Malaysian Bioeconomy Development Corporation (Bioeconomy Corp), which is part of an industry that contributes around 5% to the GDP, is falling apart after the agency’s shocking move to the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), sources say.
Insiders call the move devastating and a blow to the bio-economy strategy that could cost Malaysia billions in foreign direct investment.
Unknown to stakeholders and industry experts—and people close to the biotech industry including investors—the agency’s transfer from the Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Ministry (MESTECC) to the MoA came into effect in November last year.
“Bioeconomy is not only about agriculture it is also about science and it is appropriate to keep the agency under MESTECC. This is a billion dollar business and an attractive foreign direct investment tool for Malaysia but now things are in total jeopardy,” says the source who spoke to The Independent Singapore.
The source says up to 2015, Malaysia was the leading biotechnology promoter in South East Asia with more than RM25 billion new bio-related projects approved for implementation in the country.
“Most of FDI brought to the country under the Bioeconomy label is through the agency’s link to the science ministry but the influx of FDI has since then dried out,” the source says, adding that the announcement of transferring Bioeconomy Corporation to the MoA was a shock to the industry.
“There was no proper consultation with the industry and other bio-based stakeholders prior to the transfer. We believe transferring Bioeconomy Corporation to MoA may not have taken into consideration that the field of biotechnology and the bio-based sector is naturally multi-layered, multidisciplinary and complex. It requires an understanding of wider disciplines to incorporate and address the complexities that arises from the unique nature of biotechnology research and commercialisation,” says a memorandum seen by The Independent.
The memorandum, sent to the Prime Minister’s office in January this year, claims the move from MESTECC to MoA is putting many projects and initiatives secured successfully in Phase 1 and Phase 2 or National Biotechnology Policy is now in jeopardy, especially in the Industrial Biotechnology and Medical Biotechnology sectors.
It says the existing ecosystem within MESTECC—that is the funding, related policy and the myriad of existing biotech related agencies within the Ministry—is the best and most suitable ecosystem to speedup the biotechnology and bio-economy agenda in the country as envisioned in the National Biotechnology Policy launched in 2005.
The source says as a country, Malaysia was successful in its biotechnology capacity building stage (2005–2010) or Phase 1. The success in Phase 1 was repeated in Phase 2 (2011–2015) where the various bio-related projects nurtured in Phase 1 were ready to migrate from Science to Business, preparing for the Going Global phase 3 (2016–2020).