Innovative Malaysia

November 2, 2010

I am currently in Kuala Lumpur for GlycosBio.  The company is signing a major agreement with the government of Malaysia for their first biochemicals plant.  The plant will be built on a multi-tennant biotechnology park in Johor (right across the water from Singapore). The park is being developed and managed by BioXCell, a public-private partnership to build a biotech hub (focused on bio-based manufacturing of industrial and health care products).

I have been impressed with the can-do attitude, the quality of the people involved and their government’s commitment to long term investment in this project.  Our exchange of documents ceremony was led by the Deputy Prime Minister who left no doubt as to the government commitment make things happen.  The approach of building a highly skilled and focused team (BioXCell) to clear the way for companies to thrive seems  to me to be the right way to do it.  In comparison, the US Government approach of having career federal government scientists select companies for huge grants and loan guarantees seems to be missing the opportunity to build up an institutional knowledge of how to encourage and support entrepreneurial business (though I believe that, more than ever before, the USG understands that entrepreneurship drives the economy, they just don’t do a very good job at it).  Public-private partnerships with a well defined objective, entrepreneurial staff and a budget to make things happen could produce some really interesting results in the US, at a lower cost than the current strategy.

Here in Malaysia at least, it appears that having the public-private partnership is a great way to help clear barriers to getting an enterprise established and to provide a feedback loop to policy in order to continuously improve the nations ability to grow large, profitable private companies (thus driving faster GDP and job growth).

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