Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Six-year strategy to develop nanotech

Six-year strategy to develop nanotech

Ambitious Master Plan targets 1 per cent of GDP by 2013

Published on January 8, 2008

Thailand has set a direction for the development of nanotechnology with a plan to produce nanotech-related products that account for 1 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), or around Bt100 billion in value, by 2013.

The target is part of the National Nanotechnology Master Plan, the country's first nanotechnology development plan for 2007 to 2013, which was approved by the Cabinet last year.

The plan was developed as a framework for local nanotechnology development to lift the country's competitiveness on the world stage.

As nanotechnology is important for the 21st century, it is essential that Thailand be prepared for this development, said Wiwut Tanthapanichakoon, the director of the National Nanotechnology Centre (Nanotec), a research centre under the National Science and Technology Development Agency.

He said the country would move towards nanotechnology in key areas of nano-materials, nano-biotechnology and nano-electronics to serve seven strategic industries - food and agriculture, automotive, electronics, textiles and petrochemicals, one tambon one product, energy and environment, and medical and healthcare.

The plan has also identified five key strategies. The first is related to nanotechnology development to support target industries. In this area, it plans to encourage raw-material manufacturers to use nanotechnology to produce at least 50 primary products within six years.

From these 50 primary nano-material products, the plan also targets that the private sector will be able to use nano-materials to develop further products and services which can come out for commercial use, with at least 250 products in the same period.

Wiwat said that since nanotechnology was still something new for Thailand, it was necessary to find more researchers to develop the industry.

According to a survey done by Nanotec in 2005, Thailand has around 234 researchers working in the nanotechnology area. To push the country to the forefront in this field, more trained people are required.

The second strategy therefore involves creating more nanotechnology researchers. Wiwat said the plan was to push the development at bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree levels while including nanotechnology as part of courses in primary and secondary schools.

"We hope that at the end of the plan, we will be able to produce at least 2,000 nanotechnology researchers with over 500 support staff in this field," he added.

He said research and development was the third strategy. The plan will encourage the amount of R&D spending in this field to reach at least Bt10 billion by 2013. Of the total spending, around 30 per cent will come from the private sector. Meanwhile, the plan will encourage registration of at least 300 patents in the next six years.

To promote nanotechnology development, basic infrastructure also needs to be developed. The fourth strategy is to build facilities including a nanotechnology lab and a centre to provide facilities for researchers for their projects. The plan includes the establishment of a nanotechnology incubation centre to nurture nanotechnology start-up companies.

The last strategy, Wiwat said, was to develop public awareness of nanotechnology. The plan also covers the setting up of a new national committee to oversee safety and ethical issues when the country and the public come to use nanotechnology.

It is hoped that the country will eventually be able to increase competitiveness and push the emergence of new nanotechnology entrepreneurs and businesses.

Pongpen Sutharoj

The Nation

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