Thailand’s R&D Grows Amidst Covid-19 NXPO sets R&D investment target at 2 percent of GDP by 2027

Thailand’s R&D Grows Amidst Covid-19 NXPO sets R&D investment target at 2 percent of GDP by 2027

Dr. Kitipong Promwong (left), President of the Office of National Higher Education Science Research and Innovation Policy Council, and Dr. Wiparat De-ong, Executive Director of the National Research Council of Thailand.
Dr. Kitipong Promwong (left), President of the Office of National Higher Education Science Research and Innovation Policy Council, and Dr. Wiparat De-ong, Executive Director of the National Research Council of Thailand.

The Office of National Higher Education Science Research and Innovation Policy Council (NXPO), led by Dr. Kitipong Promwong, President, reveals that the volume of R&D investment in Thailand has grown continuously since 2011. Despite the Covid-19 Pandemic, which prompted the government sector to take action in the form of increased public R&D injection in response to potential national R&D slump from the pandemic, in accordance with a prior forecast by NXPO, the survey on R&D investment in 2020 by the National Research Council of Thailand (NRCT) shows an increase in the country’s R&D allocation to 208,009 million baht (66,304 million baht – or 32 percent – from the government sector and 141,705 million baht – or 68 percent – from the private sector). Noteworthily, the amount from the government sector increased from the previous year by almost 10 percent. The investment in R&D accounts for 1.33 percent of GDP, up from 1.14 percent last year.

Dr. Kitipong has said that “NXPO is driving the target of R&D investment to 2 percent of GDP by 2027 through measures that will encourage the private sector to invest more after Covid-19. If both the public and private sectors commit to R&D, along with NXPO’s support mechanisms, the R&D growth will be according to the policy plan.” 

As a policy agency, NXPO aims to develop the country through higher education, science, research, and innovation, with many goals to be achieved by 2027, including: driving Thailand out of the middle-income trap by: increasing the number of innovation-driven enterprises (IDE) with values of greater than 1 billion baht to 2,000 companies, and promoting creative economy together with an increase of more than 1.5 times the national average household income growth; increasing the proportion of highly skilled workers to 25 percent through a high-performance workforce development platform to support investment and national development; developing a platform to drive social mobility and income growth for 1 million grass-roots people, and; encouraging 50 percent of export companies to achieve carbon neutrality and net zero greenhouse gas emissions. To achieve these goals, there must be a new economic paradigm that focuses on technology, innovation, cultural capital, and creativity. Currently, NXPO is implementing a three-pronged strategy, consisting of Knowledge-Based Industry, Creative & Cultural-Based Industry, and Local Economy.

Dr. Kitipong Promwong, NXPO President

Knowledge-Based Industry focuses on innovative economy by promoting innovation-driven enterprises (IDE), both in terms of quality and quantity, as well as developing research and development in line with national development progress. There also needs to be a circular economy innovation policy platform to support innovation ecosystem, as well as a circular economy design and solution platform.

Creative & Cultural-Based Industry starts with a focus on cultural capital in each area, then uses the promotion mechanism of science, research, and innovation – including technology, innovation, and research for creative industries, the cultivation and development of creative entrepreneurs, and development of creative spaces and networks – to facilitate emergence of creative businesses based on cultural capital. In terms of community, this serves as a way to conserve and inherit cultural capital and generate economic value. Moreover, plans and measures have been formulated to push local cities into being parts of the UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network.

Lastly, Local Economy is fostered by supporting the creation of social enterprises to stimulate local economic activities. Business opportunities come from unmet gaps and pain points, and are supported by networks both within and outside of each area, from government and public and private sectors alike, to create a nurturing ecosystem for innovative entrepreneurs. Furthermore, a direct approach to local poverty eradication comes from taking advantage of the existing databases to develop innovative policies, including U2T (University to Sub-District) projects to generate jobs and income for the community, as well as encouraging universities to utilise their knowledge, research, technology, innovation, and resources to develop human potential and solutions needed to address real problems in the country.

Other policies include the creation of new skills, promoting a new economic paradigm and lifelong learning, and fostering an ecosystem that enhances up-skilling and re-skilling to reach the target of creating 100,000 human resources in creative and industrial economic sectors every year.

The Ministry of Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation is currently implementing several policies, including: supporting the launch of the Thailand Research and Innovation Utilization Promotion Act (B.E. 2564); promoting the Thailand Plus Package to support high-skilled labour employment and training programs in STEM; increasing trade value in the Route No. 1 Innovation Economic Corridor; financing innovation funds for SMEs, and; supporting the Higher Education Sandbox to train graduates who can satisfy the country’s needs for a different kind of education. For the fiscal year 2023, the government has allocated a budget of 17,000 million baht to the Thailand Science Research and Innovation Fund, up from 14,000 million baht in the last year.

Last but not least, four areas of reform for higher education, science, research, and innovation are: budget – including multi-year and block-grant budget management; management – such as a data structure map for monitoring related policies; organisational systems – such as the establishment of specialised capital management under various councils; and promotion of innovation ecosystem – such as the Thailand Business Innovation Research, or TBIR, measures to support funding for the private sector to develop research and innovation according to the needs of the public, the policy directions of the government, and market demand.

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