NXPO recently hosted a meeting to discuss the direction of frontier research in Thailand. The meeting was chaired by Dr. Suvit Maesincee, Minister of Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation (MHESI) and participated by a group of young researchers involved in the drafting of Frontier Research Strategy and Roadmap. Four areas of frontier research were presented and discussed.
- Quantum Technology. The group presented three areas of quantum technology, namely quantum computing and simulation, quantum communication, and quantum metrology and sensing. Quantum technology has enormous potential to be applied to several industries, and therefore many countries are putting a large sum of investment into this field. China, for instance, has applied quantum technology to advance its satellite program and medical research program to the next level. Thailand needs to accelerate manpower development and establish international collaboration in this field.
- EarthSpace System. The presentation focused on three areas: extreme weather and climate change, effects of outer space activities on earth and space exploration and its applications in economic development. In addition to manpower development and international collaboration, the government should also support spin-offs in space technology.
- High Energy Physics. Mechanism of global partnership was suggested in order to develop capacity in this field. The government should make investment to enable Thai researchers and institutes to develop research collaboration with major players such as CERN or to participate in international projects such as Cherenkov Telescope Array – a multinational, worldwide project to build a new generation of ground-based gamma-ray instrument.
- Biological Sciences & Life Sciences. Systems biology and synthetic biology were identified as the core for capacity building to support precision medicine and biofrontier initiative. To develop an ecosystem to foster life science innovation, the group proposed the following strategies: 1. promote public-private partnership and make biological database accessible to Thai researchers in the first 1-3 years, 2. set up an organization to support life science startups and SMEs with the goal to have commercial products within 5 years, and 3. provide support to Thai researchers to create unicorn companies within 10 years. To harness the power of biological resources, three platforms were proposed for the future of food and agriculture: 1. bioresource management, 2. bioactive-Omics, and 3. personalized nutrition.
NXPO has gathered young researchers to draft a white paper on frontier research which was later presented to the Prime Minister in late 2018. As a result, frontier research was included in the Science, Research and Innovation Fund and the Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation Plan (2020-2027). A budget of 757 million THB has been allocated to support frontier research from the Science, Research and Innovation Fund in 2020, and 1.587 billion THB in 2021. Two Program Management Units (PMUs) – funding bodies operated under the NXPO umbrella – are developing a roadmap and strategy for each of the following three areas: 1. Physical Sciences & Engineering (covering three sub-areas: Quantum Technology, Earth-Space System, and High-Energy Physics), 2. Biological Sciences & Life Sciences, and 3. Social Sciences, Humanities & Arts.