Startups have had it rough this year, and multiple programmes targeted towards business growth have adapted to cater to specific startup struggles during the pandemic.
Completely new programmes were also launched, with one of them being the National Technology and Innovation Sandbox (NTIS) by MOSTI recently.
Acting as the lead secretariat is the Malaysian Global Innovation & Creativity Centre (MaGIC), so we spoke to CEO Dzuleira Abu Bakar to learn more about NTIS’ benefits for startups.
Tech startups can apply for 4 types of funding schemes offered by Malaysia Technology Development Corporation (MTDC) under NTIS:
- Scheme 1: Single-Site Sandbox offering a maximum financing amount of RM250,000 in full grant and a single-site sandbox solution,
- Scheme 2: Multi-Site Sandbox with a maximum financing amount of RM500,000 in the form of a partial grant (70%) to fund multiple-site sandbox solutions,
- Scheme 3: Commercialisation scheme with maximum financing of RM4 million in the form of a hybrid fund, grants and convertible promissory notes to finance the commercialisation of the sandbox solution,
- Scheme 4: Matching Fund with Investors/Corporates, with a maximum allocation of RM15 million as a matching fund with investors and corporate companies.
2. Capacity Building Programmes
NTIS’ goal is to accelerate commercialisation of local innovations, particularly those that can address issues surrounding the pandemic.
“As there are eligibility criteria, there are applicants who may not be able to proceed unless, and until, the gaps are addressed,” Dzuleira told Vulcan Post.
“NTIS ensures that local innovations can advance and this is where those not eligible will be advised to participate in development programmes to assist and equip them to the level need to be part of NTIS.”
Companies will also be able to test their products, services, business models and distribution mechanisms under the provision of MaGIC, with the sandbox offering them a “safe space” to do so.
3. Market Access & Procurement Facilitation
In line with NTIS’ aforementioned goal, it builds an ecosystem to connect public-private with the startups/innovators.
“Call us a matchmaker, if you will. We connect/match problem statements from the government and corporates with solutions from tech innovators,” Dzuleira said.
“So, solutions identified, developed, tested and accelerated through NTIS truly meet market needs.”
Various players from the government and private sectors will also help sandbox solutions for their testing and market access.
Therefore, startups won’t have to doubt their solutions’ marketability.
4. Testbed & Test Environment Facilitation
The latest innovations under NTIS need to be tested in a controlled environment, but Dzuleira shared that the testbed and test environment facilitation are not in a fixed location.
Each NTIS targeted sector has its own specific requirements, so it would be difficult to have a fixed location.
The future development of approved technologies into other potential locations may also be restricted by having a testbed site.
Depending on the product of the companies, the test will run at a suitable facility provided by NTIS partners from both government and private sectors.
This eradicates the barriers for startups who want to put their technology to the test with few restrictions.
5. Facilitation/Review Of Regulations & Laws
One example of existing regulations and laws affecting startup innovations can be seen in the drone industry.
Drone companies in Malaysia face difficulties like:
- Requiring stringent certification and permits for drones,
- Long turnaround times for permit approvals,
- Limited guidelines for a Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) flight,
- Weight limitations,
- Multiple approvals required by various regulators and authorities.
Dzuleira explained how NTIS then offered more freedom in this context.
Through NTIS, they’ll be assisting drone powered solution companies by working with regulators such as the Civil Aviation Authority Malaysia (CAAM) to ease and streamline permit applications.
This is especially in situations where the drone operation poses lower risk, such as in the case of agricultural applications.
These drones are generally flown at lower altitudes and in remote areas.
“In addition to the agriculture sector, we also see positive impact from the application of drones in logistics and healthcare,” Dzuleira said.
“With better case studies and adaptive regulations that promote innovation, we are confident that NTIS will help Malaysia achieve its goal to become a frontrunner in dronetech.”
6. Multi-Industry Adoption
Multi-industry adoption refers to one technology solution that can be applied to various industries.
Taking some NTIS pilot projects as examples, DF Automation has produced robots for medical healthcare food delivery service and payload delivery for various industries.
Aerodyne’s drone solutions have been applied to agriculture pesticide spraying and the medical healthcare delivery service too.
Both technology applications theoretically help increase productivity and minimise human errors.
With drones, the expertise of farmers will be turned from hard labour into strategic farm management, and the utilisation of robotics in healthcare allows health workers to focus on crucial tasks while providing excellent care service.
Startups that join NTIS will be able to explore the usage of their solutions across multiple industries too.
Applying For NTIS
Applications have been open since July 15, 2020, and currently, MaGIC has already received as many as 1,200 applications, and processed about 200.
To apply, you have to be a Malaysian individual, a Malaysian-owned company, or a foreign company with Malaysian-owned majority, and have a Technology Readiness Level (TRL) of 6.
TRL 6, or Alpha Testing, is the point where you have a prototype system that can be demonstrated in an operational environment.
Applications are processed in batches, and will usually require 31 days of processing.
Even if your startup doesn’t qualify yet, you’ll be advised to join other development programmes first to prepare you for re-application, as Dzuleira shared earlier.
And if you’re wondering whether you’d need to pay anything to apply for NTIS, the answer is no.
- You can learn more about NTIS and apply to it here.
- You can read more of what we’ve written about MaGIC here.
Featured Image Credit: YB Khairy Jamaluddin, Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI)
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