THAILAND SCIENCE Park, the research estate of the National Science and Technology Development Agency, plans to build the largest fully integrated research and development hub in Thailand, said Janekrishna Kanatharana, vice president of NSTDA and director of TSP.

In an exclusive interview with The Nation, Janekrishna said the TSP wanted to attract private enterprises to set up R&D facilities at the park. It aims to become the country's first R&D hub and to provide integrated solutions in science and technology to targeted industries, primarily focusing on foods and auto parts.

He said the park also wanted to promote collaboration on research activities among private companies, to improve the shelf life of their technologies.

"We want to be a bridging agent in connecting the government sector,universities and the private sector in the area of science and technology development," Janekrishna said. "Research is a new thing for Thailand.We want to make it a culture. However, there needs to be a facilitator to make such a connecting bridge successful."

He said TSP recently signed a collaboration agreement with Kasetsart University Food Innovation Research and Services to promote the co-devel-opment of food innovations, by combining the park's strengths, including food biotechnology, and the university's strengths in terms of production processes and product development,as well as packaging. The collaboration is aimed at helping establish Thailand as a hub for the food industry. It also serves the government's vision to promote Thailand as the "world's kitchen".

"We also plan to build science parks in all regions of Thailand, including at Chiang Mai University for the North, Khon Kaen University for the Northeast, and Prince of Songkla University for the South."

Thailand Science Park was set up in 2002 with an investment of Bt1.5 billion. The aim was to create a research estate and encourage private companies to open their own research laboratories to come up with innovative products that could contribute to the economy.

Janekrishna said the park was established on 200 rai (32 hectares)in Klong Luang district, Pathum Thani, as a key infrastructure for supporting technology-intensive businesses. In addition to advanced facilities and business space, the park offers a full range of value-added services targeted at this type of companies.

TSP houses many anchor tenants,including the state-run NSTDA's four national research centres - the National Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (BIOTEC), the National Metal and Materials Technology Centre (MTEC), the National Electronics and Computer Technology Centre (NECTEC), and the National Nanotechnology Centre (NANOTEC). As well, Betagro has built a food-research centre at the complex,and Siam Cement Group has a facility for research on paper, chemicals and building materials.

"Thailand Science Park has about nine buildings in the first phase, occupying 140,000 square metres in total," Janekrishna said.

"There are currently about 60 tenant companies operating research facilities in the complex. About twothirds of them are small or mediumsized enterprises."

He said 28 per cent of the tenants were in the electronics and computer technology cluster, and 29 per cent each in the metal and material technology and biotechnology clusters.

"About 30 per cent of the corporate tenants are international firms, mostly from Japan, the US and Germany," Janekrishna said.

He said about 600 people were working at the park, recruited by corporate tenants, 60 per cent of whom were research and related personnel.

Janekrishna said TSP helped create a job market for researchers in the private sector. It is also equipped to build career paths for graduates in the area of science and technology.

The first-phase development is now fully occupied.

"We started the Phase 2 development of the Thailand Science Park complex, called 'Innovation Cluster 2', in 2014, with another investment of Bt3 billion for the construction work. The extension consists of one building with four connected towers. It occupies 124,000 square metres of space," Janekrishna said.

"We plan to open the other two towers in 2016 and will be able to attract 35-40 more companies into the complex," he said.

Janekrishna said the Phase 2 expansion had attracted new private companies to invest in research activities.

They include Thai Oil, PTT Global Chemical, Mitr Phol Sugar Group, Polyplastic, and Austria Nova.

The "C Tower" will be promoted for central testing with many advanced facilities, including an electron microscope and DNA sequencing capabilities. It is in line with the government's strategy to create a "National Advanced Nano Characterisation Laboratory" at the complex.

"TSP believes that the expansion will accelerate the pace of development of new innovations and strengthen collaboration among the government, the private sector and research institutions, thus stimulating and driving private-sector R&D activities.

This in turn will contribute to Thailand's goal of becoming a knowledge-based economy," Janekrishna said..

Source::The Nation, 2 May 2015