Celebrating MIT-Malaysia Successful Collaborations in Boston, Massachusettes

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Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) in collaboration with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) organised a Panel Discussion at the Walker Memorial, MIT, focusing on the many successful collaborations between the prestigious MIT and Malaysia in various programmes and initiatives.
The Panel Discussion was held in conjunction with the launch of the exhibition on ‘’Female Faces in Sustainable Places – Malaysia Women Promoting Sustainable Development’’ which took place on 30th April, organised by UTM, MIT and the Malaysian Embassy of USA. The multi-media exhibit will remain at MIT for four and a half months.

The Panel Discussion highlighted the celebration of partnership between MIT and Malaysia, focusing on the multifaceted and growing relationships established through professional and scholarly undertakings and impactful ventures which have been made possible through synergistic interaction and strategic engagement built on trust, collaboration and friendship between MIT and Malaysia, and with UTM in particular.

The panel members consist of Dr Bernd Widdig as the moderator, who is MIT Director of International Affairs, Dean Jacob Cohen, Senior Associate Dean for Undergraduate and Master’s Programme, Sloan School of Management, for the Asia School of Business, Dr Richard Larson, Mitsui Professor of Engineering System, for the MIT BLOSSOMS Initiative, Dr Yossi Sheffi, Elisha Gray 11 Professor of Engineering Systems, for the Malaysia Institute for Supply Chain Innovation (MISI), Dr Anthony Sinskey, Professor of Microbiology and Health Sciences and Technology, for the Malaysia-MIT Biotechnology Partnership Programme, Mr William Guyster, Programme Manager for MITGlobal Startup Labs Malaysia, and Dr Lawrence Susskind, MIT Co-Director, Malaysia Sustainable Cities Programme.

Dr Claude Canizares who is Vice President and the Bruno Rossi Professor of Physics at MIT opened the session. He highlighted that the event was a celebration of a series of partnership between Malaysia and MIT, which shows that commitment from the partnership is what makes it work. Both parties have worked together in synergy to accomplish things in addressing issues related to certain world’s concerns, problems and challenges.
The panelists highlighted that what made Malaysia attractive to MIT as a collaborative partner is the fact that it is an exemplary role model for many countries, especially among developing countries as a nation that has high competitive spirit, with an energetic young population that is dynamic. Malaysia is also a democratic country with a diverse multi-ethnic, multi-religious community where people of various backgrounds work together to develop a modern, democratic and progressive nation.

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Malaysia is also strategically located in the right part of the world, specifically the Asean region that is fast developing. Moreover, the quantum investment in education by the Malaysian government shows that the country knows what it takes to make a difference, and that education is the path to progress and prosperity to be a developed high income nation that Malaysia aspires to be.
Dean Jacob Cohen, Esq. at the MIT’s Sloan School of Management shared the newest MIT Sloan collaboration with Malaysia, which is the establishment of the Asia School of Business (ASB). This visionary initiative is led by Tan Sri Dr Zeti Akhtar, the Governor of Bank Negara. Launched in April 2015, and supported by Bank Negara, Malaysia, the graduate business school will offer both degree and non-degree programs to serve the needs of Malaysia, ASEAN, South Asia, China and parts of the Middle East and Africa. ASB’s mission is to be a global knowledge and learning centre infused with regional expertise, insights and and perspectives of Asian and emerging market economies.

Dr Richard Larson, Mitsui Professor responsible for the MIT BLOSSOMS Initiative highlighted that the project develops a large, free repository of Science and Maths interactive video modules for high school students created by gifted volunteer teachers from around the world. UTM joined as a BLOSSOMS participant in 2013. The goal is to develop deeper and richer skills in high school students and to enhance their critical thinking skills and understanding of abstract concepts. The project also aims to excite and inspire high school students in pursuing a STEM-related career. UTM and the Ministry of Education is working hard to see this project through with more input from the school teachers in Malaysia.

Dr Yosshi Sheffi shared information on the joint initiative between Malaysia and MIT in the Malaysia Institute for Supply Chain Innovation (MISI) which is the fourth centre in the MIT Global SCALE (Supply Chain and Logistic Excellences). The Institute was launched as a joint initiative between MIT and the government of Malaysia in 2011. It is part of the an international alliance of leading edge research and educational organizations, dedicated to the development and dissemination of global innovation in supply chain and logistics. MISI is also an independent degree granting academic institution established under Malaysian law and conducts research and corporate outreach activities for local as well as global firms that operate in the Southeast Asia region.

In another venture towards supporting Malaysia’s National Key Economic Area (NKEA), Professor Anthony Sinskey highlighted the Malaysia-MIT Biotechnology Partnership Programme (MMBPP). This work is a collaboration between MIT labs and the Malaysian Palm Oil Board, to apply the principles of metabolic engineering to modify fatty acid synthesis in the oil palm. Using a system of bioreactors and mathematical modelling, the program develops metabolic models of the behaviour of oil palm cells in culture. This work supports a major initiative in Malaysia to bolster the production palm-derived oils for food and other uses. Collaborations with the Forest Research Institute in Malaysia and a network of Malaysian medical and academic institutes including UTM enables the MMBPP to help Malaysia in examining the pharmaceutical and nutritional values of palm oil and related plant extracts and compounds. This initiative has also resulted in capturing wealth from waste, and led to numerous significant Scientific Advancement.
Apart from that, the work of MIT Global Startup Labs (GSL) – Malaysia was also also featured. In 2014, GSL launched a programme with the dedicated and enthusiastic support of the Multimedia Development Corporation (MDeC) Malaysia which manages Malaysia’s Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) programme. MDeC’s mission is to set Malaysia’s path upon building a truly Innovative Digital Economy that will help stimulate human creativity and innovation with new technologies, outlets and opportunities. This venture with MIT GSL is seen as a step to achieve the goal. Since 2000, the MIT GSL has sent more than 150 instructors to 16 countries and taught tech entrepreneurship to more than 2000 students in the form of 6-8 week boot camp programmes.

Another project initiated by UTM in collaboration with MIT is the Malaysian Sustainable Cities Program (MSCP). The programme, aimed at studying Malaysia’s efforts to promote sustainability during its transition from a developing to a developed nation, is a five-year collaboration between UTM and MIT. The project is co-directed by Professor Lawrence Susskind from the MIT Department of Planning and Architecture and Prof Mohd Hamdan Ahmad from the UTM Institut Sultan Iskandar. As part of the project, a cohort of nine to ten International Scholars from G-77 nations are invited each year to create digital, video-based teaching materials and an academic, peer-reviewed paper about a chosen research topic in one of the cities in Malaysia including Putrajaya, Johore Bahru, Penang and Sabah. Starting 2014, an annual graduate student Practicum travels to Malaysia to both learn from and contribute to the MSCP research agenda. The MSCP International Scholars’ educational videos and research findings will be made available online for use by faculty and practioners all over the world to share ideas on how thriving cities in the Global South are making Sustainable City Development a reality.

Also present at the Panel Discussion were Yang Amat Mulia, Tunku Ali Redhauddin, the Crown Prince of Negeri Sembilan, Datuk Dr Awang Adek Hussin, the Malaysian Ambassador to the United States, Dato’ Seri Ir Dr Zaini Ujang, Secretary General II, Ministry of Education Malaysia, faculty members of MIT and UTM, as well as Malaysian students in Boston.