As a Sarawakian, I am aware that there has been decades-long limitation in bringing the automotive industry to Sabah and Sarawak, as the logistics factors alone make it seemingly challenging to set up an automotive manufacturing ecosystem.
However, with the advent of technology and disruptions within the mobility sector, new opportunities have arisen for the people of Sabah and Sarawak.
With the correct strategy, it is the right time for meaningful participation, with new comparative advantages now available for the region.
MARii has long been working closely with the Australian government to develop numerous turnkey projects in electric mobility and advanced manufacturing for the benefit of Malaysians.
Now, in the case of Sabah and Sarawak, an opportunity has presented itself.
Firstly, the advent of online technology has helped to bridge the geographical divide of the South China Sea, bringing collaborators together from all corners of the nation.
Secondly, the people of Sabah and Sarawak have the expertise and knowledge of their local terrain and market of around six million people.
This expertise expands into the numerous sectors that are larger in scale compared with that of the peninsula – such as agriculture, forestry and fisheries, etc.
Last week, we have achieved two important milestones that will include Sabah and Sarawak into the high-technology sector as mentioned above – not only within the automotive sector, but also high-potential spinoffs within the local economy.
In Sabah, the MARii Satellite Sabah was launched, housing advanced product design, process design, data analytics and special training facilities developed to allow participation of Sabahans in advanced technology applications for automotive manufacturing, after-sales and overall mobility.
The technology can be utilised in other sectors such as furniture, agriculture, plantation, oil and gas and fisheries.
The satellite is equipped with a design lab, hosting advanced product and process design applications, as well as a complete training Dojo for manufacturing, after sales and remanufacturing which will be used to conduct numerous programmes, both internally by MARii or with local experts within MARii’s extended network.
At the same time, the satellite also acts as a big data management and telematics centre to enhance information and data analytics, allowing for better insights and decision making for businesses.
In Sarawak, MARii signed a memorandum of agreement (MoA) with University College of Technology Sarawak (UCTS) for collaboration in research and development in energy efficiency and bridging human capital development at all levels between Peninsula Malaysia and Sarawak.
Through the MoA, MARii and UCTS will collaborate in research and development programmes for applications within the automotive and overall mobility sectors, including the application of robotics and the Internet of Things.
These projects are expected to also generate spinoff technology that can be applied to other sectors in Sarawak, such as smart plantations, tourism analytics, forest monitoring and swamp assessment.
The milestones above would allowed Sabah and Sarawak people to contribute and benefit from the opportunities created through the automotive and overall mobility sectors.
Trends have shown that the mobility sector will grow beyond automotive manufacturing alone, with sectors such as big data analytics, terrain assessment and content management quickly coming together to meet the growing demands of the mobility sector.
It is now time for Sabah and Sarawak to play a bigger role in overall mobility.
The writer is the chief executive officer of Malaysia Automotive, Robotics and IoT Institute (MARii).