Cabinet backs 37bn baht science, innovation scheme

Cabinet backs 37bn baht science, innovation scheme

The government will spend 37 billion baht financing its ambitious scientific research and innovation development scheme in the next eight years to increase Thailand's competitiveness and better brace it for an ageing population and degraded environment.

The scheme, which will start next year, has received a green light from the cabinet which agreed to give it money from the 2020 budget, deputy government spokeswoman Ratchada Thanadirek said.

"We have many projects and clear indicators to assess their outcomes," she said, adding that they are aimed at dealing with economic and social challenges with modern research and development.

Ms Ratchada said one major task is to boost the country's ranking in global competitiveness, scored by the International Institute for Management Development (IMD).

Thailand was ranked 30th in the 2018 IMD report, a drop from the 27th place in 2017.

Under the 12th national economic and social development plan (2018-2022), the country must secure a ranking of 25th.

The government also plans to increase the productivity of at least 5,000 small and medium enterprises with artificial technology and ensure 1,000 new local startups must "survive" in businesses, Ms Ratchada said.

The number of researchers will also increase to 25 per 10,000 people by 2021, according to the scheme.

Minister of Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation Suvit Maesincee said he will take 200 million from the 37-billion-baht package to develop quantum technology, a physics field that deals with small particles at the atomic level. Laser and amplifier technologies are based on quantum knowledge, which also promises wider applications in computing, sensing as well as imaging in medicine.

This month, Mr Suvit said, 42 Thai quantum experts will meet to brainstorm a plan to establish the National Institute of Quantum Technology, expected to take shape in five years.

Socially, the government will support development of innovations, based on a universal design, for people of all ages and conditions, according to Ms Ratchada.

In the next two years, Thailand will enter an aged society in which every one in five people will be 60 years old, so more people will need an environment that matches their lifestyles.

In the environmental field, the government will encourage experts to invent ways to reduce garbage and fight ultra-fine dust PM2.5, Ms Ratchada added.

"We want to reduce the number of days polluted by harmful levels of dust," she said.

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