Thai spending on R&D rises by nearly one third

Thai investment in research and development is growing “by leaps and bounds,” an official said last week as figures showed that funds devoted to R&D rose by 36 percent in 2018 and are expected to increase by 32 percent this year.

Money devoted to R&D is now equal to 1.2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), with much of the funds channeled into the automotive, food, and technology sectors, said Kitipong Promwong, Director of the National Science Technology and Innovation Policy Office.

Research and development is an essential pillar of Thailand’s national strategy to achieve advanced development in the next 20 years. The strategy, called Thailand 4.0, aims to create an economy that relies on innovation, R&D, new technologies, green technologies, and digital development.

Analysts have noted that Thailand’s investments in new and upgraded infrastructure will support the strategy. While they have urged Thailand to allocate more funds for R&D, and human resources through training and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education.

Kitipong said the office aims to see R&D investments exceed $9 billion per year. Today, the Kingdom is spending about $5.2 billion. He added that the government’s goal is to produce more graduates with STEM degrees and that STEM graduates should make up half of all university graduates by 2027.

Thailand devoting 1.2 percent of GDP to R&D is similar to Malaysia but trails countries such as Israel and Korea, which spend over 4 percent of GDP on R&D, and are among the global leaders.

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