of technology or product, is only considered inclusive if it is of high quality, affordable, and benefits excluded groups, especially those in the low-income bracket.

Inclusive innovation is also about providing access to quality despite income inequality.

Abdul Razak explained that the foundation was not in the business of merely helping create cheap products to sell to low-income earners.

“YIM aims to deliver excellent products and services at an affordable price to the excluded group, such as single mothers, orphans, chronic patients and indigenous people.

“It so happens that these marginalised groups share the same trait. They are low-income earners or belong to the “bottom 40″ group,” he said.

AIDING INNOVATORS

The foundation is not new to innovative ventures. Since its inception in 2008, YIM has initiated several programmes that promote and inculcate creativity and innovation among Malaysians, such as Jejak Inovasi, School Club Innovation Toolkit and Teh Tarik Talk.

Abdul Razak clarified that HIP6 was not a subsidy programme but a form of aid for the production of a specific product.

The product would have to go through marketing channels that excluded groups could afford and access in a timely manner.

“What the foundation actually does is help innovators. We will try to improve on their designs if it is possible, and then we will help market their product.

“But first we are going to protect their IP (Intellectual Property) and make sure that the IP remains with them,” he said.

Sustainability is also an important criterion to an innovation. Abdul Razak said there were two aspects of sustainability that they needed to work on, namely the technological or the innovative sustainability and the business sustainability.

“Sometimes innovators do not have the capacity to run the business on their own, because they are usually only keen on solving a problem, so they do not make very good businessmen. This jeorpadises the sustainability of their business,” he explained.

STORY OF WAK WAGIMAN

He gave the example of Wak Wagiman, an innovator from Muar, Johor. Wak Wagiman has engineered a fully versatile, adjustable, modular, and yet affordable multi-purpose vehicle or tractor for works in the oil palm field.

Aesthetic values aside, the tractor he calls GAH (Gerabak Ayer Hitam), is sold for only between RM10,000 and RM15,000 a unit, compared with other tractors in the market which are priced anywhere from RM100,000 to RM150,000.

According to Abdul Razak, the humble villager had managed to sell quite a number of his “not-so-good-looking tractors” even before YIM came into the picture.

But as marketing and business were not really Wak Wagiman’s cup of tea, the foundation helped by establishing licensing for companies who are interested in selling his tractors.

“We are also trying to help him come out with the engineering drawing of his tractor and improve its exterior by using new materials compared to the recycled ones he had used previously.

“The end product may cost slightly more, but it will last longer thus ensuring the sustainability of the product,” he said.

FROM INNOVATION TO COMMERSIALISED PRODUCT

The foundation has forged cooperation with various partners, such as the German-Malaysia Institute, Industrial Training Institute (ILP), Giatmara, Platcom, National Innovation Foundation of India, Global Research Alliance and Honeybee Network.

Wak Wagiman’s tractor is only one of several projects that are being aided by the foundation.

Others include innovations by farmer Siteo Akang of Keningau who developed a paddy thresher machine and school gardener Hamid Jasmin with his mini hydro system that generates electricity to his village, Kampung Libang Laut near Kota Kinabalu.

There are also those who have also come up with food innovation projects that generate income for the locals. This includes Wasinah Kuntagil’s innovation of the Kadazan-Dusun traditional delicacy, tuhau, and Henry Charles’s Hiliran Halia products.

Both innovators are from Tambunan, Sabah and hold the Geographical Indication (GI) Intellectual Property Rights. The GI sign is used on a product to denote its origin where a specific quality, characteristic or reputation is attributable to the origin, such as champagne, the sparkling wine drink from the Champagne region of France.

“This year we are committed to the commercialisation of six innovations, but my personal target is to take it up to 10,” he said.

Kredit : Bernama

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