King Bhumibol’s Legacy: research, development and innovation

legacy4As Thailand begins its push to become a society and economy driven by innovation and higher technology, it draws inspiration from the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej who held 20 patents and 19 trademarks for inventions that he researched and developed in his palace laboratory and workplace, all designed to bring practical benefits to Thailand’s people.

King Bhumibol’s work as an inventor and creative talent has been recognized internationally. His technologies for artificial rainmaking, aerators to remove pollution from water, and formulations for bio-fuels have all been adopted beyond the borders of his Kingdom. He has received numerous awards from global scientific and research organizations based on his efforts use science to develop his country.

In 2009, the Geneva-based World Intellectual Property Organization, a specialized agency of the United Nations, presented the King with its first Global Leaders Award. WIPO cited His Majesty’s “remarkable contribution to intellectual property both as an inventor and as an active proponent of intellectual property as a tool for development,” adding that he was an artist who has “created over 1,000 works, including paintings, photos, musical and literary works such as songs and novels.”

But it was King Bhumibol’s application of science to solve problems, especially for farmers and the poor, which inspired his subjects and paved the way for Thailand 4.0, the national policy of transitioning to an economy driven by innovation, research and development, and green technology. His use of science and research was always aimed at developing the country and improving the lives of the Thai people.

To that end, he established six Royal Development Study Centers throughout the country catering to the different climatic and environmental conditions of its different regions. The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), which named King Bhumibol as its patron, said, “the centers bring together and integrate the innovations, techniques, and systems developed over decades of experimentation, research, and trial. The doors of the centers are open to anyone wishing to learn.

“People in each of the regions can observe models of modern knowledge and technology, which they can then apply on their own farms. Likewise, students and researchers use the centers, which have become popular meeting-grounds for scientists, bureaucrats, nongovernmental organization workers, and ordinary people, from district and village officials to farmers, housewives, and school children.”

Rice is essential to the food security and culture of Thailand, and so King Bhumibol focused some of his research on rice. “In a drive to provide a greater range of rice varieties for farmers in the country’s diverse environmental zones, different varieties were evaluated under different growing conditions. Soil fertility studies have also been aimed at rice farming problems,” IRRI said.

As those who are guiding Thailand’s transition to a knowledge-based and innovative society map out a course for the future, they are still learning from and applying the lessons in research and innovation that King Bhumibol taught by example during his seven-decade reign. His dedication to scientific methods for improving people’s lives is why he will always be known as “The Development King.”