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[HANOI] Two new collaborative research projects between the European Union and the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) are now under way that could further boost South-East Asia’s profile as an emerging science hub.
Launched under ASEAN’s pilot network of excellence programme, the first project brings together experts engaged in green energy research while the second project builds better cooperation on food security by linking animal, human and environmental health.
Launched in November 2013 and January 2014, respectively, both projects will run for 18 months.
“There has never been such a case of bottom-up, peer review selected networks of labs teaming up for joint work in South-East Asia,” says Alexander Degelsegger, a Vienna-based consultant for the ASEAN programme.
The two pilot projects are under the Regional EU-ASEAN Dialogue Instrument (READI), a four-year EU initiative to “support policy dialogues” within the ASEAN region that began in 2011. The goals of both pilot projects include pooling the research capacity of ASEAN scientists and boosting the region’s profile as a hub of knowledge and innovation.
Bundit Fungtammasan, vice president of research at King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi in Thailand, says nine research organisations are already involved in the pilot project on green-energy research, and other partners from the public and private sectors may join in the future. The participating labs are in Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam, and also in France and the United Kingdom.
He says South-East Asia has abundant biomass resources, which include agricultural waste such as rice husks and sugar cane residue.
“Figuring out how to maximise biomass yields by developing better combustion engines and other technologies could help reduce carbon dioxide emissions,” explains Bundit about the benefits of renewable biomass energy.
Pichet Durongkaveroj, secretary-general of Thailand’s National Science Technology and Innovation Policy Office, says the READI pilot projects are in line with the Thai government’s initiatives to promote green technologies and to address climate change and food security challenges.
He adds that developing energy sources from biomass is especially important because many of ASEAN’s ten member states are net energy importers.
European scientists often work together through regional research programs, but such collaboration is still relatively uncommon in South-East Asia, Bundit notes.
Degelsegger says that scientists from the ASEAN region have yet to be convinced that cooperation makes sense but believes that mind-set is slowly changing.
“The main initiative is to find out how we can work together, and one goal is to develop more joint research proposals,” Bundit says.
This article has been produced by SciDev.Net's South-East Asia & Pacific desk.