By JO TIMBUONG
CYBERJAYA: Innovation and creativity can be found in the most unlikeliest of places and the Malaysian Innovation Foundation (YIM) is actively hunting for these.
It runs an initiative called Jejak Inovasi (Innovation Walk) that searches for innovators and creators among the grassroots and highlights them to further encourage their innovative spirit.
"We are the bridge between the innovators and the various funders and incubators, that can help these talented people bring their innovations to the mainstream," said Muhamad Aziph Datuk Mustapha, acting chief executive officer at YIM.
He said representatives from organisations like Cradle Fund - which manages the Cradle Investment Programme that funds technology entrepreneurs and researchers in universities - are part of YIM's innovation-hunting team.
YIM's idea of innovation and creativity goes beyond the technology space and looks for innovation in other industries, such as food, manufacturing, tourism and even traditional sports.
"There are innovative ways to liven up these industries," Aziph said, adding that the innovations discovered through Jejak Inovasi are inspiring. "Many were born out of necessity to ease real life problems, such as creating a machine to facilitate paddy harvesting."
Aziph said Jejak Inovasi helped unearth a total of 41 innovative products last year and from that number, about nine have been identified as having the potential to be commercialised.
"YIM and the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation provide technical advice and open channels for funding, whether from the private or government sector, to help in the development process," he said.
He said such discoveries will help change any perceptions that Malaysians are not a creative or innovative lot.
The world measures how innovative a nation is by the number of intellectual properties and patents it has, he said. But that isn't a true measure because many innovators may not have the means to patent their ideas.
"The whole patent process is an expensive and involved process, that takes a lot of perseverance to navigate," he added.
Aziph said YIM hopes to turn some of these grassroots creators into innovative icons, to encourage more of their peers.
"Every community has its thinkers and tinkerers, and often they are treated as outcasts because they spend too much time on their inventions.
"By having icons, we hope to change a community's perception of their own 'mad scientists,' " he said.
YIM is also planning to come up with an interactive innovation map, to help it chart the places where innovation is happening. "This will also give us a general idea of the Malaysian level of creativity and how we can best encourage that," Aziph said.