Funding of B8bn for researchers
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Funding of B8bn for researchers

Injection to upgrade local workforce

A student works at a robotics laboratory of King Mongkut's Institute of Technology Ladkrabang (KMITL). (Photo: KMITL)
A student works at a robotics laboratory of King Mongkut's Institute of Technology Ladkrabang (KMITL). (Photo: KMITL)

Thailand Science Research and Innovation (TSRI) has allocated 8 billion baht for the country to bolster its supply of young researchers, aiming to support S-curve industries such as artificial intelligence (AI), electric vehicles (EVs) and quantum technologies.

The budget for fiscal 2025 also calls for equipping 100,000 employees to support the semiconductor industry, capitalising on opportunities stemming from geopolitical conflicts.

"Thailand urgently needs to add more researchers to support the country's competitiveness in science and innovation, in particular to support S-curve industries," said Sirirurg Songsivilai, chairman of the National Commission on Science, Research and Innovation.

Young researchers with varied expertise are needed to cope with future challenges, he said.

The country also needs more research infrastructure, new equipment and laboratories, research funding and a network for research collaboration, said Mr Sirirurg.

These "frontier" researchers, industries and social science researchers will have the capabilities to develop the country, he said.

Frontier research is described as expanding the frontiers of knowledge, leading to new discoveries.

In fiscal 2025, the government allocated a budget of 19.3 billion baht for R&D covering 195 agencies and institutions. Of the total, 8 billion baht is for human development, with 2.5 billion of that amount to promote young researchers.

Patamawadee Pochanukul, president of TSRI, said Thailand has 250,000 researchers, or 24 per 10,000 people in the country. However, Thailand needs 42 researchers per 10,000 people, or roughly 420,000 researchers in 2027, she said. The country needs to spend 30 billion baht to achieve this goal.

Thailand has 14,000 researchers at the forefront of global research and wants to reach 38,000 by 2027, said Ms Patamawadee, with highly skilled workers numbering 3.95 million, with a goal of 15.2 million by 2027.

Having a high-skilled workforce will increase income per capita to 513,000 baht per year, from the current 248,000 baht per year, she said.

The country needs 160,000 annual graduates in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields by 2027, up from 110,000 at present, said Ms Patamawadee.

"We need to estimate the demand for frontier researchers in AI, EVs and quantum computing to support S-curve industries," said Nirawat Thammajak, vice-president of TSRI.

He said semiconductors is a strategic industry where Thailand needs to attract investment, given the geopolitical tensions between the US and China causing relocation of semiconductor plants away from Taiwan to Southeast Asia, mainly in Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam.

Mr Nirawat said Thailand has the potential to provide 100,000 high-skilled workers to supply the semiconductor industry. According to data from 2021, Thailand had 88,880 workers in related industries such as electrical engineering.

The Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation Ministry will propose to the cabinet development of a workforce plan to fulfil future demand in the semiconductor industry, he said.

Mr Nirawat said Thailand also needs social scientists and environmental researchers to help solve the country's problems.

"We need multidisciplinary work among researchers to tackle challenges such as PM2.5 pollution," he said.

Komatra Chuengsatiansup, director of the Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Anthropology Centre, said the social sciences have 100 leading researchers and 1,000 social scientists.

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