Science and technology are the differentiators between countries that are able to tackle poverty effectively by growing and developing their economies, and those that are not. The extent to which developing economies emerge as economic powerhouses depends on their ability to grasp and apply insights from science and technology and use them creatively. Innovation is the primary driver of technological growth and drives higher living standards.
Helping Southeast Asian partner countries to meet Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 through enabling quality technical, vocational and tertiary education in areas and thereby increase the number of young adults who have relevant technical and vocational skills for employment in decent jobs is one way to improve the economic development of these countries. This will help increase much sought-after science and technology advancement that leads countries towards an innovation driven society in the long run. This builds on SDG 8 in promoting economic productivity through technology upgrading and innovation to focus on high-value added sectors, and SDG 9 by enhancing research, upgrading technological capabilities and encouraging domestic technology development, research and innovation.
Astronomy is a unique and cost-effective way to further economic development because technological and scientific revolutions underpin economic advances and improvements in health systems, education and infrastructure.  National research programmes in astronomy inspire the young to enter careers in science and technology. This not only creates an immediate impact on skills and training by encouraging students to study science and engineering, and equipping students with skills that can be exploited in other sectors leading increased economic development but it pushes the boundaries of science and technology and so supports the growth of a high-technology economy.
The UK has internationally leading expertise in areas such as telescope instrumentation, advanced optics, data handling and analysis. Moreover the UK has advanced the use of astronomy in STEM education programmes at all level both in the UK, through the National Space Academy, and in South Africa under the Newton Fund.
We propose activities around the following:
STEM education in schools
Capacity building in engineering post degree level through instrumentation development, robotics and advanced optics.
Capacity building in computing post degree level through astronomy data handling and analysis
Applicants must explain what skills will be developed, how this benefits the wider Southeast Asian economy and what future Southeast Asian research needs this meets.
IEET ‘The Role of Science and Technology in the Developing World in the 21st Century’, Lee-Roy Chetty, 2012
International Astronomy Union Strategic Plan 2010 – 2020