Message from JICA Project for AUN/SEED-Net

Standing Strong Together, Moving Forward to a Better Future

With the passing of 2020, the third year of our Phase IV continues to be impacted after one full year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the current situation may have hindered some operations, we are relentless in our efforts to develop the human resource network and strengthen the engineering education academic network in ASEAN, Japan, and beyond. To address the various challenges, we have made all the necessary adjustments to the programs to effectively respond to the new normal environment. In the meantime, we take this opportunity to proactively enhance our research capacity and promote transnational collaboration through the new, recently introduced programs: Special Program for Research against COVID-19 (SPRAC) and Video Contest for Alumni Network (V-CAN).

Apart from adjustments to the secretariat, the remarkable contributions of network stakeholders and partners have been key to the seamless delivery of our four main AUN/SEED-Net programs: Collaborative Education Program (CEP), Alumni Support Program (ASP), Regional Conference (RC), and ASEAN Engineering Journal (AEJ), producing fruitful outputs and reflecting the objectives of the project.

Over the past year, CEPs have been faced with many challenges, stemming from the measures implemented by the government to counter the global pandemic, such as territorial closure and the social distancing policies adopted by the countries of host institutions. These restrictions have severely affected the on-ground mobility activities of CEPs, including the enrollment of new students, internship and lectures delivered by partner universities of the consortium. To ensure timely progress and successful degree completion of the scholarship students by the end of the project period, all CEPs have been monitoring the situation closely, adjusting working plans, and implementing adaptive measures. The examples of the measures include calling for applicants to bring a new batch of students to the host university and supporting the online platform to enable schools and teachers to reach learners remotely.

All six implementing CEPs are as follows:

  • JICA/AUN-SEED-Net: SIIT-HU-ITC CEP Consortium (CEP-SIIT) led by Sirindhorn International Institute of Technology (SIIT), Thammasat University.
  • Collaborative Education Program for Sustainable Environmental Engineering Network (CEP-SEEN) led by Malaysia-Japan International Institute of Technology and Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM-MJIIT).
  • Global Academia-Industry Consortium for Collaborative Education Program (GAICCE) led by Chulalongkorn University (CU).
  • International Collaborative Education Program for Materials Technology, Education and Research (ICE-Matter) led by Kasetsart University (KU).
  • Japan ASEAN Collaborative Education Program (JACEP) led by Universiti Malaya (UM).
  • JICA/AUN-SEED-Net: Consortium of Master in Construction Management (MCM) led by Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology (HCMUT).

Last year, five alumni groups from HCMUT, HUST, ITC, UTM, and NUOL were awarded ASP sponsorship. Among them, the newly established alumni group of NUOL indicated a strong desire to expand the alumni network in future. Despite the limitations involved with face-to-face gatherings, each alumni group managed to achieve their planned activities, helping to strengthen the existing connections and bonds among the alumni network in the region, while enhancing personal skills and knowledge through workshops. Some alumni groups focused on arranging events, while others concentrated on conducting collaborative research. Two new sub-programs under the ASP umbrella: Alumni Support Program for Events (ASP-E) and Alumni Support Program for Research (ASP-R), have been initiated, and preparations made for their launch in JFY 2021.

Since it is not possible to travel abroad for on-site events during this time, AUN/SEED-Net, MIs, and other partners are coordinating closely to modify the structure and platform of the Regional Conference 2020. As a result, the arrangements for the RC have shifted to an entirely online-based webinar conference. In response to the change in arrangements, AUN/SEED-Net has expanded the eligibility criteria for RC participants regarding the sponsorship of its alumni and former AUN/SEED-Net scholarship students to increase the number of participants attending virtually. Consequently, eight RCs continue to provide an eminent platform for promoting knowledge exchange among researchers, faculty members, scholars, industrial partners, and other experts in engineering fields from various countries.

In JFY 2020, AEJ continued to demonstrate growth, improving its performance to become an internationally recognized academic research platform, where researchers and academicians around the globe can exchange and advance their knowledge. Currently, AEJ is indexed by Scopus, ASEAN Citation Index (ACI) and Thai-Journal Citation Index Center (TCI). In August 2020, AEJ also completed the Fourth Re-evaluation of Journal Quality conducted by TCI, ranking in Tier 1 for journal title classification. Following these achievements, the number of annual journal issues is doubling from two to four from 2021 onward to accommodate the increasing number of paper submissions. The most significant achievement, however, has been the transfer of journal ownership to Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM), a Member Institution (MI). The new owner of AEJ is obliged to maintain the fairness of participation and contribution among all MIs while ensuring continuation of the journal’s performance and success. The year 2020 was indeed a remarkable year for AEJ since it paved the way for the future sustainability of its past achievements.

The outbreak of COVID-19 in early 2020 has raised awareness of the importance of scientific knowledge, especially in the novel engineering and interdisciplinary ideas, methods, tools, and technologies. As a result, SPRAC program was launched in June 2020, specifically designed to promote research collaboration among MIs, Japanese Supporting Universities (JSUs) and other partners to tackle the current pandemic and alleviate socio-economic issues. Thirty-five grants were awarded to faculty members of MIs to implement the research project until December 2021.

With the new normal practice of social distancing, we have been inspired to design another new program with the aim of bringing together approximately 2,000 alumni from countless academic activities throughout the 17 years. The Three-Minute Alumni Video Contest, also known as V-CAN, has been initiated to sustain collaboration and explore the potential of alumni network expansion. Five individual alumni contestants were awarded sponsorship and equipment supplies.
The aforementioned activities and achievements evidence the togetherness, relentless effort, and strong connections among members, partners and stakeholders, enabling AUN/SEED-Net to survive these difficult times. As the whole world faces the unprecedented spread of COVID-19, we stand strong with all our partners to overcome the obstacles together and encourage everyone to stay safe and healthy.
Lastly, AUN/SEED-Net hopes to complete two major missions in the remaining years of Phase IV: the transfer of network ownership to our ASEAN partners and the post-Phase IV network expansion with external partners beyond ASEAN to ensure that the collaborative AUN/SEED-Net will continue sustainably and flourish throughout the region and beyond.

Prof. Emeritus Dr. UEDA Tamon
Chief Advisor and Acting Executive Director
AUN/SEED-Net, September 2021