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From R&D to commerce

MULTIMEDIA Research Lab Sdn Bhd (Mlabs) opened its doors for business in October, 1997.

The Penang company, formerly known as Profound Blue Sdn Bhd, is a spin-off of venture capital firm Compquest Sdn Bhd that was responsible for funding the Multimedia Conferencing System (MCS) research work.

Compquest holds a 35% stake in Mlabs, while the balance is divided among individual shareholders.

Mlabs, with a paid-up capital of RM200,000, has a workforce of 24 -- of which 14 are involved in R&D. Its principal activities are in research and development. Other products that were locally developed and marketed by Mlabs include a network monitoring software (NetMon) and an EB14X-Ethernet switch.

The Ethernet switch won the IT Product of the Year (Software and Hardware) Ward by the Association of the Computer Industry Malaysia (Pikom) in 1996. Other products in its stable include the Icon Medical System (IMS) and Icon Dental System (IDS).

Recently, Mlabs signed an agreement with Universiti Sains Malaysia to undertake the promotion and marketing of MCS. According to USM lecturer Sureswaran Ramadass, the agreement is essentially what the government has been pushing for -- companies that are formed with research ideas.

``Universities have their limitations in terms of funding and capital. So the private sector steps in and provide funding to continue the research work,'' he says.

He adds that Mlabs is a collaboration between the private sector and tertiary institutions.

``They don't interfere with the way we do things, so we become what we call a very strong research body. We share the responsibilities and profit sharing, although the research is funded entirely by the company. But part of the profits are channelled back to the university for funding other research work,'' he says.

Mlabs also signed up Wawasan Interaktif Teknology (sic) Sdn Bhd as an MCS distributor in Kuala Lumpur.

Mlabs made its first sale abroad when it signed on a company in the United Arab Emirates as a distributor. It is planning to license its products to American and Japanese multinationals.

The company is presently negotiating with interested local and foreign parties to further improve its distribution channels and positioning as a premier conferencing product in the growing marketplace.

Mlabs also plans to apply for Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) status. For more information, check out http://network2.cs.usm.my/~mlabs.

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