Science and technology have been integral to the evolution of sports. The disciplines of sports science, sports medicine and sports technology have elevated the medium to new heights, establishing efficient and proven ways to enhance the overall performance of athletes. Institut Sukan Negara (ISN – the National Sports Institute) was formed to ensure that Malaysia stands at the forefront of these fields. And by doing so, advance the performance of athletes and the sporting industry in general. CEO, Ahmad Faedzal Md Ramli, expounds on ISN’s goals for the future and how he aims to steer it forward in the post-pandemic reality.
Malaysia’s love for sports spans generations. There is something about it that ignites the competitive spirit in us – perhaps it is the thrilling displays of resolute or sportsmanship that make it so appealing. The condition of the athlete is integral to performance and the embrace of innovation and technology is key to enhancing capabilities to cater for these needs.
A leading sports agency, ISN carries out a number of functions to drive sports performance through science and technology. These include conducting scientific research, pioneering research and development and becoming the national resource centre for sports. Recently, the Institute embarked on its business and commercialisation exercise as part of its tireless efforts to fulfil its objectives effectively and efficiently.
The history of sports science and medical services in Malaysia can be traced back to 1977, offered to athletes through the medical unit under what was known then as the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports. After almost 35 years of championing the services, ISN was formed in 2011 as a statutory body under the Ministry of Youth and Sports to support the development of sports science, medicine and technology in Malaysia.
In the following years, ISN intensified its efforts to drive excellence in the development of science, medicine and technology. One of the ways it did this was by forming collaborations with local and international universities, fostering business and mutual understanding in Research and Development (R&D) as well as commercialisation.
In 2016, ISN set up the Athlete Management System (AMS), a web-based platform designed to store and share data with coaches and support staff. The platform also integrate and collates scientific information from all monitoring devices used by scientists for further analysis.
In 2017, it was recognised by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI), as the National Centre of Excellence (CoE) in Sports Technology and Development (R&D). 2019 marked the official launch of the National Sports Medicine Centre.
More recently, ISN has been modernising the education of coaches through the National Coaching Academy (AKK). For instance, it implemented an e-learning system that emphasises theoretical and practical aspects through a series of programmes disseminated to all sports coaches throughout Malaysia. In addition, in April 2021, ISN spearheaded the creation of Malaysia’s first coach registry system – Malaysia Sports Coach Registry (MSCR).
Ahmad Faedzal notes that ISN has always placed focus on nurturing and steering a world-class integrated sports ecosystem in Malaysia. To that effect, the institution has evolved itself to meet and accelerate the development of sport science, medicine, and technology in Malaysia.
Sports biomechanics, physiology, psychology, nutrition as well as performance analysis, and strength & conditioning fall under ISN’s sports science auspices. Each of the services is accompanied with facilities and experts to assist athletes with managing and enhancing sports performance.
Meanwhile sports physiotherapy & rehabilitation, pharmacy & medication counselling, sports wellness check-ups, medical coverage for sports events, and more fall within ISN’s sports medicine category. Here the focus is on physical fitness and the treatment and prevention of injuries related to sports and exercise.
Research and innovation, more particularly translational research, research management, sports technology R&D, and scientific lab management are critical instruments for the institution to achieve its role and function. For instance, the Translational Research Centre primary role is to promote, educate and integrate the implementation of latest research findings in sports and health ecosystems.
The institute also collaborates with local and international organisations, universities, as well as sports technology experts in order to innovate and form solutions to the problems and challenges affecting sports performances.
Some of the noteworthy innovations borne out of these efforts include the production of high performance cycling equipment jointly developed with TOTALSIM Ltd, a UK based company This partnership is expected to be a catalyst for sports development and research, particularly within the high-performance sports technology in Malaysia
“Through this collaboration, we expect to generate local experts trained in the field of aerodynamic engineering and high performance sport applications” Ahmad Faedzal states adding that the results of the research can be patented and commercialised for future revenue generation.
The Commercial Initiative
Beyond sciences and technology, ISN is actively embarking on business and commercialisation initiatives to reduce dependency on government funds. In order to do this, the ISN Revenue Generation Policy was needed, which was established in 2019 to guide all commercial initiatives.
ISN has divided the commercialization initiative into two major parts: ‘Within ISN’ and ‘Beyond ISN’. The former consists of commercializing ISN assets such as expertise, services and facilities and the latter primarily deals with equity creation, that is to say, endorsements, private funded partnerships, co funded partnerships and the like.
Utilising ISN’s assets, ISN established the National Sports Medicine Centre, where it provides elite medicine services to the public at affordable costs. This simultaneously allows ISN to sustain operations while fulfilling on its core functions: to provide and conduct the necessary medical examination and treatment of athletes.
Through data analytics, ISN provides expertise in terms of performance analysis for sports events such as the inaugural Netball Super League (NSL2021) and the Sepak Takraw League (STL).
As the leading authority driving sports performance through science and technology, the ISN brand holds significant value. Ahmad Faedzal states that the institute has attracted several notable brands for endorsement including: Gatorade, Bleu, Yakult, FBT and LPM Support. Guided by the Revenue Generation Policy, and focusing on expertise and function beyond athletes and high performance sports, ISN managed to establish a number of subsidiaries to extend its reach to the public and the industry. Some of the subsidiaries and their functions are: Data Sukan Consulting Sdn Bhd (Data Analytics), Sports Digital Transformation Center Sdn Bhd (Digitalization of sport ecosystem), Genomas Sdn Bhd (DNA Profiling and Database Management) and Athletes For Athletes Solutions Sdn Bhd (A.I sports facility management). This way, ISN fulfils the second half of its commercial initiative – equity creation.
Transforming the Sporting Landscape
Several challenges stand in the way of ISN facilitating a world class integrated sports performance ecosystem. For instance, competitiveness in sports has increased demand for specialized and individual services. The new addition of events and categories at major events as well as the increasing focus of on an additional number of sports in national elite programs has strained the resource capacity of the institute.
To address some of these challenges, the V30 strategic plan was established to address some of the challenges faced by the institute, guiding the implementation of ISN activities, projects and programmes for the next ten years. “Our V30 strategic plan 2020-2030 sets out strategies for ISN to provide a world-leading high performance experts solutions dedicated to uncompromising culture of excellence to Malaysian athletes enabling them to perform to their full potential and continue to make Malaysia proud. Ahmad Faedzal states.
V30 entails 6 strategic thrusts formed to meet the challenges faced by ISN including: demand growth, human resource development, transfer of research knowledge to coaching and athletic application, Big data integration and stakeholder satisfaction.
V30 strategic thrusts
The 6 strategic thrusts under the V30 Strategic plan include integrated sports science services, impactful research and innovation, enhancing sports care environment, empowering coaching excellence, cultivating good governance and value creation.
ISN is at the forefront of driving sports science, sports medicine and sports technology in Malaysia. It has evolved in line with the needs of the nation and set out appropriate strategies to ensure Malaysia’s sports performance continues to grow to meet and perhaps outpace innovations that come with increased sports competitiveness. Growing from strength to strength, ISN is setting the ingredients to fulfil its goal: to be a nexus within the ASEAN that drives the ecosystem of sports performance.