BTP INITIATIVES: BiotechCorp may revise upwards third phase investment target to more than RM15b

MALAYSIAN Biotechnology Corp (BiotechCorp) will revise upwards the thirdphase investment target for the bio-based industry under the National Biotechnology Policy (NBP), after it exceeded the second-phase target by more than twofold to almost RM19 billion.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak announced that the industry had secured a total of RM18.98 billion in approved investments in the ongoing second phase from 2011 to 2015, compared with the initial target of RM9 billion.

A total of 83,400 jobs were created in the period, surpassing the 80,000 target for the whole of Phase Two, which ends next year.

Biotech Corp chief executive officer Datuk Dr Mohd Nazlee Kamal said the agency was considering raising the RM15 billion investment target for the third phase, which will commence from 2016 to 2020.

A total of 160,000 jobs are expected to be created in the third phase.

In his speech when opening the BioMalaysia and Bioeconomy Asia Pacific 2014 conference and exhibition at Universiti Malaya, here, yesterday, Najib attributed the higher investment figures to the government’s Bioeconomy Transformation Programme (BTP) initiatives.

“The initiatives have borne fruit and generated benefits for the people and nation.

“BTP will make it easier for local bio-based companies to grow faster to compete in the international market, which will simultaneously create broader income opportunities while enhancing the value of our nation’s human capital,” he added.

Despite the robust growth, Najib said the industry lacked home-grown talent, an issue that needed to be addressed immediately in order to sustain growth amid strong competition in the region.

He noted that the shortage of talent in the industry was a real and immediate problem faced by biotech enterprises.

“Companies may resort to stop-gap measures by importing and redeploying talent as far as resources will allow. But a more permanent solution is imperative if the industry is to grow and deliver the returns that we seek.

“It is with this in mind that we are paying more attention to ensuring that our human capital acquire competencies that will give them the competitive edge, thereby helping to drive innovation and revenue growth,” he said.

In the long run, Najib said the talent supply issue could only be resolved through innovative partnerships between the government and private and public institutions in developing the needed human capital resources.

He added that universities and other institutions of higher learning could be positioned to be the main providers of knowledge workers to fill the vacancies created by the bio-based industry.

    The bioeconomy agenda in Malaysia aims to achieve RM48 billion in gross national income, attract RM50 billion in investments and create 170,000 jobs by 2020.

 To further strengthen the country’s bioeconomy, the government has introduced the Bioeconomy Community Development Programme to augment the BTP. 

It was formulated as an effort to transform rural communities through adoption of bio-based technologies.

Meanwhile, a total of six collaborations were announced and exchanged at the conference with value of investments totalling more than RM250 million.

They include the partnership between Malaysian Bio-XCell Sdn Bhd and Verdezyne Inc to build the latter’s first commercial-scale renewable chemicals manufacturing plant worth RM250 million.

 The 20,000 sq ft facility will be located in Bio-XCell’s premier biotechnology and ecosystem park in Nusajaya, Iskandar Malaysia.

The facility will leverage on Verdezyne’s yeast fermentation technology along with the abundant supplies of non-food, plant-based feedstocks in Malaysia to produce a variety of commercial diacids.

“These diacids may in turn be used to produce nylon or other polymers for use in a variety of textile-based products such as aesthetic apparel, carpeting and toothbrush bristles, at lower cost than traditional, petroleum-derived nylons,” said Verdezyne chief financial officer Brian Conn.