Food and Agriculture
Challenges that Thailand is facing in agriculture and food sector are the disproportion between the labor force and the contribution to GDP – while 32% of total labor force are in this sector, the GDP contribution is only 6.1% -, excessive use of chemicals, which are mostly imported and low efficiency in comparison to our neighboring countries.
R&D will concentrate on solutions to lower production cost, improve productivity and develop high-value and high-quality agriculture-based products.
Research in agriculture and food sector is well supported by advanced infrastructure such as the National Omics Center and the National Biobank of Thailand. Recently, considerable investment has been made to establish additional state-of-the-art research infrastructure to intensify this area of research. Plant Factory Facility - supporting research to enhance the quality and productivity of herbal plants supplied to pharmaceutical, cosmeceutical and nutraceutical industry – has been set up at Thailand Science Park. Plan for establishing Plant Factory Facility and High-throughput Plant Phenomics Facility - for studying plant’s response to environmental conditions which is key to success to shorten plant breeding cycle – at the Eastern Economic Corridor of Innovation (EECi) has been put in place and expected to complete with EECi Phase 1 in 2021.
Medical and Wellness
As high as 37% of drugs on the National List of Essential Medicines are imported, and these include drugs for treating cancer and immune system disorders, as well as vaccines. Thai people spend 160 billion THB annually on medicines, 70% of which are imported drugs. Thai herbal medicine industry imports 3.6 billion THB worth of raw ingredients, despite having more than 800 different herbal plant species found in Thailand.
To turn this around, Thailand will promote the establishment of clinical research organization, or CRO, investing in research and production of biopharmaceuticals and testing facility for medical products. To capitalize on Thailand’s diverse herbal plants, investment will be directed towards R&D in high-throughput screening for drug discovery. Nanoencapsulation will be employed to enhance targeted delivery and bioavailability of herbal products. Genomics Thailand Initiative was launched in 2019. Genomics Thailand is a collaborative human genome research network to enable precision medicine - advancing the genomic-based testing/screening program for clinical and public health implications in Thailand. Research program on biopharmaceuticals and vaccine production is supported by the National Biopharmaceutical Facility located at the Industrial Park of King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi (KMUTT). Medical device is another promising area to be promoted. A number of useful innovations such as digital radiography, cone-beam computed tomography (CBCT) dental scanner, and synthetic bone graft material have already been used in the field to safeguard Thai public health.
Bioenergy, Biomaterial and Biochemical
Thailand is one of the top producers and exporters of sugarcane, cassava, oil palm. More than 40 million tons biomass are under-utilized, yet 67% of its energy are imported. This gap presents ample opportunity for biorefinery technology that enables the conversion of biomass to energy, chemicals and biomaterials, significantly raising the value of these crops and their by-products.
Active research program includes:
- Biogas production technology from a variety of biomass and wastes. The technology developed by BIOTEC-NSTDA and KMUTT - anaerobic wastewater treatment with biogas production - is designed for agro-industry. It has been implemented in several cassava starch factories in Thailand along with zero-waste concept for energy and resource efficiency.
- Biorefinery research emphasizes on the development of platform technology on conversion of the underutilized agricultural biomass and sugars to valorized fuels and chemicals by bio- and chemo-catalytic processes and the translation of technology to industrial application. Industrial partners in Thailand include major conglomerates like PTT, Mitr Phol and SCG.
A 3.4 billion THB investment has been earmarked for the construction of Biorefinery Pilot Plant at EECi, scheduled to be completed by 2022. A partnership has been formed between BIOTEC-Thailand and Bio Base Europe Pilot Plant to co-manage this facility as Bio Base Asia Pilot Plant, leading Thailand on the path to become Regional Bioindustry Hub.
Tourism and Creative Economy
Tourism is one of the largest industries in Thailand, contributing approximately 1 trillion THB to the GDP. The industry supports over 5.8 million jobs (15.5% of total employment). The country welcomes 35 million tourists annually. But 80% of these visitors are clustered in only 8 provinces (out of 76 provinces), and 50% only visit Bangkok.
Technology and innovation can play a pivotal role in strengthening Thai tourism industry in many aspects. Biodiversity research can contribute to the development of nature tourism. Science and technology are employed to define national guidelines for tourism e.g. carrying capacity, support sustainable tourism standard system and conserve and rehabilitate the environment. Digital platform has potential to enhance tourists’ convenience and experience, enabling the industry to advance to high-quality tourism. Science and technology will be employed to define national guidelines for tourism e.g. carrying capacity, support sustainable tourism standard system and conserve and rehabilitate the environment. Under the creative economy concept, tourism can be linked to other service industries to target niche markets such as wellness tourism, culinary tourism, eco-tourism, cultural tourism and sports tourism.