The Board of Investment (BoI) and relevant state agencies should take firmer steps to get the private sector to invest in research and development (R&D), business leaders say.
Somkiat Tangkitvanich, president of the Thailand Development Research Institute, said yesterday that the investment promotion agency has yet to prove its effectiveness in driving R&D investment in the private sector.
"It's important that the BoI supports the private sector in increasing R&D investment by adding it as an activity eligible for investment incentives," Mr Somkiat told a seminar in Bangkok entitled "Science, Technology and Innovation".
He urged the government to focus more on funding private entities investing in R&D.
According to data from the National Science and Technology Development Agency, R&D spending by the private sector more than doubled to 21.1 billion baht in 2011 from 10 billion baht two years earlier.
Given the prolonged political unrest, Mr Somkiat recommended the private sector get together and brainstorm an R&D roadmap so that it will be ready when a new government is formed.
Kan Trakulhoon, the president and chief executive of Siam Cement Group (SCG), said the leading industrial conglomerate has pushed technology and innovation development in recent years, with R&D spending set to top 4 billion baht this year.
But he stressed the importance of government taking a more serious approach to encourage R&D measures to upgrade and add value to products.
Mr Kan said sectors such as petroleum, building materials and food have high potential for better productivity.
High-value-added (HVA) products help Thai companies like SCG compete in Asean markets, he said, especially in countries with similar or higher wage levels.
Analysts say R&D investment is needed to drive development in Thailand's science and technology sector, along with reforms in regulations, incentives and human resources.
Ninlawan Petcharaburanin, a Bangkok senator and founder of Bria Health Center, said some R&D projects are not accessible to researchers for further development, and therefore a change in the law is required.