Previously, Orapong Thien-ngern, CEO of Digital Ventures shared his idea on Thailand’s competitiveness in innovation development at the U.REKA event. An equally interesting topic at the event is the collaboration behind the project retold via partners who are key drivers of U.REKA. This consists of executives from 7 universities’ Faculty of Engineering as well as The Knowledge Exchange (KX) and Microsoft Thailand, all of which, help to propel a healthy ecosystem.
Assoc. Prof. Supot Teachavorasinskun Ph.D., Dean, Faculty of Engineering, Chulalongkorn University, Assoc. Prof. Peerayuth Charnsethikul Ph.D., Dean, Faculty of Engineering, Kasetsart University, Asst. Prof. Wipoo Sriseubsai Ph.D., Vice Dean, Faculty of Engineering, King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology Ladkrabang, Prof. Booncharoen Sirinaovakul Ph.D., CEO, Knowledge Exchange, Orapong Thien-Ngern, CEO, Digital Ventures a subsidiary of SCB, Dhanawat Suthumpun, Managing Director, Microsoft Thailand, Assoc. Prof. Udomkiat Nontakeaw, Ph.D., Dean, Faculty of Engineering, King Mongkut’s University of Technology North Bangkok, Prof. Chai Jaturapitakkul Ph.D., Dean, Faculty of Engineering, King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi, Asst. Prof. Tippabust Eksangsri Ph.D., Associate Dean for Administration, Faculty of Engineering, Thammasat University and Juggapong Natwichai Ph.D., Associate Dean, Faculty of Engineering, Chiang Mai University.
- Why are universities the key driver in propelling Deep Tech via U.REKA?
Orapong Thien-Ngern, CEO, Digital Ventures as the initiator of U.REKA explains that the world is evolving very quickly. Today, it is worrisome that new graduates are produced at a slower pace than new innovation in the market. The business sector is affected as it is harder to recruit scholars that are willing to accept the change together. If the situation prevails, the holistic change for the country in terms of innovation will not happen. This is why Digital Ventures is supporting U.REKA along with universities as the core driver of the project. They can fully proceed in accordance with the semester and Deep Tech development.
In the past, there may have been collaborations between the business sector and universities, but the projects are not looking at long-term results. This may be due to the uncertainty in terms of capabilities and lack of a plan good enough to aim for long-term outcomes. U.REKA not only seeks to focus on Deep Tech development, but it also hopes to create a foundation for innovation development for the country as a whole.
- What is a “Knowledge-based Economy” and how can the academic sector prepare for it?
Assoc. Prof. Supot Teachavorasinskun Ph.D., Dean, Faculty of Engineering, Chulalongkorn University points out that a decade ago was an economy of factors of production, thus, resources were the main focus. However, the world has evolved, and human has acquired numerous knowledge. We are now able to use knowledge for development and to better utilize resources. This has brought about the Knowledge-based Economy wherein knowledge it used to develop products and services.
A problem that follows a Knowledge-based Economy is the inability to adapt for competitiveness. This means that we remain to build innovation like in the old days wherein the academic sector is where knowledge is gathered. Moreover, numerous regulations exist and are obstructing innovation development to match current competitions.
Development that is not in line with the competition makes the learning ecosystem impractical for the business and industrial sector. Asst. Prof. Tippabust Eksangsri Ph.D., Associate Dean for Administration, Faculty of Engineering, Thammasat University elaborates that the development of the learning ecosystem may make students skillful, yet if they are impractical for the market, it may be a waste. In some countries, Deep Tech development begins with collaborations of universities and those seeking technology. This equips the learning ecosystem with a clear objective.
Assoc. Prof. Peerayuth Charnsethikul Ph.D., Dean, Faculty of Engineering, Kasetsart University stresses that U.REKA, which cooperates with the education sector to support Deep Tech innovation, is a great opportunity to show that the sector needs to adapt in order to truly make knowledge applicable.
- How does the amount of “patent” reflect the innovation development situation in Thailand?
A great indicator for development and promotion of innovation is the number of registered patents in each country. It integrates the body of knowledge, basic resources, and the policy structure of the country. Asst. Prof. Wipoo Sriseubsai Ph.D., Vice Dean, Faculty of Engineering, King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology Ladkrabang shares that Thailand has a much lower number of patents when compared to countries with leading innovation development. The overall patents in Thailand amount to 50,000 while it is 300,000 per year for the USA.
Interestingly, Israel, which focuses on exporting technology products and services, has a similar number of patents to Thailand. Yet, their GDP Per Capita is almost 7-folds higher than Thailand. This proves that developing technology to promote economic competitiveness is greatly efficient.
Israel’s GDP Per Capita compared to Thailand by the World Bank.
- How can Deep Tech be driven in Thailand via the academic sector?
For Thailand, the number of patents may not be as significant as its details and whether it conforms to the market demand. Let us take a look at Deep Tech development that is in accordance with the demand, which is the core concept of U.REKA.
Assoc. Prof. Udomkiat Nontakeaw, Ph.D., Dean, Faculty of Engineering, King Mongkut’s University of Technology North Bangkok reveals that Deep Tech is deep science that is hard to imitate. Those who can develop Deep Tech must have a motive to carry out in-depth research. Mostly, they are people in the academic industry such as professors, students, and researchers. In the past, knowledge is not built for competition, thus, it became an individual task which caused the knowledge to be intangible and not integrated.
Making Deep Tech applicable to the economy requires the education industry to collaborate with product developers and experts in sales who are in the business sector. They must work together in a perfect ecosystem which consists of 3 aspects as follow:
- The collaboration of the academic and business sector. Initially, innovation development is solely the role of the education sector, but as economic competitiveness is based on knowledge, therefore, creating innovation that is practical and marketable must involve experts in the business sector.
- The role of the government towards the education and business sector. They must adjust regulations to be flexible with faster procedures in order to keep up with today’s competition.
- Projects that make the education, business, and industrial sector become acquainted. Also, there needs to be funding, resources, and other technical support that will enhance a strong ecosystem.
- Thailand’s human resources characteristics and Deep Tech product development.
Aside from funding, knowledge, and technical support, human resources with the proper knowledge and ability is a crucial factor for U.REKA. Juggapong Natwichai Ph.D., Associate Dean, Faculty of Engineering, Chiang Mai University shares that Thailand is considered to be well-equipped in terms of human resources in the education, industrial, and business sector. The next step is to consider where Deep Tech should be applied. This will help to uncover experts in each sector. Moreover, it is important to connect the knowledge so that the proper knowledge forms a perfect product. This is also the objective of U.REKA.
Prof. Chai Jaturapitakkul Ph.D., Dean, Faculty of Engineering, King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi shares that U.REKA also requires that the qualified team have at least one Ph.D. student in the team. This is because the bachelor and master’s degree scholars require a lesser proportion of research which differs from doctoral studies that focus mainly on research. Advance technology development are new ideas, therefore, it requires those who are experienced with in-depth research. Every university agrees that applicants should have this qualification.
- The private sector who will fulfill the Deep Tech ecosystem.
Aside from collaborations with universities for their knowledge and skills, Digital Ventures has joined with private sectors such as Knowledge Exchange (KX) and Microsoft. They will fulfill the process and make it complete.
Prof. Booncharoen Sirinaovakul Ph.D., CEO, Knowledge Exchange explains that KX plays the role in creating a proper environment for the education and business sector to meet and seamlessly work together. This can help create a complete ecosystem and drive Thai startups to grow on its own. This is especially true for Deep Tech startup which is considered to be the hope of Thailand in terms of economic competitiveness in the digital era.
Dhanawat Suthumpun, Managing Director, Microsoft Thailand shares that Microsoft already has projects that support startups around the world. Thus, when U.REKA, who had similar objectives, asked for support, it was an instant agreement. Microsoft will provide technical support for the teams, both hardware, and platform. This can help make the team focus solely on creating the product.
A well-equipped ecosystem is an important factor that Digital Ventures and our partners offer to U.REKA. We hope that the teams can develop applicable products that can be part of driving Thailand to the next level. U.REKA will focus on supporting products and services in 6 Deep Tech sectors namely Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain, Cloud & Security, Big Data/Internet of Things (IoT), Augmented Reality & Virtual Reality and Quantum Computing. It is opened for application for professors, students, and researchers from now until May 15 at u-reka.co.