When it comes to high-tech, Malaysia's investments are attracting the brand-name companies of today and promising to woo the emerging-tech industries of tomorrow.
Indeed, Malaysia is rising from its electronics manufacturing roots to become a major player in biotechnology, medical device manufacturing, semiconductors, solar power, and value-added tech production. And the nation's economic and political stability, along with its pro-business government, offer a solid framework for technology companies to expand there.
Malaysia's high-tech parks are leading the way. Kulim High-Tech Park in south Kedah - 40 kilometers from the island of Penang, Malaysia - offers 4,200 acres of development with a strategic location, support facilities, and human resources for high-tech manufacturing and research and development (R&D) activities.
Kulim, the "Science City of the Future," is the Malaysian home to companies like Intel, AIC Semiconductor, Fuji Electric, Infineon Technologies, and BASF Electronic Materials. The park is attracting the attention of diverse tech industries, including biotech, aerospace, alternative energy, and optoelectronics with its city-within-a-park paradigm that includes a fire department, police station, mosque, restaurants, and hospitals.
First Solar has already begun exporting its thin film solar modules and is further expanding its plants in Kulim High-Tech Park. The company is investing $680 million there. "Our expansion into Asia enables us to achieve cost reductions through economies of scale in a high-quality manufacturing environment," says Bruce Sohn, president of First Solar. "Our new manufacturing facilities in Kedah will play a vital role in helping the company achieve our stated goals and objectives."
Among other players in the solar cell industry having a presence in Malaysia are Q-Cells from Germany and Sun Power from the United States. These companies are in the process of building facilities for silicon photovoltaic wafers/cells/modules/panels in two different states in Malaysia. A UK company, BP Solar, is also producing solar systems, and Singapore-based ReneSola is producing processed silicon materials and solar wafers. Malaysia is making itself known as the region's hub for the solar cell industry, attracting other related companies supplying material, products, and services to the sector.
Nearby Penang is a high-tech hub all its own. Indeed, Penang is a semiconductor center, home to the likes of industry giants Intel, AMD, and Western Digital. More than 160 companies are involved in the electrical and electronics sector there. Beyond its semiconductor clusters, Penang has two specific initiatives that are drawing global attention: the Multimedia Super Corridor Malaysia Cybercity (MSC Malaysia) and the Penang Biotech Park.
MSC Malaysia is Malaysia's pitch to the information and communication technology (ICT) sector. Nokia, Cisco, Motorola, Lotus, Alcatel, IBM, and dozens of other household ICT brands have taken up residence in the park. The Penang Biotech Park, meanwhile, is home to organizations that lead the world in marine biotechnology, such as the World Fish Centre and the Fisheries Research Institute.
Located about 50 kilometers from the capital city of Kuala Lumpur, Cyberjaya is Malaysia's ICT Valley. There you'll find Multimedia Development Corporation's facilities, which are home to Nokia, EDS, HSBC, Shell, and DHL. And, of course, Kuala Lumpur is home to the 750-acre Technology Park Malaysia. Alcatel, Lotus, and many others are tapping into the potential for technology companies that understand Malaysia is a strategic profit center in Asia.
If the growing presence of multinational companies and the high-tech industrial parks don't convince you, consider the sheer numbers. Malaysia's electrical and electronics industry alone was worth $83.2 billion in 2007. Consumer electronics accounted for another nearly $2 billion, and electronic components generated $31.3 billion. With Malaysia streamlining its business approval processes and investing more in capital improvements, economic development experts say this is just the beginning for the Asian nation. These measures undertaken by the government have resulted in Malaysia moving up its ease-of-doing business ranking four places to 20th out of a total of 181 economies surveyed in the World Bank's Doing Business 2009 report.