Government giving $75 million for universities research

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Thailand’s government will allocate nearly $75 million to 27 local universities for the purpose of conducting research projects with potential for commercial purposes, a minister said last week, in a move in line with Thailand 4.0, the national strategy to transform Thailand’s economy into one based on innovation, research and development, and higher technologies.

“Under the Thailand 4.0 policy, the government has set aside a 2.5-billion baht ($75 million) additional budget for five university groups, totaling 27 universities. This will be an incentive for universities to collaborate instead of competing as in the past,” said Suvit Maesincee, the Prime Minister’s Office Minister.

About 60 percent of the money will go to five universities to establish innovation centers, while the rest will be split between Kasetsart University to conduct research on biotechnology, and to Mahidol University for biomedical engineering research.

Should the policy prove successful and the universities jointly develop innovations that prove useful, then the government would mostly likely increase the money for research in next year’s budget, Suvit said. He added that universities conduct about 90 percent of all research projects in Thailand, as opposed to the private sector.

That is something the government and economists would like to see change. Thailand has enjoyed decades of success as essentially an assembly-line economy manufacturing products designed and owned by foreign companies. But rising labor costs and increasing competition from emerging economies is providing the impetus for policy planners to push the nation to improve its education, innovation and creativity so that Thais are designing and developing products and services that will be commercially successful.

That will require more resources devoted to research and development, not just by government, but also by the private sector.  To spur private industry to undertake research projects, the Ministry of Finance began granting tax deductions to firms in five targeted technology industries at the beginning of the year.

Thailand’s spending on research and development is relatively low at 0.5-0.6 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), which economists say is insufficient to drive the transformation of the economy.

Thailand’s research spending will increase very soon to about 1 per cent of GDP, including both government and private-sector spending, Suvit said, if the tax deductions and other incentives prove successful.

The plan is to steadily continue to devote an increasing amount of the budget to research projects and to further encourage and incentivize the private sector to do the same until Thailand’s support for research and development is at a comparable level with more advanced countries.

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