Science agency plans to hire a quarter million researchers

Thailand’s government approved a proposal last week from the National Science Technology and Innovation Policy Office to hire 270,000 researchers over the next 18 years to boost innovation in industry, keep the country competitive in the long term, and lend more support to the Kingdom’s transition to a higher-technology economy and society.

In addition, the Ministry of Science and Technology, which oversees the policy office, said it is examining the costs and benefits of building two satellites, which would be a major advance for the country. They would be the first Thai-built satellites, although the public and private sector have bought, owned and operated satellites for nearly three decades.

“Building the two satellites would push Thailand forward in many ways. They would help develop our understanding of agriculture, improve education and ensure interconnectivity of information between ministries,” said Minister of Science and Technology Suwit Maesincee.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha originally floated the idea of building a satellite. The idea is inline with his signature national policy Thailand 4.0, which aims to raise Thailand’s capabilities in higher technologies, innovation, and research and development. Aerospace and aviation is one of 10 targeted industries for government support under Thailand 4.0.

“The prime minister wants to encourage more young people to work in the fields of science and technology, as there is great demand for that in our country,’’ Suwit said.

One way to do that is to ensure there are jobs in science and technology, and that serves as just one attraction of the proposal by the National Science Technology and Innovation Policy Office to hire more than a quarter million researchers in coming years.

“We want to achieve this goal as researchers are the key driving the country’s innovation economy in the future,” said Kitipong Promwong, secretary-general of the policy office. “Those researchers must be able to help business developers deal with obstacles to upgrading their products based on innovation and technology research and development.”

Hiring vast numbers of researchers to drive development in higher technologies and industries is part of a broader plan to nurture and develop human resources under Thailand 4.0.

The plan also aims to increase the percentage of skilled workers from 13.8 percent of the work force in 2014 to 25 percent within 20 years.It also seeks to improve the ratio of pure science students to social science students from 33:67 in 2015 to 70:30 during the same time frame.

In addition, the plan will also create more incentives to attract more international researchers to work in Thailand, sharing their knowledge and helping to upgrade local research capabilities.