Life sciences gain focus as 4.0 shift gets under way
With strong support from the government and research institutes, the life sciences sector is shaping up as a rising Thai industry with higher value, according to researchers and innovation experts.
Life sciences, or biosciences, are any of several branches of science, such as microbiology, zoology, botany or ecology, that deal with living organisms and their organisation, life processes and relationships to each other and their environment.
As one of the 10 targeted sectors that the government is supporting in the sector to push the value of the Thai economy higher and move the country to "Thailand 4.0", experts believe more life science research is due to be commercialised over the next few years.
Until now, most research came from ambitious professors and researchers looking to further their careers, making commercialisation of research and innovation very rare.
Thailand Center of Excellence for Life Science (TCELS) chief executive Nares Damrongchai said the life science sector has been brought to attention this year after the government implemented long-term policies to push Thailand to be an innovation-based economic growth.
To commercialise more research, TCELS has been set up to act as a matchmaker between investors and researchers. TCELS was launched many years ago, but not much research was commercialised until this year, when more private firms and investors have started looking into studies and research that could add value to their products and services, said Mr Nares.
Recently, TCELS hosted "Promoting Life Science Innovation with Investment" in Bangkok to display 10 research projects that are ready to be commercialised, with almost 100 researchers and businesses joining the event.
There were many researchers, financiers, venture capital, funds and private firms paying attention to the presentations, which ranged from food supplements, medical equipment and medical remedies from top universities across Thailand.
Mr Nares said matchmaking is crucial to create connections between researchers and private firms or investors.
TCELS, has planned another event during Sept 6-8 at Bitec Bangna under the theme "Thailand's Lab International 2017", which is estimated to bring in more than 100 visitors to join the event.
Assoc Prof Sakarindr Bhumiratana, president of King Mongkut's University of Technology Thonburi (KMUTT) said ageing societies in Thailand and other countries in the region will play a major role in the increasing commercial focus on biosciences.
The Internet of Things and improving telecommunication facilities in Thailand have also opened opportunities for businesses with new innovations, he said, adding that many businesses are moving to become more innovation-based.
Mr Sakarindr said the R&D budget in Thailand has tripled to 0.63% of total gross domestic product last year, up from only 0.2% in 2012.
The private sector has also increased investment in R&D, contributing to 50% of total R&D budget, up from 30% 2012.