EECi advances national innovation infrastructure and attracts foreign investment

EECi advances national innovation infrastructure and attracts foreign investment

Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha oversees progress of Eastern Economic Corridor of Innovation (EECi)

A dedicated committee led by Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha embarked on a progress inspection of the Eastern Economic Corridor of Innovation (EECi). This visit, which took place on August 9, 2023, saw the committee at the EECi Headquarters situated in Wang Chan Valley, Rayong Province. Welcoming their arrival were Adjunct Professor Dr. Anek Laothamatas, Minister of Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation (MHESI), and Professor Dr. Sukit Limpijumnong, President of the National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA).

As a pivotal component within the strategic sphere of the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC), EECi stands as a key project aimed at cultivating a novel innovation enclave fortified by a robust innovation ecosystem. Facilitating collaborative research and innovation across governmental bodies, private sectors, universities, and local communities, EECi endeavours to elevate traditional industries while birthing new ones. This grand vision heralds an era of innovation, underscoring the integration of technology, innovation, and sustainable development to enhance the nation’s quality of life.

Minister Anek Laothamatas elucidated that EECi emerged as a crucial project, placed under the aegis of the MHESI since March 13, 2017. The ministry has steadfastly propelled this initiative, with the National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA) at the forefront, orchestrating its implementation in partnership with internal and external entities.

He emphasised, “EECi assumes the mantle of the nation’s pivotal innovation infrastructure within the ambit of the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) initiative. Framed by the government, it plays a pivotal role in steering the nation towards the Thailand 4.0 vision. This trajectory hinges upon science, technology, and innovation infrastructure to drive economic expansion through innovation, steering Thailand towards sustainable development.”

EECi stands as a linchpin in the innovation value chain, critical in bridging the gap between laboratory research and the expansion of scalable, commercially viable solutions. It also provides translation research and localisation technology.  To this end, EECi has been meticulously designed to foster a comprehensive innovation ecosystem, tailored for intensive research, development, and innovation. Encompassing research laboratories from both the public and private sectors, pilot plants, demonstration facilities, and experimental fields, EECi incubates collaborative research, development, and innovation endeavours spanning public and private sectors, universities, and domestic and international research institutes. The initiative also incorporates leading analytical and testing services alongside the adaptation and deployment of foreign technologies to meet international standards, enriching lives through technology and innovation.

EECi’s role as the ASEAN Innovation Hub is realised through four innovation-focused cities within its purview: ARIPOLIS (Automation, Robotics, and Intelligent Systems Platform), BIOPOLIS (Biotechnology Platform), FOOD INNOPOLIS (Food Innovation Platform), and SPACE INNOPOLIS (Aviation and Aerospace Technology Platform). This sprawling venture is set to unfold across more than 3,500 rai under the name EECi, garnering contributions from diverse sectors, including the steadfast support of the PTT Group. A united vision propels multiple sectors to galvanise the nation’s economy through science, technology, and innovation.

NSTDA President Sukit Limpijumnong detailed the infrastructure’s progress. The completed headquarters houses the Sustainable Manufacturing Center (SMC) and the Smart Greenhouse, both operational since 2022. The timeline projects the launch of several sections between 2023 and 2024, including the Alternative Battery Pilot Plant, Phenomics Greenhouse, and Connected and Autonomous Vehicle (CAV) Proving Ground. As 2025 dawns, a Biorefinery Pilot Plant, Plant Factory, and the construction of Thailand’s second 3 GeV synchrotron light generator are slated for completion, operationalising from 2026 to 2033.

Reflecting on Thailand’s scientific, technological, and industrial landscape, President Sukit noted a dual facet. While the nation boasts accomplished scientists and researchers with contributions spanning physics, chemistry, biology, and AI technology, the challenge lies in translating laboratory insights into impactful commercial results. EECi was conceived as an answer to this conundrum, aligning with the government’s policy to harness the EEC as a driving force for economic progression.

The government’s substantial investment in EECi’s expansive science and technology infrastructure propels industrial sectors to access invaluable equipment, spurring industrial growth. Leveraging over 30 years of accumulated personnel and research and development work at NSTDA, EECi is powered by dedicated researchers who have devoted nearly two years to this initiative. This collaborative effort, harmonising EECi’s infrastructure with the comprehensive scientific equipment at NSTDA’s five national centres, catalyses the transition of research from the laboratory to practical application. NSTDA’s strategic realignment, congruent with the national development plan under the BCG economic model, underscores the potency of science and technology in transforming lives.

Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha expressed his satisfaction with EECi’s progress, emphasising its role as modern infrastructure, emblematic of the government’s investments over the initial five years. He urged sustained support for EECi from the forthcoming government, propelling Thailand towards the envisioned Thailand 4.0 future. He acknowledged the collaborative efforts across departments that have propelled this venture to success.

General Prayut, along with the cabinet, presided over EECi’s inauguration on February 27, 2019, at the EECi Headquarters in Rayong Province’s Wang Chan Valley. On November 16, 2022, Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn graced the official opening of the headquarters, heralding a transformative stride towards positioning Thailand as the new “ASEAN Innovation Hub.” This comprehensive innovation ecosystem sets the stage for national research and innovation development, imbuing the lives of the populace with sustainable enrichment.

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