Thailand achieves R&D investment target ahead of schedule


Thailand’s public and private sectors made Thailand achieves R&D investment target ahead of scheduleequal to 1 percent of gross domestic product in 2017, achieving that target one year ahead of schedule as the Kingdom strives to make innovation an important driver of development and the economy.

“If we stick to our strategy, within five years, Thailand will move up to high-income status. Within ten years, we could join the 1st world or developed countries,” said Dr. Kitipong Promwong, Secretary General of the National Science, Technology, and Innovation Policy Office (STI).

Combined investment in research and development (R&D) from both sectors totaled nearly $4.9 billion in 2017, the latest year for which statistics are complete, up 36 percent from the year before. The figure is equal to 1 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), according to the STI.

Thailand is determined to rapidly raise its investments in R&D to stay competitive in the 21st century, although the Kingdom still has ways to go before reaching its targets. Supporting and promoting R&D is a foundational component of Thailand 4.0, the 20-year national strategy to achieve advanced development.

The Kingdom’s advancement can also be measured by the number of full-time researchers, which has reached 21 researchers per 10,000 people and should reach 25 per 10,000 by 2021.

Kitipong said that the figure has been rising because entrepreneurs are now aware of the need for investment in research and development to boost competitiveness. The private sector invested $3.9 billion, which was 80 percent of the national investment or 0.80 percent of GDP, up 50 percent from the prior year.

The government has also been playing a role. It has implemented a range of measures that include: 1) providing funding for SMEs and start-up entrepreneurs in innovative business areas, 2) promoting measures from the Board of Investment that offer additional benefits to R&D projects 3) expanding economic innovation zones such as ‘Food Innopolis’, and 4) creating favorable funding conditions for private investors.

East Asia and the Pacific is the region with the second-highest investment in R&D following the Americas. That means Thailand has intense competition in R&D funding. In Southeast Asia, Singapore is the leader by far and among the top 15 countries in the world in the percentage of GDP given over to research.