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Nurturing ideas, accelerating commercialisation

At a glance, MRANTI seems to blend the characteristics of the two organisations it is a combination of –  MAGIC’s startup ethos of agility and enabling startups to quickly test ideas, and Technology Park Malaysia (TPM’s ) resources and capabilities to bring those ideas to commercialisation, complete with intellectual property (IP) protection.

Due to its familiarity with companies from both ends of the spectrum, it attracts a breadth of companies from start-ups to large corporations, who want to leverage MRANTI’s consolidated experience and expertise at nurturing ideas in controlled environments to commercialisation in real-life industry settings.

The governance structure

Today as MRANTI, the organisation is the lead secretariat of the NTIS (National Technology & Innovation Sandbox), and in charge of the day-to-day strategies as well as operations of NTIS.  

MRANTI CEO Dzuleira Abu Bakar explained, “The other secretariat members are Futurise, MIMOS, and MTDC, with each functioning as the regulatory sandbox agency, technical subject matter expert, and funding partner, respectively.”

How do these agencies coordinate among themselves especially when Futurise has its own sandbox initiatives? Dzuleira explained that Futurise’s sandbox initiatives are separate with different application processes, for instance.

Futurise’s relevance to NTIS is that it looks specifically at regulatory sandboxes especially because different companies require different kinds of regulatory interventions.

MRANTI works with different technology companies to create a technology-based foundational platform for companies to ideate, innovate, and test upon. One such tech company is Digital Nastional Berhad, DNB which they have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with.

In essence, MRANTI’s role as lead secretariat means that it oversees end-to-end operations of NTIS, from a company’s application (to participate), right up to its graduation.

Current offerings to fastrack commercialisation

 With tech enablers like artificial intelligence and 5G connectivity as the technology and innovation foundation MRANTI provides for its community, sandbox owners/operators can trial their business use cases, business models, and even take their products and services right up to commercialisation phase and wrap it neatly  with IP protection.

Dzuleira observed that demand for sandbox environments are picking up. “Initially there were a lot of startups looking at it, but today there are many multinationals and large local corporations also working with this.

“These large corporations are coming in and saying, ‘Hey look, this is something we can sandbox’, because they want to discover upcoming solutions, or they want to discover startups that can support them.

MRANTI works with different technology companies to create a technology-based foundational platform for companies to ideate, innovate, and test upon. One such tech company is Digital Nastional Berhad, DNB which they have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with.

“DNB is a government agency that own the spectrum. But in executing (and making the spectrum available to retail telcos), they have appointed technology company Ericsson.

“We work with both of them to identify the requirements of the park. Today, the park is 5G-enabled,” Muhundan said, adding that even though there is ready 5G for the public, MRANTI is focused upon providing enterprise 5G.

“The requirements are different because for businesses you might be developing tech or using technology, but you still need connectivity.”

MRANTI ensures there is an enterprise-level of  bandwidth and latency for development, testing, and usage to happen. “This private 5G will be in a specific location within MRANTI Park. We work with technology players and the local telcos to make 5G more tangible in the shape of a 5G experience centre,” Dzuleira said.

Besides providing a showcase of current 5G projects that MRANTI is working on like health tech and agri tech, the centre serves as a location for other companies to view and figure out if 5G is relevant for their products and prototypes.

A Living Lab

Companies that want to conduct autonomous vehicle (AV) testing in a real-life environment, would need multiple approvals from the relevant authorities. In a controlled setting like what MRANTI offers within its 686-acres of space, regulatory aspects are taken into consideration along with readiness for 5G connectivity and AI capabilities.

This is just one example of the many ‘living labs’ or centres of excellence that MRANTI is setting up within their environment. These labs are likely to be part of their phase 3 master plan.

 MRANTI facilitates all of these so that use cases with technologies like AVs and drones and more can be tested and measured for commercialisation readiness.

Another core MAGIC capability is the intervention prrogrammes they have for the various points in the lifecycle of a startup or large corporation.

Dzuleira explained, “We have specific intervention programmes that look at IP assessment and also acceleration that takes the company through the innovation journey… it’s part and parcel of what we offer.”

What’s exciting is the plot of land next to MRANTI Park which has been earmarked for a crucial phase 3 of of MRANTI’s master plan.   It aims to contain the various industry clusters that MRANTI will work with like manufacturing, agriculture, healthcare, and more. These (initial) three clusters have been identified as requiring prototyping capabilities for proof-of-concepts (POC).

The type of intervention applied depends on the readiness of the company technology-wise, or maturity-wiise; companies at early stage can benefit from a business modelling exercise that validates their initial plans, while bigger companies may require support for the prototyping they do.

“And when it comes to commercialisation,there would be exercises to discover the right market for you,” he said adding that a lot of interventions happen in the first phase hence the many MRANTI programmes that cater to startups,” she added.

Master Plan

Corporations large and small (like APU and ASTRO) that are located within the park are part of the MRANTI community. “So hence we work very closely with them on different levels,” Dzuleira said.

What’s exciting is the plot of land next to MRANTI Park which has been earmarked for a crucial phase 3 of of MRANTI’s master plan.   It aims to contain the various industry clusters that MRANTI will work with like manufacturing, agriculture, healthcare, and more. These (initial) three clusters have been identified as requiring prototyping capabilities for proof-of-concepts (POC).

“We have the specific capability to support this,” Dzuleira said. “As a POC, you need the involvement of different ecosystem players and we work with different technology companies like DNB.”

More about these clusters and Phase 3 of MRANTI’s master plan will be revealed later in 2022.

Sandbox, sandbox, sandbox

Dzuleira said, “Given that it is our mandate to take solutions to commercialisation and market, it is a  good fit for for us to oversee NTIS and especially the highly regulated technologies and industries that conduct sandboxes with NTIS.

Currently, there are eight sandboxes that MRANTI oversees spanning  use cases like agriculture, healthcare, delivery, transportation, pharmaceutical, sports, internet of things.

Organisations like PLUS and Air Asia, are examples of sandbox owners and sandbox operators, because they own the infrastructure within which they conduct POCs.  

“What MRANTI does is get these organisation’s problem statements and then funnel the relevant providers of technology like drones to the sandbox environment (aka highways in the case of PLUS),” she said.

Upcoming initiatives

Last February, the Ministry of Health (MOH) had rolled out the OHS RegLab together with Futurise,  to enable co-creation of standards and regulations in the online healthcare services (OHS) ecosystem.

Organisations like PLUS and Air Asia, are examples of sandbox owners and sandbox operators, because they own the infrastructure within which they conduct POCs.  

By mid-August, MRANTI will also be spearheading another healthcare testbed initiative with initial focus on non-clinical healthcare technologies like cleaning robots that support daily operations in a healthcare environment.

Laid out to work like a decentralised healthcare testbed, three hospitals have been identified as physical test sites to pilot health tech solutions like robot assistants, and so on.  

“(Health tech companies) find it difficult to penetrate healthcare institutions so we facilitate this with designated hospitals,” Dzuleira observed.

She added, “We are starting with non-clinical products first, and working with three government hospitals in the initial phase with plans to include more ecosystem players like pharmaceutical companies, private hospitals, and so on.”