New hybrid ministry approved
The cabinet on Wednesday approved the establishment of the Higher Education, Research & Development Ministry, which merges the existing Science and Technology Ministry, Office of the Higher Education Commission, the National Research Council of Thailand, and the Thailand Research Fund.
Science and Technology Minister Suvit Maesincee said the government aims to support higher education institutes to improve their academic capabilities, upgrade the efficiency of annual R&D spending to meet the demands of industries, and promote high-tech development.
"The latest approval will affect the whole Science and Technology Ministry," said Mr Suvit. "The government hopes the new ministry will become instrumental to reinforcing the government's policy to develop high technology, enhancing the efficiency of the R&D and support Thailand 4.0 policy, as well as human resource development."
On July 3, the cabinet approved in principle to set up the new ministry, which would comprise 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.
"The new ministry is meant to reform education, the bureaucratic system and R&D spending," said Mr Suvit.
He said a National Policy Committee on Higher Education, Research & Development will be established shortly to supervise the ministry's strategy and provide guidelines for the R&D budget.
"Once a new ministry is established, an annual budget of 120-130 billion baht for R&D will be used more efficiently and conform to the country's ongoing reforms and technology development plans," said Mr Suvit.
Mr Suvit said the government also hopes the new ministry plays a vital role in reducing income disparity, and assist public, small- and large-scale industry to generate more income.
The ad hoc committee will be set up to work out the details of the new ministry's structures to ensure implementation within February.
The Science and Technology Ministry reported Thailand's investment in R&D was 114 billion baht, equal to 0.78% of GDP in 2016. Government investment accounted for 27% of the total.