About Zaini Ujang


My Story

SSTM, PJN, DSNS, DNS, PPT, AMP (Harvard), Ph.D. (Environ. Eng.)(Newcastle), M.Sc. (Environ. Eng.) (Newcastle), B.Chem.Eng. (UTM), Hon. Fellow ASEAN Eng. (AFEO), F.I.Chem.E. (UK), F.A.Sc. (M), Fellow Royal Physiographic Society (Sweden), FIWA (UK), FCMarEng (IMAREST),  P.Eng. (M), C.Eng. (UK Engineering Council), C.Sci. (UK Science Council), C.W.E.M. (UK), FIEM, FIM (M)

Dato’ Seri Ir. Dr. Zaini Ujang is a national figure for his contributions as a public administrator, professional environmental engineer, academician, innovator, author and environmentalist in Malaysia. He was the first recipient of the most prestigious Merdeka Award 2009 for Outstanding Scholastic Achievement and became the youngest Vice-Chancellor in the history of public university in Malaysia, when he was appointed at the age of 43.  New Straits Times hailed him as a “Malaysian Water Icon” in 2004. Malaysian national news agency, BERNAMA introduced him as an “environmental ideologue”. This is in recognition for his outstanding contribution to management, research, teaching and advocacy works related to the environmental sustainability, especially on waste and wastewater management, policy formulation and technology development. Despite his tight work schedule and commitment to formulate environmental policy at the national level, he spends time to enhance innovation by engaging academic fraternity of the highest level. He has been a Visiting Professor at Imperial College, London (since 2013) and Tsukuba University, Japan (since 2013), and research associate at Massachusettes Institute of Technology (MIT).


Zaini obtained his B.Eng. (Chemical Engineering) in 1988 from UTM (where he then became the first alumni as Vice-Chancellor/President 20 years later), and MSc and PhD in environmental engineering from the University of Newcastle, UK. He is also an alumni of Harvard Business School for Advanced Managament Program (AMP177, 2009). He started his academic career in UTM in 1988, as assistant lecturer, then became professor in 2002; and known as an exemplary, multi-tasking academic and opinion leader, particularly in research and development, innovation and entrepreneurship, postgraduate studies and policy formulation. His academic experience encompasses strategic and corporate leadership, institutional restructuring, innovation ecosystem, and research profiling. He was also responsible for various national initiatives on higher education in the late 1990s during his tenure as Special Officer to the Minister of Education then, with special tasks on higher education policy, particularly on corporatization of public universities, formulation of private universities, formulation of loan for higher education (PTPTN) and academic R&D strategic portfolio. Since 2009, he has developed and published concepts related to “new academia” which integrates various components of experiential learning, scientific entrepreneurship and value innovation.


During his tenure as Vice-Chancellor (2008-2013) of UTM – which is the oldest technical university in Malaysia and Southeast Asia – he has initiated various research collaborations between UTM and prestigious universities such as Harvard, MIT, Imperial College, Kyoto, Tsukuba, Cambridge and Oxford. For more than 5 years, Zaini has led collaborative research with two top professors of MIT, Professor Lawrence Susskind on Sustainable Cities and Professor Anthony Sinskey on Industrial Biotechnology. He also initiated the establishment of Oxford-UTM Centre for Industrial and Applied Mathematics and has been working closely with Imperial College London on Energy Futures with Prof. Ricardo M. Botas. The UTM Endowment and Research University (more than 50% were MSc and PhD students) initiaves started during his tenures as Vice-Chancellor.


In July 2013, Zaini was appointed as the Secretary General in charge of higher education for Malaysia. During his three-year-tenure, he chaired a technical committee to develop the Malaysia Higher Education Blueprint (2016-2025), and playbooks on funding, governance, research and quality frameworks for public higher education institutions in Malaysia.


In August 2016, Zaini moved on to become the Secretary General for the Ministry of Energy, Green Technology and Water. He spearheaded a team to develop Malaysia Green Technology Master Plan (2017-2030). In short, his assignment is to lead the Ministry to innovate and manage resources strategically to ensure availability, reliability and affordability of energy and water services and to advance the application of green technology to as well as promoting Green Economy and Green Living. In addition, he was instrumental in introducing new policies in managing raw water quality, enhancing water augmentation using off-river storage, reviewing design parameters for sewerage infrastructures; energy policy particularly on renewable energy and new business model for energy security and future energy.


He also sits on various boards, such as the Water Asset Management Ltd (PAAB, fully owned by Ministry of Finance), Sustainable Energy Development Authority (SEDA), Malaysia-Thailand Joint Authority (MTJA), Chemical Companies of Malaysia (CCM), Institute of Sultan Iskandar for Urban Habitat and High Rise Buildings (since 2008), Malaysia Qualification Agency (2013-2016), National Higher Education Fund Corp (PTPTN 2013-2016), Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (2013-2016), International Islamic Universiti Malaysia (2013-2016), Multimedia Technology Enhancement Operations (METEOR 2008-2013) and Chair of Proton Technology Advisory Council (PTAC 2010-2013). In addition, he has served in various committees on innovation in Malaysia such as the National Blue Ocean Strategy and National Innovation Award Select Committee.


To top if off, he also served as the Senior Advisor to the Prince Khalid bin Sultan Chair on Water Research, King Saud University, Saudi Arabia (2010-2012). He was appointed as Chairman of Environmental Quality Council, Malaysia, the national agency regulating environmental control and management, and policy initiatives (2009-2016).  His vast expertise and vast experience qualify him as founding Member, National Commission on Water Services (SPAN) since its establishment (2007-2015) to regulate water services industry in Malaysia.


He was Vice-President of International Water Association (2004 – 2006), Editor of Water Science and Technology since 2000, and is currently the President of Harvard Business School Alumni Club of Malaysia (since 2016).


As an accomplished writer, Zaini has published more than 250 technical papers (more than 100 published in indexed international journals), 33 books, co-athored more than 30 policy papers and several book chapters, many research monographs and technical reports on environmental engineering, and more than 1,000 articles on environment, innovation and higher education. Despite his busy schedule as an senior government official, he regards publication as top priority and still publishes technical journal papers in ISI-indexed journals such as Bioresource Technology, Water Science Technology and Desalination. He co-authored the best-seller textbook with Prof. Mogens Henze on Municipal Wastewater Management for Developing Countries (IWAP, London, 2006), and co-edited a WEMS series on Environmental Biotechnology. He was appointed Member of the Editorial Board, Water Science & Technology (impact factor 1.24 in 2007, Publisher: IWA Publishing, London), WST Water Supply,Water and Environmental Management Series (IWA Publishing) and Membrane Water Treatment (Korea, Techno-Press).


He has registered more than 20 intellectual property rights jointly owned with his co-workers and former students, and has commercialised six research products including (a) StormWater Filter (b) Software for Wastewater Treatment Plant Design Advisor (WASDA), (c) Hybrid Membrane Bioreactor (d) River Bank Infiltration System (e) Software on Environmental Health Risk Assessment (RISKAS) and (f) Software on Integrated Solid Waste Management Plan (ISWAM). He has commercialised a software on the Cost Estimation of Water and Wastewater Facilities (COWAS) and Aerobic Granule Production for Activated Sludge Processes.


Zaini is a Fellow of the Royal Physiographical Society of Lund (Sweden), Fellow of Academy of Science Malaysia, Honorary Fellow of ASEAN Engineers, Fellow Institute of Chemical Engineers (FIChemE, UK), Fellow of the Institution of Engineers (Malaysia), Fellow of the International Water Association (FIWA),

Fellow of the Institute of Mgmt. (Malaysia), Fellow of the Institution of Engineers (Malaysia), Hon. Prof. (Imperial College London).


An avid reader, Zaini invites others to share reading experiences through Facebook “Malaysia Book Clkub”; a motivator, prolific writer and columnist. He wrote a weekly column in Malay dailies (Utusan Malaysia (1988-1998) and Berita Harian (2004-2011). In addition, he is also social media savvy, and embraces technology and the new media. As for his hobbies, Prof. Zaini is keen on horse riding, cycling and walking.


He is married to Dr Zainah Moktar, a medical doctor-turned-health-advisor and author of books on healthy living; and father to Siti Fatimah (25), Aishah (24), Muhammad Arif (19) and Maryam (16).



 Download Curriculum Vitae  (March 2013) [pdf]

Download Short Curriculum Vitae  (March 2013) [pdf]


Download Curriculum Vitae (March 2013) [word]

Download Short Curriculum Vitae  (Malay Version) (March 2013)[word]

Download Biodata (English Version) (March 2013) ) [word]

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