STFC and NARIT signing the MOU in Thailand
15 September 2016 - STFC have signed an MOU for astronomical research collaboration with the National Astronomical Research Institute of Thailand (NARIT).
The first steps of the new collaboration took place at a three day workshop in Thailand this week, where the Newton UK-TH Research and Innovation Partnership Fund was launched.
The first £1.3 million of funding will be used for promoting joint UK-TH astronomical research. At least four projects on capacity building in software and hardware infrastructures and data handling will be funded.
Professor Grahame Blair, STFC Executive Director of Programmes, said: “The UK is one of the world leaders in astronomy research and through support from STFC the UK is a key global player in the breakthroughs that continue to improve our understanding of the cosmos.
“This new collaboration with Thailand is a wonderful example of the UK working with international colleagues to spread best practice in research and at the same time create new and lasting relationships with fellow researchers overseas to the benefit of all.”
Margaret Tongue, Deputy Head of Mission, British Embassy Bangkok, said: “It is anticipated that the funded projects will use a range of mechanisms, including training and exchange programmes for PhD students, early career researchers, computer programmers, engineers and technicians.”
Professor Boonrucksar Soonthornthum, Executive Director of NARIT, added: “Together with the Newton Fund, NARIT and STFC are creating new synergy that brings in projects with great impact and breakthrough for both countries.”
Science and Technology Facilities Council
The Newton Fund builds scientific and innovation partnerships with 16 partner countries to support their economic development and social welfare, and to develop their research and innovation capacity for long-term sustainable growth. It has a total UK Government investment of £735 million up until 2021, with matched resources from the partner countries.
The Newton Fund is managed by the UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), and delivered through 15 UK Delivery Partners, which include the Research Councils, the UK Academies, the British Council, Innovate UK and the Met Office.
The Newton UK-Thailand Research and Innovation Partnership Fund was officially announced on 13th January 2015 during the visit of FCO Chief Scientific Advisor to Thailand. Currently, there are 17 funding organisations (9 UK organisations and 8 TH organisations) that develop and run calls, and allocate and manage the money they receive as part of the Newton Fund. 12 funding programmes are available for Thailand. Since 2015, more than £10 million has been funded to 1,050 Research & Innovation (R&I) personnel in Natural Sciences, Engineering, Social Sciences and Humanities and more than 20 large-scale joint research projects in Health, Agriculture, Energy, Environment & Natural Resources and STI policy.
Capacity Building in Software and Hardware Infrastructures and Data Handling through Astronomy
Astronomy is a unique and cost-effective way to further economic development because technological and scientific revolutions underpin economic advances and improvements in health systems, education and infrastructure. National research programmes in astronomy inspire the young to enter careers in science and technology. This not only creates an immediate impact on skills and training by encouraging students to study science and engineering, and equipping students with skills that can be exploited in other sectors leading increased economic development but it pushes the boundaries of science and technology and so supports the growth of a high-technology economy.
NARIT is developing infrastructure and capacity in astronomy and astrophysics, including the development of several robotic telescopes and a Thai VLBI Network (TVN). The skills needed for high accuracy modern telescope control systems and radio astronomy are eminently transferable to high-tech industries. For example, the high precision mechatronics skills needed for telescope control systems could provide considerable benefit to Thailand’s industries in areas such as automobile control systems and high precision machining (e.g. computer controlled cutting).