Science, technology and innovation (STI) can be powerful determinants and enablers of economic development, educational programmes and protection of the environment. This view is shared by the ASEAN Leaders who have recognised science and technology (S&T) as a key factor in sustaining economic growth, enhancing community well-being and promoting integration in ASEAN. The Leaders have envisioned that by 2020 that ASEAN will be technology competitive, competent in strategic and enabling technologies, with an adequate pool of technologically qualified and trained manpower, and strong networks of scientific and technological institution and centres of excellence.

To push forward to build a strong S&T base for ASEAN as a single integrated economy, and to ensure ASEAN to remain globally competitive, ASEAN Member Countries have to move up the technology ladder and focus on enhancing their capability for technological innovation in many areas. This task, however, is not easy as ASEAN, a grouping of ten developing countries with great variance in the level of science and technology capability, has to move the cooperation forward more vigorously and promote deeper integration. ASEAN must also promote greater awareness of its people of the S&T activities and its roles and contributions towards sustainable economic development and provide ways and means to innovate. The involvement of specific elements in ASEAN community such as private sector in S&T undertakings, especially in research and technology development and commercialisation of technologies must also be promoted.

To ensure that the S&T cooperation in ASEAN remains relevant and supportive to the directives of the ASEAN Leaders and S&T Ministers, a series of ASEAN Plans of Action in Science and Technology (APASTs) have been developed since the establishment of Committee on Science and Technology (COST) in 1978. The most recent Plan: The Action Plan of Action on Science, Technology and Innovation (APASTI) 2016-2025 was endorsed by the ASEAN Ministers for Science and Technology at the 16th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Science and Technology (AMMST) held on 6 November 2015 in Vientiane, Lao PDR. The APASTI 2016-2025 provides strategic direction of COST in implementing the programmes/ activities focusing on public-private collaboration, talent mobility, people-to-people connectivity and inclusiveness, enterprise support, and public awareness and STI enculturation. The Plan, which identifies six goals, four thrusts and fifteen supporting actions, will essentially provide appropriate guidelines for identification and formulation of programmes and projects to achieve better coordination and cooperation to strengthen the capabilities of STI in ASEAN. The APASTI 2016-2025 is accompanied by an implementation plan that includes the priorities; targets/deliverables; specific actions; timelines; indicators, derived from the work plan of the nine Sub-Committees of COST. The APASTI Implementation Plan was adopted by the ASEAN Ministers for Science and Technology at the 9th Informal ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Science and Technology (IAMMST) held on 29 October 2016 in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

The STI cooperation in ASEAN focuses on nine programme areas, namely (i) biotechnology, (ii) food science and technology, (iii) marine science and technology, (iv) material science and technology, (v) meteorology and geophysics, (vi) microelectronics and information technology, (vii) space technology and applications, (viii) sustainable energy research, and (ix) S&T infrastructure and resources development. The coordination and implementation of activities in each area is handled by a dedicated Sub-Committee of COST.

The organisational chart of ASEAN S&T cooperation is shown as follows:

structure AMMST

Acronyms:

JSTC                           : Joint Science and Technology Committee
DST                             : Dialogue on Science and Technology
WGST                        : Working Group on Science and Technology
CCST                          : Cooperation Committee on Science and Technology
ASEAN COST+3   : Committee on Science and Technology Plus Three

To provide better services to ASEAN public and government agencies in the fields of meteorology and seismology two ASEAN centers have been established under COST, they are ASEAN Specialised Meteorology Center (ASMC) and ASEAN Earthquake Information Center (AEIC) which were established in 1993 and 2000 respectively.

ASEAN COST is actively pursuing close cooperation with its Dialogue Partners and Sectoral Dialogue Partner. Several permanent bodies have been established with ASEAN Dialogue Partners such as China, European Union (EU), India, Japan, Republic of Korea (ROK), Russia, United States (US) and also with the Plus Three (China, Japan, ROK). Regular meetings among S&T officials from ASEAN and Dialogue Partners are convened to promote closer cooperation. In addition, ASEAN also continues to forge closely collaboration in S&T with international organisations such as UNESCO, UN-ESCAP and World Meteorological Organisation (WMO).

To further promote the awareness of public to S&T cooperation in ASEAN and to enhance the interaction between scientific communities, policy makers, industries and manufacturer associations, ASEAN organises regular S&T events namely ASEAN Food Conference (AFC) and ASEAN Science, Technology and Innovation Week (ASTIW). The outcomes of research works undertaken by ASEAN scientists and researchers are also published regularly in the ASEAN Journal on S&T for Development (AJSTD). From time to time, ASEAN also issues various publications.

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