Recognizing the need for human resource development in science and technology in neighboring countries, coupled with the available resources of high-caliber Thai researchers and state-of-the-art infrastructure available in Thailand, BIOTEC initiated the Human Resource Development Program in Biotechnology for Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam (CLMV). This program specifically addresses the underlying causes of the shortage of skilled manpower in the field of biotechnology in CLMV, which are lack of facilities, equipment, technical know-how, limited research and development in biotechnology and inadequate training facilities and equipment. The Program offers short-term training courses to young researchers from these countries to work and train in laboratories in Thailand. The training courses consist of teaching of basic and advanced techniques, designing and conducting a mini research project and site visits to factories or project sites. The activities are conducted under the guidance of BIOTEC researchers. The trainees are provided with living and research/training expenses and are assigned a researcher to provide guidance. Some of the currently available courses are in the area of plant biotechnology, food safety analysis, biodiversity and bioresource utilization.
The pilot program was launched in 2001 with direct BIOTEC funding, allocating four 3-month training scholarships. The program received a two-year grant from the ASEAN Foundation to provide a total of 20 scholarships for 2003 and 2004. From 2007, the Program offered training opportunities to young scientists from the Asia Pacific region, while maintaining funding priority for CLM. The number of applications grew from 40 in 2003 to 74 in 2008, proving that the program effectively addresses the needs of these countries.
Feedback received from both the trainees and the heads of their affiliated research institutes have been highly positive and supportive of this Program. Graduating trainees gained confidence both academically and socially, with drastic improvement in English as well as research skills. Several alumni went on to win scholarships for graduate studies in foreign countries such as SIDA scholarships to study at the Asian Institute of Technology, UNESCO International Post Graduate Course in Biotechnology, scholarships to study in Germany and Canada. Most trainees returned to their work in academic and research institutes, maintaining linkages with experts and researchers in ASEAN.
The Program offers 10-15 scholarships annually and welcomes partnerships from other organizations sharing the same vision in capacity building and networking for developing countries. A call for applications for the Human Resource Development Program in Biotechnology is posted annually on the BIOTEC homepage.