PM orders formation of R&D ministry
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has ordered the creation of a new ministry overseeing R&D and innovation, to be established before the next election.
According to Deputy Education Minister Udom Kachintorn, the premier wants the Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Development to be set up as soon as possible to handle the country's human resource development to meet labour demands related to the Thailand 4.0 policy, the development of 10 targeted industries that are designated to become the new engines of Thailand's economy, and 20-year national strategy.
"The government has high hopes that the new ministry will be instrumental in supporting existing high education institutes to improve their academic capabilities and support R&D to meet the demands of industries," Mr Udom said. "The new ministry will also play a vital role in tackling income disparity."
The cabinet on July 3 approved the new ministry, which comprises 11 state units related to R&D under the Science and Technology Ministry, 84 state universities and 73 private universities.
The government will set aside 97 billion baht in fiscal 2019 for the new ministry's budget.
According to Mr Udom, the draft bill to establish the new ministry is scheduled to be proposed to the National Legislative Assembly by November, with establishment by February next year.
Government R&D support over the past three years saw spending in the segment reach 0.75% of the country's GDP in 2017, up from 0.62% in 2015.
R&D spending in 2017 was 102.5 billion baht.
The government expects Thailand's overall spending on R&D and innovation will reach 1% of GDP over the next 1-2 years. For two decades, expenditure on R&D and innovation never exceeded 0.25% of GDP, until spending began to gradually increase five years ago.
The government is committed under its 20-year strategic plan to raise R&D expenditure to 2% of the country's GDP by 2036. The plan calls for the private sector to provide 80% of R&D spending by 2036 (up from 70%).
The government has allocated 17 billion baht towards that end in fiscal 2018, up 15% from 2017.