Science, technology and innovation is essential for Thailand's competitiveness and sustainable development

07 May 2015

It is imperative for Thailand to make strong efforts to foster innovation in order to be able to compete in higher value-added activities and avoid falling into the "middle-income trap" according to a new policy review carried out by UNCTAD in collaboration with the Government of Thailand.

UNCTAD's Science, Technology and Innovation Policy (STIP) Review of Thailand, which includes detailed recommendations to improve the country's national system of innovation, was presented during a session of the United Nations Commission on Science and Technology for Development (CSTD) in Geneva on 6 May 2015.

Thailand's Minister of Science and Technology Pichet Durongkaveroj, in reacting to the official presentation, gave details about how the country is currently adopting measures in the area of science, technology and innovation (STI) to escape the "middle-income trap" and compete in higher-value markets.

Thailand's Minister of Science and Technology Pichet Durongkaveroj
We need to be strong and recognise that we need to push our private sector to be innovative [...]
Society demands that investment in innovation leads to productivity and wealth creation... The critical evaluation [of Thailand made in the STIP Review] is useful [and offers] a guideline for stimulating healthy dialogue between sectors.
Mr. Durongkaveroj
Thailand's Minister of Science and Technology

Mr. Durongkaveroj said that Thailand is promoting an innovation-based development plan to enhance competitiveness, inclusiveness and sustainable development, and provide an STI roadmap for strategic industries.

UNCTAD's STIP Review considers the effectiveness of Thailand's national system of innovation and sets out nine "strategic thrusts" with detailed actions for consideration by the Government of Thailand. It suggests actions in three major areas:

  • Enhance STI governance and management by introducing a strengthened National STI Policy Committee, making clearer the roles and responsibilities of STI institutions, and increasing accountability and oversight to ensure the effectiveness of STI policy efforts.

  • Stimulate innovation efforts by: introducing matching funds to support collaborative research and development (R&D); scaling-up schemes and organizations that operate at the interface between sources of knowledge and firms; providing incentives for industry-academy collaboration; and making smart use of national megaprojects (such as rail projects) to leverage greater public and private investments in R&D and innovation.

  • Upgrade the education system to provide the STI skills needed in the economy by, among others, exposing students, teachers and academics to work in the private sector. This can be done, for example, through dual vocational training, mobility programmes and combined studies. Such exposure could lead to greater generation and assimilation of relevant knowledge and know-how for the country.

Thailand can build on a number of existing STI programmes as the basis for further progress – for example, scaling up support for regional science parks – the STIP Review notes. The Government could also expand successful cooperative educational programmes such as the Bamboo School, the Work-Integrated-Learning pilot programme, and the engineering practice schools of King Mongkut's University of Technology Thonburi (KMUTT).

UNCTAD conducted the analysis in collaboration with the Thailand's National Science, Technology and Innovation Policy Office following a request by the Government of Thailand.

STIP Reviews are conducted by UNCTAD at the request of interested Governments in order to support the development of national technological and innovation capacities, to contribute to development strategies and to improve the competitiveness of the productive sectors of developing countries in the global economy.

STIP Reviews have been implemented by UNCTAD in 13 developing countries and are part of a wider programme for promoting policymaking capacities in the field of science, technology and innovation in developing countries.