Forging the path forward
Catch a glimpse of award-winning Thai inventions at an upcoming exhibition at Bitec
Thailand may not be famous for innovation, but there are many talented inventors in the Kingdom. At "Thailand Inventors' Day 2023", visitors will be impressed by inventions by Thai innovators such as a special oral hygiene set for bed-ridden patients, a smart gun for formalin detection in food, microneedles with customisable features, plant-based minced dried meat and a colourimetric LAMP-XO for quick diagnosis of African swine fever.
With over 1,000 inventions from Thai and international innovators at the event, highlights include two innovations which won the grand prizes at the Seoul International Invention Fair 2022 (SIIF), South Korea. The first was a mobile negative pressure isolation room made by researchers from the King Mongkut Institute of Technology Ladkrabang and a device called Lang Prom for people who have office syndrome and back pain, invented by students of Chulalongkorn Demonstration School.
This year, Thailand Inventors' Day takes place at Bangkok International Trade & Exhibition Centre (Bitec), hall 100 to 102 from Feb 2-6. The theme of the event is "Driving Thai Economy And Society With Inventions And Innovations". At the event, various exhibitions are on display, including The Father of Thai Invention, exhibitions to commemorate His Majesty the King and Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, National Research Awards Exhibition, Innovative Inventions Exhibition, Internationally Awarded Inventions Exhibition, Value-adding Invention Exhibition, Funarium Sky Drone and the Art of Invention.
Competitions include the Bangkok International Intellectual Property, Invention and Technology Exposition and Thailand New Gen Inventors Awards 2023. There are more than 80 seminar topics and training workshops for the public.
Life spoke to Wiparat De-Ong, executive director of the National Research Council of Thailand (NRCT) about Thailand Inventors' Day and the future of Thai inventors.
Wiparat De-Ong, executive director of the National Research Council of Thailand.
As the theme suggests, can you explain how inventions and innovations help drive Thailand's economy and society?
Almost all inventions selected for demonstration can be utilised. Among many award-winning inventions and innovations, Tao Bin Robotic Barista is created by researchers and innovators that Thailand can be proud of. The machine can bring business opportunities and has been exported to Asean and is likely to expand further to other regions.
Innovation can solve problems in industries such as agriculture, engineering and public health. One example is the mobile negative pressure isolation room by researchers from King Mongkut Institute of Technology Ladkrabang. During the Covid-19 pandemic, this technology was used in an intensive care unit to separate patients at risk of infection from others in a field hospital. Another example is Lang Prom, an innovation for people who have office syndrome and back pain made by students of Chulalongkorn Demonstration School. Lang Prom is a cushion with sensors accompanied by the application Oh My Back! Lang Prom can detect and warn users when they sit in the wrong position.
NRCT also presented an award to a creation involving art, tourism and society. With unique patterns, gold-striped vases from Nakhon Si Thammarat won this award. Due to their unique design, the vases have opened up many marketing opportunities.
How does NRCT support inventors and innovators?
For over a decade, NRCT has provided opportunities and has inspired inventors and innovators by offering the National Research Awards divided into four categories -- National Outstanding Researcher Award, Research Award, Thesis Award and Invention Award. These awards are one of the several factors which inspire researchers to create and continually improve their work. These award-winning researchers then became role models for young innovators and researchers.
PigXY-AMP, a colourimetric LAMP-XO for quick diagnosis of African swine fever.
Are there any seminars that you would like to recommend?
There is a seminar about the Thailand Research and Innovation Utilization Promotion Act B.E. 2021 which people should know about. There are also seminars about modern society such as AI Innovation to Drive Thailand's Progress and How to Raise Thai Children in the Digital Age. The second topic is a fun one that young visitors may like.
In addition to seminars, there are fun activities such as brain cognitive ability tests administered by a computer program, a solar-powered car and colour-changeable fabric masks. There are many DIY activities as well that visitors can participate in such as making batik bags, herbal refreshments and dry perfume.
Compared to the past, how is the current situation of innovation in Thailand?
In the past, Thai inventors and innovators were criticised that their inventions were prototypes. Judges at international competitions said they could not see how their work could be utilised. NRCT also learned by attending competitions the kinds of inventions judges look for and selected potential products to compete. Judges at international competitions focus on creativity rather than advanced technology. A couple of years ago, judges at SIFF really liked an innovation presented by students of Chulalongkorn Demonstration School. The students won the gold prize for their invention of a hook for children to use to hold onto the handrail in public transportation.
Last year, over 100 inventions from Thailand participated at SIIF 2022 in South Korea and won two grand prizes. Judges commented that Thai inventors had improved a lot. With our creditability, IPITEx, which is an exhibition to showcase research, innovations and intellectual products, has over 500 items to exhibit at 'Thailand Inventors' Day 2023'. Inventors and innovators from well-known international organisations including the International Federation of Inventor's Associations and the Korea Invention Promotion Association also participated in the event.
A smart gun for formalin detection in food.
How does NRCT further develop award-winning inventions and innovations?
NRCT has a Thai Inventor Model Project which supports inventions and innovations until products reach the required standard for marketing. NRCT also provides financial funds to award-winning inventors and innovators and finds entrepreneurs to work with them. Products in this project do not have to be 100% perfect. One innovation in the project was a seed roaster invented by a researcher at Mahasarakham University. In the past, farmers had to dry seeds in the sun which required a large space and took many days. The seed roaster helped farmers dry a large amount of seed in a few minutes and did not require a lot of space. After the seed roaster became part of the support project, farmers used it and then gave feedback to the researcher, so he could make improvements. After all the improvements were made, the seed roaster was completed and an entrepreneur bought a licence to manufacture the product.
Why does Thailand lack inventors and innovators?
Budget is an important factor which affects product improvement. Recently, the Thailand Research and Innovation Utilization Promotion Act B.E. 2021 was launched and is effective. In the past, funders had intellectual copyright, but currently, researchers, inventors and innovators own the intellectual copyright of their creations. Thus, after their products have been finalised, they have the right to contact producers in order to launch their products.
What is your expectation for 'Thailand Inventors' Day 2023'?
We hope that the event creates opportunities for researchers, inventors and innovators and creates a ripple effect, so inventions and innovations will be accepted and earn credibility from entrepreneurs. Thailand may not be very advanced in technology, but we will gradually learn, improve and create our own know-how which eventually can improve our work.
Plant-based minced dried meat.
Gold-striped vase from Nakhon Si Thammarat.