USM-WD CiA Lab is established within the Western Digital premise at Batu Kawan, Penang – the first of its kind in Malaysia

PENANG, 15 January 2021 – Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) and Western Digital (WD) today announced a long-term collaboration to establish the Centre of Innovation and Automation (CiA), an exclusive technology hub that is focused on driving Industry 4.0 (IR4.0) design and development, prototype build-up and intellectual property (IP) generation.

The collaboration was officiated at a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) signing ceremony today at USM’s main campus here.


From left: Mr. Vishwanath Ramaswamy (Site General Manager, Western Digital); Mr. KL Bock (Vice President of Global Flash Backend Operations, Western Digital); Prof. Dr. Faisal Rafiq Mahamd Adikan (Vice-Chancellor, USM); and Prof. Dato' Ir. Dr. Abdul Rahman Mohamed (Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Research & Innovation, USM)

This USM-WD partnership aims to bridge and foster closer ties between leading industry players and the academic community, bringing together the brightest minds and talents to drive breakthrough technology advancements in manufacturing technology.

Under this initiative, both organisations will work together on industry-driven research projects and promote research outputs. Selected PhD students will also enjoy attachment opportunities.

USM Vice-Chancellor, Professor Dr. Faisal Rafiq Mahamd Adikan, said, “the involvement of USM with the industry further emphasises USM’s commitment in providing the educational and research experience that is beyond the norm to our academicians, researchers, technical staff and students.

“USM is also committed to forging more industrial collaborations and also creating new ones by forming start-ups. It is therefore increasingly important to have university-industry partnerships in order to keep abreast of the latest developments and trends within the context of IR4.0,” he said.

He further explained, “this collaboration with Western Digital, being the leader in data infrastructure, is truly timely and appropriate. The setting up of this CiA project is the first of its kind in Malaysia, where it puts the ‘university within the industry’ to bring the lecturers and more importantly the students, first-hand experience to equip themselves to be ‘industry-ready’.”

“What was learned previously in labs could now be transformed, transferred and applied in real-world scenarios. This will surely bring added value and further boost the value chain within the industrial sector,” he added.

According to KL Bock, WD Vice President of Global Flash Backend Operations, the collaboration with USM will further anchor their efforts in the area of Lights Out Automation to achieve resilient operations in dynamic environments and immense gains in both productivity and quality.

“The collaboration also reflects our ongoing commitment to the community at large in the development of local talents, industrial capacity and technological co-transfer,” he said.

The CiA will focus on strengthening and amplifying PRiSMS-DnA® elements with IR4.0 components such as Big Data Analytics, Internet-of-Things, Mixed/Augmented Reality, System Integration, Additive Manufacturing, Simulation, Autonomous Collaborative Robots, Cloud Computing and Cognitive Computing.

The MoA was signed on behalf of Western Digital by Bock and Site General Manager, Vishwanath Ramaswamy, while USM was represented by Faisal Rafiq and Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research & Innovation), Professor Dato’ Ir. Dr. Abdul Rahman Mohamed.


WD Group Chairman, Malaysia Operations, Datuk (Dr.) Syed Hussian Aljunid; USM Board of Governors Chairman, Dato’ Dr. Awang Adek Hussin, as well as the top officials from the Higher Education Ministry, Western Digital and USM also joined the ceremony via Webex.


Western Digital is an American hard disk drive manufacturer and data storage company that creates environments for data to thrive. Western Digital has invested almost RM18 billion since establishing its operations in Malaysia in 1973. Western Digital data-centric solutions are comprised of the Western Digital®, G-Technology™, SanDisk® and WD® brands.

Text: Mohamad Hafiz Asyraf (MPRC intern)/Editing: Tan Ewe Hoe/Photo: Ebrahim Abdul Manan & Mohd Fairus Md Isa

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