Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha Monday. Mr Somkid had a tense visit to the Ministry of Science and Technology on Monday. (Photo by Thiti Wannamontha)

Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak blasted the Ministry of Science and Technology Monday for failing to promote the study of science among children.

“We have talked about plans to encourage young Thais [to study science] for three years and the ministry has still not awoken to that reality,” Mr Somkid said during his visit to the ministry to discuss the government’s vision for science and technology.

“I understand the difficulty, but the ministry has to provide solid frameworks and infrastructure to move forward,” said Mr Somkid, who has championed science and innovation to drive the economy forward.

He also urged the ministry to cooperate more with the private sector.

“The private sector has done an incredible job in terms of technology. [China’s] Alibaba and Tencent created an ecosystem that incorporates the role of government, and we should consider such opportunities for public-and-private partnerships for Thailand,” Mr Somkid said.

Science and Technology Minister Suvit Maesincee said encouraging the younger generation to study science is a top priority.

“Based on national statistics, 70% of students study social sciences and only 30% study natural sciences or technology. Really, those numbers should be reversed,” Mr Suvit said.

He added the ministry has been trying to promote a love of science by setting up 24 science and technology centres nationwide. More will be opened in the years to come, including observatories to promote astronomy and physics.

The ministry also showcased its achievements from last year. These include its Startup Thailand event, which brought together over 2,000 start-ups across Thailand, and the Eastern Economic Corridor of Innovation, research agency, which promotes innovation in high-tech industrial estates.

“Our long-term goal is to elevate Thailand to become a country that lives off innovation. Core technology is our area of emphasis, and we will build 5,000 innovation-driven enterprises and start-ups,” Mr Suvit said.

The ministry is also moving forward with its Futurium project. This will see a 51-rai plot of land owned by the National Science Museum used as a learning centre for science and technology, sparking innovation, boosting careers and developing skills.

“In five to 35 years’ time, we hope to be a global leader in at least one aspect of technology,” Mr Suvit said.

“We have seen investments in the technology field reach 0.75% of GDP, having now grown to 102.5 billion baht. This is the target the government set for us to reach last March,” he said.

Meanwhile, Japan has expressed interest in Food Innopolis, another of the ministry’s initiatives.

Mr Suvit said the Japanese government wants to sign a memorandum of understanding with over 100 SMEs to supply food during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

News Reporter

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