Innovation agency sets ambitious but achievable goals

Thailand’s National Innovation Agency (NIA) announced last week that it is aiming to propel the Kingdom into the top 30 countries in the world in the Global Innovation Index by 2030 through supporting local entrepreneurs and attracting over 3,000 international innovation-driven businesses to set up operations in Thailand.

“The NIA will serve as an engine to drive Thai innovation, supporting inventors and entrepreneurs,” Pun-Arj Chairatana, NIA executive director, told reporters.

He was speaking at an event to mark the 10th anniversary of the agency as a public organization under the supervision of the Ministry of Science and Technology.  Its mission is to create a more competitive economy by co-creation, networking, fostering, and partnering different organizations from various fields such as academic, technology, industry, finance and investment.

Thailand was ranked 44th in the 2018 Global Innovation Index compiled by the World Intellectual Property Organization, Cornell University, and the European Institute of Business Administration. The Kingdom rose seven places from the 2017 report in which it was ranked 51st.

Thailand’s government is placing great emphasis on innovation as part of its 20-year national strategy called Thailand 4.0 that strives to create a more advanced economy and society. The government is creating a showcase development zone in three provinces adjacent to Bangkok called the Eastern Economic Corridor.

Thailand has much work to do, however, to achieve its goals, Pun-Arj said. The country has over 3 million registered companies, but he could describe only about one percent of them as innovation-driven firms.

To crack the top 30 in the rankings, he said the NIA will work with international networks to make Thailand a landing pad and launching pad for overseas firms. The agency is already partnering with Japan, Israel, and Finland. His goal is to attract at least 3,000 innovative international companies.

Thailand’s embrace of innovation is also moving beyond technology and industry to public policy. To that end, the National Economic and Social Development Board said last week that the country’s Institute of Public Policy and Development will launch operations in 2019.

The Institute is a research and development organization, or think tank, under the auspices of the Board. The Board has been formulating Thailand’s five-year national development plans since the 1960s.

Thosaporn Sirisamphand, the Board’s secretary-general, said the Institute would focus on public policy issues that are crucial to the country’s future such as income disparity. It will function as a public policy laboratory, proposing policies and solutions to the government.