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TRENDS: Grassroots innovations

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A workshop to promote creativity and innovation revealed some promising talents from rural areas, writes Siti Syameen Md Khalili.

GOOD ideas received a boost at the recent Grassroot Innovation Workshop organised by Malaysian Foundation for Innovation and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, held at the Palace of Golden Horses Hotel, Selangor.

Attended by grassroot innovators unearthed by the foundation via its Jejak Inovasi programme, the workshop served as a platform for participants to present their ideas before business, engineering and food technology experts who made suggestions and gave constructive criticism to help them take the next step towards product improvement, as well as commercialisation.

YIM acting chief executive officer Muhammad Aziph Datuk Mustapha said the foundation was established to inculcate creation and innovation in all strata of society. “After three rounds of Jejak Inovasi programme where we scouted for innovators in the towns and villages of Malacca, Sabah and Sarawak, we identified who we could really push to the next level. The Grassroot Innovation Workshop was the platform to do this.”

He said that each grassroot innovator within the programme has the opportunity to get expert advise on the spot, as well as assistance in terms of funding as YIM also recommends them as grant recipient candidates to related agencies such as the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, and Sirim.

“We also recommend that some of them be given the 1Malaysia netbook to do research, participate in forums and keep in touch with us as well as related agencies to post updates on their developments. Besides protecting their innovations, we also connect them with agencies such as MyIPO for patent filing,” he added.

“Malaysians are creative and innovative but that is not how we look at ourselves. We do not see ourselves as a creative nation because of the low number of patents and research works. What we have discovered so far via Jejak Inovasi  are innovations that make life easier and we want to document all these creative and innovative efforts.

“We have started a databank of home grown innovations and we hope to build a community of innovators who can become self-reliant, and assist them in going further.”

Innovations demonstrated at the workshop included the Mini Hydro Electric, a community effort spearheaded by Abdul Hamid Jasmin, it supplies electricity to over 15 houses in Kampung Libang Laut, Tambunan,

Sabah using a combination of a turbine and used pick-up truck gearbox to generate three to five kilowatts of power.

Abdul Hamid, who made his first trip outside of Sabah for the event, said he and fellow villagers built the electricity-generating machine that harnessed the nearby river’s current to power lights, television, fans and other electrical products.

“The one that has been powering up the village since 2003 is actually our third version of the machine, the first two did not generate enough current. The current one has the gearbox, so I can set it to different levels to match the river flow during dry and rainy seasons.”

Another participant, Politeknik Merlimau lecturer Nora Ismail brought forth an innovation called Jack Hang Door, which received its patent number from MyIPO recently. Nora said that the innovation was actually her students’ effort. They were challenged to come up with a device that could help a user to single-handedly fit a lightweight door to its frame using only the Jack Hang Door and a power drill.

“I supervised the four students involved to keep the cost of the product low. We hoped that with the patenting done, we can get funds to mass produce it, to lower the price even more,” Nora said.

Mohd Rosli Mohd Isa of Sabak Bernam, Selangor previewed his innovation called Hex Wheel Trolley, which was a foldable, hauling tool that can go up and down stairs.

“The recommended maximum load that the trolley can hold is 120 kilogrammes and the unit that I have patented weighs 15kg. I hope YIM can help me improve the product’s fabrication process so that the trolley itself can be made lighter, perhaps under 5 kg. This innovation helps users move heavy items from stacks of papers and gas cylinders to gunny sacks of rice,” Rosli said.

Another innovator, Philipus Jani constructed a saxophone using bamboo. He even played the evergreen tune My Way on it, much to the delight of the workshop participants.

Philipus, who has performed with veteran composer Datuk Ahmad Nawab, said he has received plenty of orders for the Bamboo Saxophone, but did not have skilled workers and funds to meet the demand.

“I built my first bamboo saxaphone in 2003 when my conventional saxophone was taken away from me. I could not afford to buy another one and was heartbroken. My passion for music and the instrument led me here, and I hope I can share my innovation with the rest of the world,” Philipus said.

Representative from UKM Prof Madya Dr Tih Sio Hong also shared some business input with the innovators in a session entitled “From Invention To Market”.

Rosli with the Hex Wheel Trolley

Nora showing off the Jack Hang Door device

Philipus playing his bamboo saxophone


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