Thailand signs deal with CERN to accelerate science research
Scientific progress in Thailand is about to take a quantum leap as The Thai government signed an expanded cooperation agreement last week with CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, as the Kingdom strives to raise its proficiency in research and development, and innovation.
The agreement will see Thai scientists working at CERN’s facilities in Switzerland. CERN is the premier global facility for conducting advanced studies and experiments into particle physics. Research at CERN is aimed at discovering the basic constituents of matter and the fundamental structure of the universe. Located in Geneva, CERN is a joint venture of 22 European nations that have pooled resources to build some of the world’s most powerful particle accelerators and colliders.
“The relations between Thailand and CERN have been strengthening over the past decade,” said Charlotte Warakaulle, CERN’s director for international relations. “This is the first government-level agreement that we’ve had. Previously, we had agreements with the universities and institutes in Thailand on their scientific participation.”
Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn presided over the signing of the agreement at the Ministry of Science and Technology in Bangkok. The Princess initiated cooperation with CERN in 2000. She has paid five visits to the facility that led to six contracts between Thai universities and institutes and CERN.
“We hope to see more Thai teachers, more Thai students come to CERN with these agreements,” said Warakaulle at the ceremony. “We would like to see a great outreach in particle physics and fundamental research here in Thailand. So, we cannot yet quantify that, but we can see the potential, this is the best agreement we’ve had for expanding the cooperation.”
Although Thailand has not been known as a leader in scientific research, the government and some leaders in industry hope to change that. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has pledged to increase the share of the national budget devoted to research and development and has been urging the private sector to do the same.
PTT, the largest energy conglomerate in the Kingdom, is funding two advanced schools with cutting-edge laboratories and equipment in the Eastern Economic Corridor for students from around the country who have demonstrated through testing that they are gifted in the sciences. The school is tuition-free. The goal is to create a corps of young scientists who will make an impact on the Kingdom’s development and also disseminate knowledge.
“There is a good balance between fundamental research and applied research – it is great science that adds to the dynamism of Thailand,” Warakaulle said. “There is so much focus on fundamental research, we see that as very positive and very encouraging, and see real opportunities for Thailand to continue its development. It is a very important component of the healthy economy and healthy growth, and the long-term sustainable perspective for Thailand.”
She added that Thailand has the potential to become the center of fundamental research in Asia.