Published on August 28, 2007
Becoming a leading research-and-development organisation on the world stage, the National Science and Technology Development Agency has set up the NSTDA International Advisory Committee (IAC) to advise the agency on its activities and direction while strengthening collaboration with other countries in science and technology development.
Set up five months ago, the committee earlier this month conducted a two-day annual meeting to review NSTDA's activities on the development of science and technology in Thailand.
NSTDA's assistant president Sirirurg Songsvilat, who is also the committee's secretary, said that after reviewing the agency's overall activities and visiting all research laboratories, the committee realised the importance of NSTDA as the country's R&D organisation which brought science and technology to support industries.
The committee comprises 14 members who are senior executives from both public and private science and technology organisations, as well as renowned scientists in various fields around the world. The committee is headed by Hiroyuki Yoshikawa, the president of the National Institute of Advance Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) from Japan.
Other members include Calestous Juma, the director of Science, Technology and Globalisation Project at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government; Johnsee Lee, the president of Industrial Technology Research Institute from Taiwan; Narayana Murthy, the chairman of Infosys Technologies from India; and Nobel Prize Laureate from Germany, Bert Sakmann.
Apart from pushing research work for practical use through the cluster model, Sirirurg said the committee suggested the agency should also develop a long-term science and technology foundation by conducting basic research as well.
"Conducting basic research will give the country a strong science and technology foundation to make more developments in the future," he said.
The committee agreed that the agency should conduct both basic and applied research in parallel and it should determine a proper proportion for the two kinds of research.
For Thailand, Sirirurg said a suitable proportion for basic and applied research would be 30:70.
To make the country stronger in science and technology, the committee said the country should increase the number of scientists. The number of scientists in Thailand is still low at only 6.7 per 10,000 of population while other newly industrial countries like Korea, Taiwan and Singapore have 38.9, 57 and 60 scientists per 10,000 of population respectively.
Sirirurg said the committee also agreed on biotechnology, information and communication technology, material science and nanotechnology as areas that NSTDA had already put a focus on.
They recommended that instead of putting a focus on developing each technology separately, the agency should create links among the four technologies when it comes to research and development.
Sirirurg said in this new era, the development would move to technology convergence so the agency should put more emphasis on combining different technologies to conduct new research and development work.
Once nanotechnology combines with electronics, for example, it would lead to a new area of nano-electronics which could be used in the automotive or medical industry, while the adoption of nanotechnology in biotechnology would bring discoveries of new active ingredients which could be used to develop new drugs.
The agency is now gathering all the comments from the committee so it can analyse the direction the agency should look to and these will be used to adjust the agency's plan for science and technology development.
He said the committee members, who were all appointed by the NSTDA board, would have three-year terms and there would be annual meetings to review and give advice to NSTDA.