In order to extend research in science and Deep Technology into the realm of actual innovations or practical applications, other than creating an environment of intense and quality research, support in other areas such as investment, personnel, environment, as well as sandboxing and connection to relevant public and private networks, is just as important and must be done in a systematic and persistent manner.
For this reason, the Program Management Unit for Competitiveness (PMUC) has provided funding to the Center for Research and Development Industrial Technology, Chulalongkorn University Technology Center (UTC) to enhance its potential in promoting “valuable” research to become commercially valuable research.
“In the past, a lot of good research has fallen into the Valley of Death status or got put on the shelf, not being turned into practical application, especially in the field of high technology (Deep Technology). Chulalongkorn University, therefore, established UTC in 2019 as a connection point between research and user needs. What we do is create an ecosystem for researchers to solve research problems, which can lead to practical applications, such as working with industry and the public to help research efforts circumvent the Valley of Death and make it to commercial production.” Dr. Yingyot Avihimsanon, project leader at UTC Center, provided information on the origin and goals of UTC.
For science and technology research that will be supported by UTC under the framework of PMUC, Prof. Dr. Yingyot said that researchers who are not necessarily affiliated with Chulalongkorn University can join the project. It only requires a Technology Readiness Level (TRL) of 4 or higher, i.e. a laboratory test that achieves the minimum threshold. TRL is a criterion indicating the level of technological readiness according to the requirements of NSTDA, which can be divided into 9 levels, with research projects in levels 1-3 being basic and applied research projects, while levels 4-7 are development efforts towards innovation and real applications.
Prof. Dr.Yingyot said that in fiscal year 2019 and 2020, there were 47 research projects involved in the project with UTC, which are divided into the following main categories: (1) research in medicine and public health, in response to a pressing need to import more than 60% of medical equipment and devices in use as Thailand is becoming an aging society, and (2) research in AI and Data Science, as they are research topics that can be further developed into technology and commercial innovation, which can create an innovation-driven economy in accordance with government policies.
The type of support that researchers will receive from UTC are mainly issues that most researchers are not proficient in, but are necessary to increase commercial value, including (1) Cooperating with the public and private sectors. (2) Analysis of marketing trends and demands. (3) Obtaining patent and intellectual property rights .(4) Filing for standards certification by relevant agencies. (5) Finding investors or fundraising to establish a company. (6) Marketing assistance. The project leader of the UTC Center gave interesting examples of research, including medical applications, such as rapid and accurate COVID-19 testing, AI for CT-scan for sub-classification of congestive heart failure, or scanning for abnormal biopsies by utilizing endoscopic imaging of the digestive tract, and AI technology for industry, such as AI to read text in photos and videos, AI for conversion of sounds into Thai text, etc.
In addition to bringing research into a systematic management system in order to achieve innovative results, or industrial technologies that have commercial value, providing short-term courses to nurture researchers is also another important duty of UTC.
“The support of Chulalongkorn University, TSRI and PMUC has created AI incubation courses and innovation courses to promote innovative development in medical technologies. In addition to learning from the experience of the speakers and experts both in and outside the country, participants will also have a chance to discuss their own problems or aspirations, and to actually engage in collaborative development with entrepreneurs in the industrial sector as well.”
In addition, under the vision of Chulalongkorn University of being a leading university in innovation for social services, 3 important organizations will convene: Integrated Innovation Institute (SCII) at Chulalongkorn University, Innovation Center at Chulalongkorn University (CU Hub) and Center for Research and Development for Industrial Technologies at Chulalongkorn University (UTC).