THE acronym for New Economy, Experience and Talent (NEXT), is an innovative private-public partnership initiative by Iskandar Investment Berhad (IIB) and its group of companies to spur digital innovation, budding next-generation technology economic activities and talent development in Iskandar Malaysia.
This initiative involves the development and promotion of a digital-centric ecosystem that facilitates entrepreneurship, knowledge-sharing and talent building.
Iskandar NEXT is poised to strengthen IIB’s role as a leader in promoting innovation, especially in Medini Iskandar, the smart and connected central business district of Iskandar Puteri. Medini was proclaimed the digital hub of Johor during the announcement of the 2021 Johor Budget.
An advanced digital ecosystem that facilitates next-generation technologies is pivotal to the realisation of the Johor digital economy agenda. The acceleration of Iskandar Malaysia’s positioning as a significant global and regional business hub is contingent on the development of new business opportunities from the international digital economies, relevant skills and talent as well as quality smart living experience for its discerning population.
The Iskandar NEXT initiative, launched in October 2020 by Johor Menteri Besar Hasni Mohammad, boosts the Iskandar Malaysia economy through high-value technology investments, creation of high-paying jobs and knowledge development.
Iskandar NEXT encompasses advanced technology, artificial intelligence (AI) solutions, augmented reality/virtual reality (AR/VR), Blockchain technology, drone and robotics, global business services (GBS), next-generation technologies, food security and talent development. It is earmarked to deliver IIB’s aspiration for Iskandar Puteri as the latest digital hub and destination of choice for industries relevant to IR4.0.
The initiative houses programmes by the IIB Group that include the Iskandar Global Innovation & Technology Exchange (IGNITE) – a signature event for Iskandar NEXT, Perantis Iskandar - a human capital development programme aimed at revitalising economic development for Iskandar Malaysia, DHL Applied Analytics Hub (DAA Hub) in Medini, Iskandar Puteri as well as the recently launched Johor Digital and Emerging Technology Talent Programme (JDETT). Other programmes facilitated by Iskandar NEXT include DRZ Iskandar, Iskandar Innovation Hub (iHub), Blockchain Village @ Medini (BV@M), Iskandar Space.
The jewel in the crown for Iskandar NEXT is the Iskandar Global Innovation and Technology Exchange or IGNITE, a series of hybrid events comprising webinars, workshops and round-table discussions where corporations, innovation and technology enthusiasts, industry-enablers and policy-makers converge to share ideas, knowledge and experience. Launched last month, IGNITE is a ‘convention of innovative minds’ where the sharing of ideas and knowledge paves the way for innovation and emerging technology for Malaysia and the region.
To address the growing needs of entrepreneurs, innovators and startups in Iskandar Puteri is the collaboration with Common Ground for Iskandar Space, a workplace solution outfitted with premium digital infrastructure and facilities that offers value-added services that include commercialisation support and business coaching.
The co-working space, located in Medini, will be operated by Common Ground Works Sdn. Bhd. This offering marks another milestone for IIB in its effort to develop and support the local business community. Common Ground @Iskandar Space will be the largest co-working community in Iskandar Malaysia, occupying two floors with
14,500 square feet of space that can accommodate about 290 occupants. The facilities are complemented by meeting rooms, event spaces and recreational areas.
The re-skilling and upskilling of talent comes under the purview of Perantis Iskandar - a dedicated human capital development programme by EduCity Iskandar aimed at revitalising economic development for the Iskandar Malaysia region. The goal is to educate and develop technical talent that will be readily employable for specific industries.
The programme supports the government’s Penjana scheme – an effort to address severe unemployment caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Perantis Iskandar, modelled after Germany’s highly successful apprenticeship programme, was designed to meet industries’ demands for qualified technical talent through reskilling and upskilling.
The programme encompasses a combination of six months’ training and on-the-job attachment with guaranteed one year employment at the end of the training period. The talent pool would be derived from unemployed youths up to 35 years old who possess SPM, STPM, Diploma or a Bachelor’s degree.
Perantis Iskandar apprentices who have completed their training would be assigned to specific industries that they had trained for and a minimum salary of RM2,000 per month is guaranteed. Several local and international agencies as well as corporations in the Gig Economy have been appointed as authorised industry and technology partners. Following Perantis Iskandar 1.0, that was funded by government grants for Johor recipients, Perantis Iskandar 2.0 would be industry funded, coordinated for a longer duration and available nationwide.
Another feather in the cap for IIB is the Johor Digital and Emerging Technology Talent Programme (JDETT). This programme looks at developing, nurturing and creating talent to support the emerging technology sector in the Iskandar Puteri region, in collaboration with the state and federal governments, supported by its industry, talent,
training, and funding partners.
JDETT is an initiative to create high value job opportunities for Johoreans in the Digital and Emerging Technology sector. This initiative aims to help alleviate economic challenges for the people of Johor, by helping to develop high-value jobs and ‘talent-pool’ including upskilling and re-skilling programmes, new education and training partnerships. The JDETT programme is a key milestone and initiative in IIB’s long-term vision for Iskandar Puteri, as part of the bigger picture in the overall development of the Johor Digital Economy landscape.
Guided by Iskandar NEXT’s pillars of New Digital Economy, New Experience and New Talent, a new component to this is the development of the Iskandar Innovation Hub (iHub). iHub supports the growth of Medini Iskandar as a regional centre of innovation with an integrated business hub model for the ecosystem. Located in Medini 9, iHub serves as a regional nerve centre of innovation and emerging technology that offers diverse spaces for enterprises and SMEs seeking a vibrant ecosystem.
A significant development within the Medini digital hub is the recently launched DHL Applied Analytics Hub (DAA Hub)- the first in Malaysia for DHL, a global leader in the logistics industry. It is expected to host business development and networking meetings to ideate, incubate and create cutting-edge analytics projects for DHL’s clients and corporations based in Iskandar Malaysia. The setting up of this hub also involved Malaysian Global Innovation & Creativity Centre (MaGIC) and Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) as collaborative partners.
Addressing Johor’s food security agenda is a matter of concern to the state government, especially since the Covid-19 pandemic exposed the state’s vulnerability. This is another strategic objective of Iskandar NEXT. Smart farming would be introduced to vacant land within Iskandar Puteri that are not earmarked for development and monetisation.
Opportunities are being explored for smart agriculture ventures to produce high quality agriculture products for the export market as well as to support the government’s food security programme. Smart technology such as drones would be employed to ensure high productivity and cost-efficient operation.
Iskandar Puteri, spanning 9,712 hectares with 1.8 million population, is a sustainable city within Iskandar Malaysia. It is the first drone and robotics zone (DRZ) in South-east Asia. The Asian drone market is expected to expand from USD8.6 billion in 2020 to an impressive USD17.9 billion by 2025.
Malaysia aspires to be the frontrunner in the drone technology industry and capture this market that promises vast potential. As the facilitator of an innovative ecosystem, DRZ Iskandar is expected to draw RM351 million in investments and create high value jobs in drone and robotics technology within the next four years. DRZ Iskandar has designated two drone test sites, a 10 hectare site for Visual Line of Sight (VLOS) testing and an up to 1,200 hectares site for Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS).
The Johor Digital Masterplan, a component of the ‘7 Ikhtiar Makmur Johor’ (seven initiatives towards Johor’s prosperity), is the rallying point of Iskandar NEXT. Iskandar NEXT lends noteworthy support to the Johor State’s digital economy agenda and plays a significant role towards achieving Iskandar Malaysia’s aspiration as a regional commercial and digital hub. This in turn would contribute towards greater socio-economic impact for Johor in particular and the Malaysian economy in general.
The successful implementation of Iskandar NEXT as an advanced digital ecosystem for next-generation technologies would contribute to enhance Iskandar Malaysia’s brand as the region’s commercial and digital hub at the southernmost tip of Asia. At the same time, it would spell success for Johor’s digital economy aspirations and make Johor Vision 2030 a reality for the state’s economic progress.
As a powerful catalyst, particularly in the Southern Region, IIB aims to play an important role in economic transformation where capital needs will have a purpose beyond mere ‘returns’. A purpose to contribute to the development of communities – in economic, environmental and social terms.
In this regard, the initiatives and programmes introduced by IIB in the last few months, as part of Iskandar NEXT, are clearly reflective of the organisation’s philosophy and approach in advocating this new ‘era’ of Environment, Social and Governance (ESG). This also involves ensuring ethical, sustainable, corporate governance issues and systems be put in place for accountability.
The importance of taking into account how the activities of a business would impact the world around it should be second to none. In the context of IIB’s programmes and initiatives, talent development and creating employment opportunities fall under the ‘Social’ obligation aspect of ESG.
In addition, good ‘Governance’ which includes a company’s culture, structure, policies and procedures, is crucial in ensuring organisations would be able to face and overcome challenges such as those brought about by the current pandemic scenario.