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Priorities for science, technology and innovation sector

Danial Norjidi

The implementation of the 2022 annual priorities of the science, technology and innovation (STI) sector was commended during the 19th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Science, Technology and Innovation (AMMSTI-19), while six annual priorities were approved for 2023.

According to a joint statement, the meeting, held virtually on June 16, expressed commitment to enhance cooperation in the area of STI following the re-opening of ASEAN member states’ borders. “High COVID-19 vaccination across ASEAN member states allowed the safe opening of borders,” said the statement. “The strong cooperation among ASEAN member states on efforts to combat COVID-19 has demonstrated ASEAN’s readiness in addressing future pandemics.”

The meeting commended the implementation of the 2022 annual priorities of the STI sector.

These priorities include: implement ASEAN COVID-19 projects, namely ASEAN COVID-19 Genomics project and ASEAN-Wide Anti-COVID-19 Sero-Surveillance Study; establish a Technology Management Hub (Phase I); increase utilisation of High Performance Computing (HPC); conduct a Feasibility Study of Technology Transfer Models for Projects Related to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); conduct Workshop Series on the Implementation of Artificial Intelligence on Energy Security, Agriculture, Cyber Security and Creative Industry 2022; and establish ASEAN Network on Bio-, Circular and Green Economy.

The statement said that the meeting noted with satisfaction the outcome achieved in the ASEAN COVID-19 Genomics Project and ASEAN-Wide Anti-COVID-19 Sero-Surveillance Study, with the latter being part of the capacity building objective under the ASEAN initiative, which also covers other initiatives such as the ASEAN Dx Pandemic Preparedness Webinar Series and the regional consultations on Accelerating Diagnostics Access in ASEAN.

The meeting welcomed another round of the HPC School in December 2022 in Thailand to foster HPC skills in ASEAN, while noting that an additional four ASEAN member states will be granted access to Japan’s Fugaku Supercomputer through an annual Call for Fugaku Trial.

The meeting also expressed the need to explore synergies between HPC and quantum computing in supporting ASEAN digital transformation.

Meanwhile, six annual priorities for 2023 were approved at the meeting. These are: establish an ASEAN Technology Management Hub (Phase II); implement workshop and call for papers on Artificial Intelligence on Energy Security, Agriculture, Cyber Security and Emerging Issues on Health 2023; implement ASEAN Network on Bio-, Circular and Green Economy (Phase II); develop an ASEAN Regional Research Infrastructure Strategy; establish a platform for Education in Science and Technology; and develop an ASEAN Roadmap for Blue Economy.

The statement noted that the meeting commended the alignment of the ASEAN Plan of Action on Science, Technology and Innovation (APASTI) 2016-2025 to the ASEAN Economic Community Blueprint 2025 and supported the development of APASTI 2026-2035.

It was also mentioned that the meeting exchanged views on “Harnessing STI in achieving SDGs” and “Accelerating Low Carbon Economy through the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR)”.

As the statement explained, “The meeting underscored the role of STI in achieving SDGs, particularly in solving environmental issues, addressing societal challenges and unlocking economic opportunities holistically. The meeting also accentuated that ASEAN member states need to further harness STI by narrowing the STI gap; developing effective STI human capital development strategies; scaling up entrepreneurs’ innovations; promoting stronger bilateral and multilateral cooperation; and aligning ASEAN policies with the global efforts to address climate change.”

“The meeting agreed that in achieving a decarbonised economy, frontier technologies are imperative in reducing carbon emissions allowing ASEAN to achieve robust industrial development while still protecting the environment. 4IR technologies should be an essential part of industrial development strategy. In this regard, the public sector could improve service delivery while the private sector could improve productivity. To this end, ASEAN needs to enhance competencies to prepare the ASEAN workforce in embracing 4IR.”

In addition, “The meeting supported initiatives proposed by ASEAN member states at the ASEAN Committee on Science, Technology and Innovation (COSTI-81) and welcomed suggestions towards ‘Harnessing STI in achieving SDGs’ and ‘Accelerating Low Carbon Economy through 4IR’ to be incorporated in the APASTI as well as potential areas of cooperation with dialogue partners.”

The statement shared that the meeting noted the need to strengthen COSTI’s mandate by having stronger public private partnerships and enhance the important role of the Board of Advisers to COSTI (BAC) as the advisory body that assists COSTI in the implementation of APASTI.

“The meeting attached great importance and appreciation to the long-term partnerships between ASEAN and its dialogue partners, as well as international/regional organisations in advancing STI. The meeting emphasised that it is crucial for ASEAN member states to continue to collaborate and utilise ASEAN dialogue partners’ funds in the course of implementation of STI projects including those relevant to the annual priorities.

“The meeting welcomed the collective effort to promote youth and women engagement in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics research and development; strengthen public-private collaboration; address pressing global issues; and nurture micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).

“The meeting valued the equity of access for the support from the dialogue partners and was of the view that STI cooperation projects implemented through their contributions have far-reaching impact on the socioeconomic development of ASEAN,” the statement added.

The AMMSTI-19 was chaired by Vietnamese Minister of Science and Technology Huynh Thanh Dat.

The 12th Informal ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Science, Technology and Innovation (IAMMSTI-12) will be hosted by Brunei Darussalam in 2023.