Cabinet greenlights B24.6bn 'innovation' budget

Cabinet greenlights B24.6bn 'innovation' budget

The cabinet has approved a budget of 24.6 billion baht to support research and innovation to transition the country into a fully fledged technology-based society, according to the National Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation Policy Council.

The fund, drawn from the current fiscal year budget, will finance projects to realise the goals of achieving a technology-based society. The money will go towards developing manpower and institutions, undertaking research and creating innovations to solve major problems in the country, commissioning research and innovations to increase the country's competitiveness and reducing social disparities, according to the council director Kittipong Promwong.

He explained the goals can strengthen the country through programmes such as the so-called "BCG in Action" programme, which stands for a bio, circular and green economy. Investments in "BCG in Action" have the potential to generate immense economic returns, estimated at 4.4 trillion baht in the long run through the creation of eight million jobs. If successfully developed, the BCG can push up the income of farmers to 150,000 per person per year, as opposed to the current annual income of 58,000 baht per farmer.

The BCG can also reduce waste by at least three million tonnes a year by means of recycling and reusing it. Mr Kittipong said some of the efforts could bear fruit starting from 2024. The budget will also fund the launch of several projects to aid new forms of businesses such as community enterprises and start-ups. Frontier research in particular fields, as well as re-skill and up-skill projects and an initiative to reinvent the university system will also benefit from the budget.

Mr Kittipong added that the government has a policy to produce quality researchers by injecting funds into tertiary institutions as well as scientific research and innovations. He said that in the next three years, the government plans to increase the number of university graduates in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) faculties to 40% of all graduates in a year, up from the current rate of 34%.

In the next five years, the government has set a target of pushing up the proportion of STEM graduates to 50%.

Mr Kittipong said it is estimated that there will be about 107,000 positions on offer for people with STEM backgrounds within the next four years. About 34,000 of them will be positions in the digital industry.

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