Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Datuk Seri Wilfred Madius Tangau (centre) with kindergarteners in Tuaran. We must bear in mind that our future generations would inherit what we invest in today.

When I was at the World Economic Forum recently, much was discussed on changes that will be brought upon by the Fourth Industrial Revolution, on policy formulation that will drive the economic development of the country.

For any country to remain competitive, we need to be prepared for changes and leverage on these changes. Change is the only constant, and we need to be able to prepare for them earlier. We cannot be contented to just go with the flow. We need to create the flow and the rest will follow.

For this, I believe we need to have foresight. This is a strategic tool for studying the future, to systematically explore predictions and possibilities, and how they can emerge from the present. Through foresight, we can plan ahead and decide on what to do today to achieve our vision of tomorrow. Ideally, we need to plan and execute the short-term wins to ensure we achieve the desired goals in the future.

To reap the benefits that any change may bring, we need to anticipate these changes, prepare several strategic plans and implement them efficiently. Through foresight, we can also envision how society will be in that future to understand the demands of the population, global risks and trends and how Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) can drive economy, enable society and solve problems.

The Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (Mosti) through ASM have already embarked on this path to 2050 through the Academy of Sciences Malaysia’s Malaysia 2050 Agenda that encompasses the Envisioning Malaysia 2050 Foresight Initiative, Mega Science and Emerging Science, Engineering and Technology studies. This study aims to identify ways to position the country moving forward through maximum use of STI by looking at mega trends that would impact Malaysia. This is vital to ensure sustained national development and global competitiveness.

One of the trends highlighted in this study is that by 2050, the population of Malaysia will reach 40 million but will be an ageing population. To ensure that they can live healthy and independently, we need to put in place research and development (R&D) to develop robotics and smart devices, infrastructure to accommodate them, designs that support their needs, personalised medicine and remote healthcare monitoring for their welfare. Additionally, we can leverage on STI to harness their experience and knowledge for them to continually contribute to build a sustainable society.

In line with building resilience for an inclusive and sustainable future, this study also envisions Malaysia to comprise Smart Communities by 2050 that are prosperous, sustainable and harmonious driven by STI. Our aspiration is to be a developed nation with an economy that is competitively inclusive, sustainable, robust and resilient in the most effective way possible.

This study has been extensively conducted by encompassing holistic viewpoints from not only the S&T component, but also from experts in geopolitics, society and culture, and economic and finance. We are finalising the Foresight study and would like to share the findings of this study with all Malaysians, especially youth, soon.

Findings from the Foresight study will be complementary with the recently announced National Transformation 2050 (TN50) and a good conversation starter in the engagements with Malaysians from all walks of life. Especially considering the two main themes of TN50 are closely related to my ministry, which are the aspirations of:

HAVING a safe, sustainable and healthy living; and,

AN innovative, connected society adapting to new technologies.

I believe the future of Malaysia should not be by chance, it should be by design. This is aligned with the commitment of Mosti as the champion of the new economy through its reorganisation and focus on the technology foresight division.

In shaping a Malaysia of tomorrow, firstly, the old mould of thinking and working must be cast away. As Albert Einstein once said, “We cannot solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them”.

In all that we do, we must bear in mind that our future generations would inherit what we invest in today. For example, in the book, The Industries of the Future, author Alex Ross emphasises the importance of investing in nurturing a creative and entrepreneurial spirit among the young generation.

STI underpins the creation of new businesses, new jobs and drives productivity growth. Research and innovation strengthen our capacity to design and engineer the future we desire. Thus, STI is vital for economic growth and development. Although never without risk, STI breakthroughs promise solutions to the most pressing global challenges of our time.

It is undeniable that lives have been saved, affected and transformed, thanks to STI. Behind these life-changing innovations are the people with the ideas, knowledge, creativity and willingness to take the leap of faith into the unknown. They are whom we call the innovators. They saw a problem, wanted to do something about it and came together to solve that problem. They created the future they wanted.

So, what is the future we want?

For me, I have three aspirations learnt from the South Koreans:

TO create high-risk, high reward technopreneurs,

TO develop a society that is patriotic to homegrown innovation; and,

TO have a long-term sustainable and effective planning for STEM talent.

I believe that if we have that and everyone plays their role, we might be able to co-create a future that we desire. I call to each and every one of you to join me on this journey to creating the future that we desire. As Henry Ford said, “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success”.

Datuk Seri Wilfred Madius Tangau is science, technology and innovation minister and Tuaran member of parliament

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