Curtin Malaysia and Malaysian Pepper Board sign research MoU

Miri – 12 December 2017 – Curtin University, Malaysia (Curtin Malaysia) and the Malaysian Pepper Board (MPB) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to initiate collaborative high-impact research and development relating to the pepper industry and its potential commercial opportunities at Curtin Malaysia.

This comes with the advent of the Sarawak Government-funded BioValley Park Project pilot plant facility situated at the Curtin Malaysia campus. The RM50 million pilot plant with state-of-the-art facilities and equipment, including an over RM4 million pilot scale carbon dioxide extraction system manufactured in Austria, has been under development for close to two years and is now operational.

Signing on behalf of MPB at a signing ceremony at the new facility was Director-General Dr. Harry Entebang and Deputy Director-General Othman Bin Sajili, while Curtin Malaysia Pro Vice-Chancellor, President and Chief Executive Professor Jim Mienczakowski and Dean, R&D/Director of the Curtin Malaysia Research Institute (CMRI), Professor Clem Kuek signed for the university.

MPB Senior Director Vincent Sawat, Senior Director Catherine Umbit, Director Zehnder Jarroop Augustine Mercer, Acting Director Nurasyikin Abdul Rahmand and Miri Head of Office Frankie Giant were also present, while Senior Lecturer Freddie Panau and several Curtin Malaysia Research Institute staff were among the Curtin Malaysia representatives.

In his speech during the ceremony, Professor Mienczakowski said Curtin Malaysia is pleased to support MPB’s commitment to research and development relating to the pepper industry and believes that the university’s research expertise can be leveraged to commercialise research findings for the benefit of the industry, especially in scaling up MPB’s lab findings and in the pilot plant scale production of black pepper extracts.

According to Professor Kuek, oleoresin and oil from pepper is a valuable food ingredient with worldwide demand. Its extraction via liquid carbon dioxide under extreme pressures avoids the objectionable presence of residual chemicals associated with the alternative solvent extraction method.

He added that during commissioning tests, oleoresin and oil from Sarawak black pepper were successfully extracted via the pilot scale carbon dioxide extraction system, one of only a handful of such systems in the country and the only one in East Malaysia.

Professor Mienczakowski commented that both MPB and Curtin Malaysia recognised the huge potential of the plant to explore potential commercial opportunities. He also welcomed MPB staff to undergo training and spend time on attachment at the pilot plant.

“As Curtin University’s largest international campus and global hub here in Asia, our research activity has experienced extremely strong growth over the years, both in volume and significance.

Underpinning our research endeavours are our strong partnerships with industries, business and government, which result in outcomes that also greatly benefit the broader community. This collaboration with MPB is a significant milestone in that academia-industry partnership,” he said.

The BioValley Park Project is the first of its kind in Sarawak and will significantly boost R&D and knowledge accumulation in the state to meet its particular research and technological needs.

The rationale for establishing the facility is that there is huge potential to develop the state’s bioeconomy by utilising its rich biodiversity which remains relatively untapped.

The facility will support the development of new bioproducts and processes and provide pilot plant facilities to assist industries in phytochemical and bioprocesses; high quality testing and development facilities for bioindustries in product analysis, product enhancement and quality assurance; and Incubator facilities for emerging enterprises in the bioeconomy. It will also contract research and training for the industry and research agencies.

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Professor Mienczakowski and Dr. Harry Entebang exchanging MoU documents, flanked by Othman Bin Sajili and Professor Clem Kuek.

MPB and Curtin Malaysia representatives pose for group photo following signing.

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