In a recent interview, a leading professor at Bangkok’s Mahidol University based at the Mahidol Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit (MORU) – a collaboration between Oxford and Mahidol Universities and the London-based Wellcome Trust – noted that its activities have spread far beyond Thailand to countries across Asia and Africa.
Now, having pioneered treatments to combat deadly tropical diseases, MORU is enrolling 40,000 frontline healthcare workers as far away as Europe and South America in the only large-scale global clinical trial to test whether the drugs hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine can prevent COVID-19.
Thailand has long been internationally acclaimed as a destination for so-called medical tourists lured by Bangkok’s world-class hospitals. Less well known is an underlying healthcare ecosystem that is helping transform Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy into a much broader medical hub, attracting investors and researchers in biotechnology – including vaccines, genomics, and biopharmaceuticals — as well as high-tech medical devices.
Even as the COVID-19 pandemic has crippled industries in other parts of the world, the nation has recorded investor confidence in Thailand’s healthcare sector. In the first half of 2020, 52 medical-related businesses with projects worth THB13 billion sought approval from Thailand’s Board of Investment (BOI) – a rise of 170 percent in project numbers and 123 percent in value over the same period last year.
In one recent example, South Korea’s largest biotech company partnered with a Thai public-private consortium to establish a manufacturer of oncology drugs and DNA vaccines for cervical cancer. The manufacturer aims to use Thailand as a research and development hub, as well as a production base for Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Latin America and Russia.
The region’s medical sector has big potential and many companies want to transfer technology to help it develop further.
Thailand’s success at attracting medical sector investment stems in large part from two key factors.
One is the raft of incentives offered by the BOI to qualifying Thai and foreign-owned companies, including tax breaks of up to 13 years and smart visas that enable expatriate researchers and other key employees and their families to stay in the country for up to four years. Another is Thailand’s track record both in containing the spread of COVID-19 and actively working on vaccines.
Since the pandemic began, Thailand has won international praise for the very low infection rate among its 70 million population. Over the same period, Thailand has also become one of the first middle-income nations to begin clinical trials on a home-developed COVID-19 vaccine.
Separate from the Oxford-Mahidol global trial on hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, Thai universities and biotechnology companies are working on at least three vaccine candidates.
In the most advanced of the vaccine studies, Chulalongkorn University’s Chula Vaccine Research Center is about to begin human trials on a vaccine that has already been tested successfully on mice and monkeys.
Now its COVID-19 vaccine, based on a technology known as mRNA, has attracted international media attention. And if the upcoming human trials prove successful, the team hopes to work with manufacturers in Thailand, North America, and Germany to produce 30 million vaccine doses to supply Thailand and six other Asian countries.
The team at MORU is also collaborating with a second Chulalongkorn study in which a leading expert and doctor at the Thai Red Cross Emerging Infectious Disease Health Science Center, working with a spinoff from the university’s faculty of pharmaceutical sciences, has developed a potential vaccine that uses a different technology derived from plant protein.
The MORU professor stated that in terms of a hub for international collaboration, Thailand is very good. COVID-19 has shown that the world is a very small place. Countries cannot just look inwards and Thailand has the vision to understand the importance of global health as well as national health, he concluded.
The Hong Kong Applied Science and Technology Research Institute (ASTRI) recently announced several development plans that are aimed at aligning ASTRI with the vision of developing the Greater Bay Area (GBA) into an international innovation and technology (I&T) hub, as outlined in the 14th Five-Year Plan.
The Chief Executive Officer of ASTRI announced the plans; that agency will be undertaking more R&D projects in the GBA, cooperate with local universities and research institutes, attract and cultivate I&T talent, and expand its R&D resources in the GBA. In addition, ASTRI is looking to attract students from renowned universities overseas to take part in its internship programme and start their careers at ASTRI.
ASTRI’s CEO stated that the agency has an excellent R&D team who have mastered cutting-edge technologies in various fields. Moreover, they are looking to further leverage the advantages of the GBA, which include its rich resources and its huge market for technology applications, as well as input from R&D professionals from the mainland and the rest of the world.
These are advantages that will enable ASTRI to make more I&T breakthroughs and have an even greater social impact while supporting the 14th Five-Year Plan and contributing to the development of Hong Kong and the country, he said.
Since taking up the post in October last year, ASTRI’s CEO has worked closely with his team to formulate plans and commence preparation work for expanding ASTRI’s I&T footprint in the GBA. The new development strategies include:
- Expanding activities in the mainland
ASTRI will expand its activities in the mainland and is considering establishing a presence in the Shenzhen Branch of the Hong Kong Science Park in Futian and the Lok Ma Chau Loop, as a way of strengthening its collaboration with the ecosystem stakeholders and industry partners.
- Cooperating with local universities
ASTRI will seek to cooperate with key universities in the GBA, as well as with the mainland campuses and research institutes of Hong Kong universities in the area.
ASTRI is currently negotiating with the School of Microelectronics of the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen on establishing a joint laboratory. The lab, which should be established in the next few months, will research leading technologies such as advanced semiconductors, 5G communications, and intelligent manufacturing.
- Developing R&D projects
ASTRI will develop more R&D projects in the GBA to boost technology transfer through Government-Industry-University-Research cooperation. In the first stage, priority will be given to R&D projects in integrated circuits and communications technology, and subsequently to projects in IoT and Sensors, FinTech, artificial intelligence and big data.
- Expanding R&D resources
ASTRI will apply for R&D funding available to applicants from the mainland, Hong Kong and Macau that is offered by the state or by provincial and municipal governments, as well as for funding available in the GBA area (e.g., the research matching grant scheme provided by the Futian government). ASTRI will also continue to strengthen its collaborations with enterprise clients to expand its R&D resources.
- Attracting and cultivating talent
To expand its mainland team, ASTRI will conduct recruitment in the mainland and offer Hong Kong-based employees the opportunity to transfer to its mainland headquarters. Meanwhile, to nurture international-quality talent, ASTRI will engage postgraduate students in the GBA to participate in R&D by cooperating with universities and research institutes in the area.
ASTRI is also approaching several world-renowned universities to promote job opportunities at ASTRI to their students. These opportunities include ASTRI’s Summer Internship Programme for undergraduates, its newly launched Fintech Future Leaders Academy internship programme, and job positions for bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree graduates.
The Defense Information Systems Agency is planning to release a “container as a service” product in the coming months that will help synchronise the Defense Department’s many cloud environments. The project aims to make data centres central to the Defense Department’s hybrid cloud environment by using commercial containers. The hybrid approach sometimes “raises an eyebrow” but there were a lot of benefits to a container-based approach.
A server is a server. So it is possible to do that on-premises. And where that becomes super powerful is when you have an on-prem container in the data centres, you have containers in the cloud. And now the nexus between the two is substantially easier and more standardised than it would have been previously
the container-as-a-service shift setup, which includes data centre personnel and those who came from the legacy Cloud Computing Program Office, could help develop new skill sets for the existing workforce. A minimum viable product of the service is expected this year.
One of the concepts is to take on both sides – both people that understand how to administer environments in the cloud, as well as people that understand how to administer environments in a traditional data centre – and create some overlap of experience and skillsets so that have a more organic cross-functional workforce.
The approach not only builds new skills for existing workers, which could help with retention but it also makes the agency more adaptable to changing mission needs. 2022 is a key year for DISA’s updated strategic approach to simplify and modernise the Defense Department’s IT infrastructure with more enterprise services and enhance cybersecurity.
Technology solutions, such as the cloud-based internet isolation (CBII) browser, that emerged from the pandemic response are now foundational to DISA’s strategy, which aims to provide a framework for what and how the agency acquires products and services in the coming years. CBII was DISA’s first taste of a successful other transaction authority acquisition that moved to production this year as it rolled out a tool that helps protect DOD’s network from cyber vulnerabilities that come from web-browsing.
In addition to cyber, the document also stresses the need for modernised infrastructure, including a plan to stand up a capability to improve endpoint security through user activity monitoring for Fourth Estate organisations in fiscal 2021.DISA is also working on “an infrastructure technical refresh” for its unclassified (NIPRnet) and secret (SIPRnet) networks in 2021 to improve computing abilities.
As reported by OpenGov Asia, A report titled “Government Cloud Platforms 2021–2022 RadarView” evaluated 15 providers based on product maturity, enterprise adaptability and future readiness. The report identifies four trends that are shaping the market. The first is the increasing compliance needs that are accelerating the shift to the cloud. The cloud helps agencies address sensitive workloads, such as those involving health care data while complying with requirements.
State and local governments are increasingly adopting cloud to lower IT and licensing costs. Cloud can help city councils manage and organise resources and foster communication and collaboration. It can help them securely store, analyse and process sensitive economic data, and they can more easily capture and process data from the internet of things and edge computing.
The second trend is the emergence of tailored cloud regions for communities such as defence and intelligence. Such regions can address the level of sensitive data that these communities work with, and these users can look to these isolated cloud resources to deploy workloads securely and compliantly.
The third trend is the fact that convergence with emerging technologies is driving change. Fourth, government cloud providers are expanding their influence by growing into new regions and helping the public sector shift to cloud while maintaining data governance and sovereignty. Moves toward modernisation, smart cities and a digital economy are driving governments to upgrade their IT infrastructure and cloud is the best way to ensure that data is securely and readily available.
A virtual space introducing tourist destinations of the central province of Thua Thien-Hue was launched recently, aiming to optimise digital transformation to boost the industry’s recovery from the pandemic and encourage economic growth. According to the Director of the provincial Department of Tourism, Tran Huu Thuy Giang, this is a step for the province to catch up with the fourth industrial revolution. It will also connect Thua Thien-Hue with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) to promote its tourism products, services, and destinations to foreign visitors while helping Vietnamese firms partner with leading telecommunication and IT companies.
As per a news report, Giang said the province hopes to organise the space annually, providing a chance for localities across the province and local travel firms to connect with their customers. Visitors can access the Thua Thien-Hue virtual tourism space at the official website and portal for images of destinations, festivals, and specialities as well as tourism activities of the province in a 3D format. The department and its technology partner have supported travel firms to register to join the virtual tourism space and interact with customers. So far, more than 90 localities and businesses have registered to take part in the space. Officials will continue to develop the space into a tourism platform that enables visitors to book tours and hotels for their trips.
Vietnam has been taking measures to digitally develop tourism, including rural tourism. The growth of rural tourism will expand the sector and promote sustainable new-style rural area building. As OpenGov Asia had reported, increasing rural tourism through the National Target Programme on New-style Rural Development will create jobs, raise incomes, and promote a rural economic structure shift through digital transformation. It will also help preserve traditional cultural values and protect the environment.
The nation currently has three types of rural tourism: community-based tourism, agricultural tourism, and ecotourism. The country has about 365 rural tourist spots and more than 2,000 traditional craft villages with the potential for tourism. Digital transformation in rural tourism will help attract more visitors, assist tourists to prepare their trips easily, provide better services, and better understand customer behaviours.
With the government’s investments in digital transformation, Vietnam’s digital economy has been growing at the fastest pace in ASEAN, about 38% annually compared to the region’s average of 33% since 2015. The country expects the digital economy will make up 20% of its GDP and at least 10% in each sector. It is at the forefront of driving change and seizing opportunities to thrive based on digital transformation in a post-pandemic future.
Last year, a study surveyed about 16,700 digital consumers and more than 20 C-level employees in six Southeast Asian countries, including 3,579 survey participants from Vietnam. The report described Southeast Asia as a leader of digital transformation in the Asia-Pacific region and Vietnam as one of the best performers. In Vietnam, seven out of ten consumers have digital access.
A South Australian medical device company has opened the world’s first 3D Advanced Surgical Training Clinic within Adelaide’s BioMed City, creating 157 direct jobs in the fields of research, production and administration.
The $6.8 million investment made by the medical device company into the state’s health and medical industries sector, forms part of the company’s $26.5 million expansion plan in South Australia. The new clinic is anticipated to create an additional 800 indirect jobs in South Australia within the supply chain, medical tourism and higher education sectors.
The cutting-edge, 25-bed clinic will utilise 3D advanced manufactured, anatomically accurate, human body parts – disrupting the cadaver market by providing fully operable manufactured products with no harmful infectious diseases, and pathology on demand. It is expected the clinic will attract surgeons and medical staff from around the globe to rehearse and upskill on rare and complex pathologies.
The investment by the medical device company to establish the world’s first 3D Advanced Surgical Training Clinic in the state will spearhead a new era of Industry 4.0. The company’s innovative and revolutionary approach to medical training will support South Australia’s growing reputation in surgical training and medical technologies, further enhancing our hi-tech sector capabilities.
South Australia has one of the world’s most exciting bio-medical precincts and the health and medical industry sector is one of the fastest-growing sectors in South Australia. The state’s Health and Medical Industries sector strategy aims to increase the sector’s economic contribution to the state to $5 billion by 2030.
The new 3D clinic will be the only location globally where surgeons can upskill and rehearse on advanced manufactured models that will translate to living patients and de-risk medical procedures for patients and medical professionals.
The clinic will also be used to develop new surgical procedures and techniques, the medical device company’s Chief Executive Officer explained. He noted that it will also be used for new tool training, like the cutting-edge surgical robotic system by an American multinational corporation that develops medical devices, pharmaceuticals and more. This robotic system is currently being installed.
The CEO stated that the 3D clinic will attract international surgeons and Tier 1 medical device companies to South Australia, connecting universities, local industry and international companies to collaborate and develop new cutting-edge capabilities in the heart of Adelaide’s $3.8 billion BioMed City.
Adelaide’s BioMed City
Adelaide BioMed City is a hub for health and life sciences. It co-locates institutions from research, education and clinical care in a precinct in the heart of Adelaide. Their mission is to be a globally recognised partnership leading in research, education, clinical care and population health. And their goal is to build impact, leverage investment and inform evidence-based healthcare and innovation in ways that could not be achieved separately.
In 2020, the SA Productivity Commission released their ‘Review of Health & Medical Research in South Australia’. According to the review, Adelaide BioMed City is the $3.6 billion Healthcare Innovation and Translation precinct in the heart of Adelaide. It brings together capabilities in research, education, clinical care and industry to drive innovation and translation.
The review notes that as a State, South Australia must leverage its high-quality research in frontier technologies for translation and commercialisation. Fields such as precision medicine, drug design and rehabilitation harness the convergence of R&D outcomes from AI, robotics, sensors, software engineering and material science to develop earlier, cheaper diagnostics and interventions. Significantly, it is the combination of these skills that makes South Australia unique and give it an edge.
President of Indonesia, Joko Widodo said that The G20 and advanced economies must work together to create a more resilient and responsive global health architecture to face future threats and pandemics. International Monetary Fund should be tasked to mobilise resources to revitalise global health architecture through technologies. This should include a global contingency fund for medical supplies, building capacity in developing countries to manufacture vaccines and the creation of global health protocols and standards.
Indonesia invited all global business leaders to contribute their ideas to the G20’s three key goals for 2022: creating a more resilient global health system; optimising digital technology to support societal transformation; and driving a fair and affordable transition to clean energy and a circular economy. The benefits must be felt by wider society.
Six of Indonesia’s sectors are wide open for foreign investment – export-oriented labour-intensive industries (including health), renewable energy, infrastructure, automotive (especially electric vehicles), tourism and value-added mining.
Developing countries need technology transfer and financial support from advanced economies to ensure the transition does not burden their citizens. Indonesia needs $50 billion for its renewable power sector and a further $37 billion for forestry, land use and marine sectors. Concrete outcomes can only be achieved through strong cooperation. Technology and financing will be key.
To finance the green transition, the President has initiated a carbon trading system that will deliver results-based payments for actions that reduce carbon emissions as well as a carbon tax on coal-fired power plants, due to start in April. The government also plans to raise capital by issuing environmental and social bonds, and through REDD+ projects that reduce deforestation and promote sustainable forest management.
Through its G20 Presidency in 2022, Indonesia is honoured to have the responsibility to chair the first Digital Economy Working Group. The elevation of the Digital Economy Task Force to the Digital Economy Working Group (DEWG) in which platform provides greater credence and allows more comprehensive discussion on cross-cutting digital issues under G20,” said the Secretary-General of the Ministry of Communications and Informatics of the Republic of Indonesia, and the Chair of DEWG.
Taking into consideration the strategic, dynamic, and multi-dimensional nature of the digital economy, Indonesia’s Presidency raises 3 (three) priority issues that will be conferred in the DEWG, namely:
- Post COVID-19 Recovery and Connectivity;
- Digital Skills and Digital Literacy; and
- Cross-Border Data Flow and Data Free Flow with Trust.
Through these three priority issues, Indonesia is seeking to bring forth a substantive and concrete discussion to the G20 table. The DEWG is expected to explore prospective solutions for the global and cross-sectoral digital economy challenges that are apparent in various countries. In some parts of the world, rapid innovation of digital technology has led to unprecedented challenges that we have never encountered before. The issue of the complex interplay between stakeholders in the digital landscape and the level of the playing field should be discussed and faced together.
As reported by OpenGov Asia, the Minister of Communications and Informatics Johnny G. Plate encourages everyone to continue to improve their quality of life in line with the projected number and types of new jobs due to technology adoption. It is projected that there will be 85 million old jobs that may be lost and 97 million new jobs that may appear, this is due to the division of labour between humans, machines and algorithms. The new jobs require a high level of digital skills and soft skills.
A report shows that in 2025 there will be 43% of industry players who reduce or reduce the number of workers as a consequence of the application of technology integration. Increasing digital skills and soft skills in line with technological developments for the workforce, especially the younger generation of Indonesia, can be done through upskilling and reskilling.
The National Central Library of Taiwan (NCL) has completed the digitisation of over 30,000 pages of rare Chinese books in collaboration with the libraries of Oxford University and Stanford University. The cooperation with the Stanford University Libraries focuses on the digitisation of a selection of classic ancient Chinese books and documents in several categories, including Confucian classics, history, philosophy and literature.
A selection of 210 volumes from 26 titles in the holdings of the East Asia Library and the Bowes Art & Architecture Library were digitised by Digital Production Group (DPG) and then delivered to NCL for its Rare Books Database in November to complete the project.
These newly available rare books will be very useful to scholars working on Ming-Qing period scholarship, literature and history. The collaborative digitisation project with the Bodleian Library, the main research library of the University of Oxford, includes a valuable collection of ancient Chinese books and manuscripts, according to the NCL statement.
To replenish Taiwan’s resources for Chinese studies, the national central library has focused on digitising rare books in the collections of libraries abroad by coordinating with foreign libraries. The library has established a bilaterally beneficial international coordination model that helps it gain access to the resources of rare books and documents located abroad. Since the launch of the international digitisation of rare books and documents, the library has digitised 3.2 million pages of important rare Chinese books in 4,700 types.
– Tseng Shu-hsien, Director General, NCL
Since NCL embarked on a collaboration with the Library of Congress of the United States in 2005, it has collaborated with several major libraries and institutions in the world, including the University of Washington Libraries; the Library of the University of California, Berkeley; and Princeton University Library to digitise rare Chinese books and documents in their collections under the international digitisation project. Other libraries that have cooperation ties with NCL include the University of Toronto Libraries, the University British Columbia Library, and Bibliothèque Nationale de France.
These traditional woodblock-printed books are unique and valuable pre-modern Chinese resources. As Professor Ronald Egan, an expert in Chinese pre-modern literature commented on the project, “they belong to a wide range of topics and fields, including local gazetteers, scholarly studies of Chinese classics and historiography, historical phonology, literary collections, and anecdotal works.
This was the first mass digitisation project imaged primarily on equipment that DPG recently acquired from Digital Transitions, called the BC100 Dual Copy System. The BC100 is a book capture system that uses two overhead cameras, a pneumatic glass platen and a book cradle to create FADGI 4 star quality images at efficient production rates.
With production beginning in May of 2020, a goal for this international collaboration was to create a close and accurate estimate of how long it would take to complete digitising the requested selection of books. The team was able to deliver well over the original agreement, providing a total of 33,613 pages ahead of schedule.
As reported by OpenGov Asia, Taiwan is one of the fastest-growing economies in Asia. It has sustained a high-growth economy in the past few years, charged by rapid industrialisation and exports. Meanwhile, the digital market and e-commerce are also expanding in Taiwan.
Under the “National Digital Archives Program” and the “National Science and Technology Program for e-Learning”, various kinds of archives are kept in Academia Sinica, the National Palace Museum, National Taiwan University and many other public and private cultural institutions in Taiwan have been digitised. These two Taiwanese programs have successfully integrated the development of different fields in science, humanities, economy, and technology.
A team of researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) has set a new record in the power conversion efficiency of solar cells made using perovskite and organic materials. This technological breakthrough paves the way for flexible, light-weight, low cost and ultra-thin photovoltaic cells which are ideal for powering vehicles, boats, blinds and other applications.
Technologies for clean and renewable energy are extremely important for carbon reduction. Solar cells that directly convert solar energy into electricity are among the most promising clean energy technologies. The high power conversion efficiency of solar cells is critical for generating more electrical power using a limited area and this, in turn, reduces the total cost of generating solar energy.
– Professor Hou Yi, Lead Researcher, NUS Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
The researchers have demonstrated a power conversion efficiency of 23.6%. This is the best performance for this type of solar cell to date. The latest result is approaching the power conversion rate of 26.7% of conventional silicon solar cells, which is the dominating technology in the current solar PV market.
Solar cell technology has achieved tremendous growth in recent years as a sustainable energy source. The reliability, efficiency, durability, and price of solar cells have a crucial impact on the commercial potential and large-scale implementation of solar energy projects around the world.
The conventional solar cells being used in solar power plants are based on a single-junction architecture. The practical power conversion efficiency of single-junction solar cells is limited to about 27% in industrial production. To push the frontiers of solar energy production will require novel solutions for solar cells to perform better in power conversion.
To raise the power conversion efficiency of solar cells to go beyond 30%, stacks of two or more absorber layers (multi-junction cells) are required. Tandem solar cells, which are made using two different types of photovoltaic materials, is a hot area of research.
A tandem solar cell comprises two or more subcells electrically connected using interconnecting layers (ICLs). The ICL plays a critical role in determining the performance and reproducibility of a device. An effective ICL should be chemically inert, electrically conductive and optically transparent.
The study shows the great potential of perovskite-based tandem solar cells for future commercial applications of photovoltaic technology. Building on the new discovery, we hope to further improve the performance of our tandem solar cells and scale up this technology.
As reported by OpenGov Asia, medical and nursing students at the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine will be using three-dimensional holographic technology from a tech company to help them learn certain medical procedures and study anatomical structures. The collaboration, which spans NUS Medicine, the National University Health System and a tech company add mixed reality to the learning experience.
Through holographic technology, medical and nursing undergraduates can expect to better hone their skills through training. This progressive use of mixed reality in healthcare education stems from the tech company’s work with the National University Health System, which is embarking on Holomedicine research in Singapore to enhance patient care.
From delivering better healthcare experiences at the frontlines to helping neurosurgeons keep patients better informed of what could happen during their surgeries, technology has been an empowering tool for healthcare workers as they protect and save the lives of patients. As one of the few hospitals in Southeast Asia that has a tertiary education arm that collaborates with a training hospital, NUS Medicine is in a unique position to use mixed reality solutions.