Prayut orders creation of R&D office

Prayut orders creation of R&D office

3 existing agencies combined into 1

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has ordered a national research and innovation office be established within the next three months to exclusively handle the country's R&D.

Deputy Prime Minister Prajin Juntong said the premier made the request at the National Research Council of Thailand's (NRCT) meeting yesterday, with the new office supervised initially by the Prime Minister's Office under the direct supervision of the prime minister himself, before being upgraded later to a public organisation.

Three existing agencies -- the NRCT, the National Science and Technology and Innovation Policy Office, and the Thailand Research Fund -- are to be unified into the new office, said ACM Prajin.

"R&D plays a very important role in national development, covering not only the economy but also social and security issues. A specific office to supervise and drive R&D should be established as soon as possible," he said.

ACM Prajin said the first step is to invite experts from the public and private sector and educational institutes to advise the new office.

In a related development, the meeting yesterday approved two draft bills to enhance investment in R&D. One is for national research and innovation and the other is for promotion of R&D for commercial purposes and funding.

"The two draft bills are expected to go before the cabinet for approval in the next 60 days before being proposed to the National Legislative Assembly," said ACM Prajin.

The committee also approved a strategic plan to develop human resources between 2017 and 2036 and a guideline to allocate a supporting budget in fiscal 2018.

NRCT secretary-general Sirirurg Songsivilai said the 20-year strategic plan aims to raise R&D expenditure to 2% of the country's GDP in 2036. R&D spending in 2015 accounted for only 0.62% of GDP. The estimate for 2016 is 0.75% and it is forecast to reach 0.8% in 2017.

The plan calls for the private sector to account for 80% of R&D spending by 2036 and the public sector 20%. The private sector accounts for 70% of R&D spending now.

The government has allocated 17 billion baht in fiscal 2018, up 15% from 2017.

To promote R&D spending in the private sector, the cabinet in May approved tax incentives for companies that group together in clusters to invest in R&D in five specified areas. They will be eligible to claim 300% deductions for R&D expenses, up from 200%, if they invest more in food, agriculture and biotechnology; public health, healthcare and biomedical technology; robotics and smart devices; digital, Internet of Things and artificial intelligence; and creative economy, culture and lifestyle.

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