Science and Technology in Thailand



Thailand is one of the world leading agricultural country where they also one of the top food exporter which increased their competitive advantage among the few food exporters and leading agricultural countries in the world.  Thailand’s strict intellectual property law enforcement, fully-trained technicians, abundant science and technology parks and abundance of biodiversity contributed to the increase of investment from local and international companies on its biotech sector. They are also home to several biotechnology firms like Purac, Betargo, Novartis and etc.

National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA) is established in Thailand to oversee Thai’s development of science and technology industry, where it also aim to drive the Thailand society towards knowledge and technology based society from traditional based society.  They have been landscaping the innovation system in Thailand through many ways, including creation of Ministry of Information and Technology and National Science, Technology and Innovation Policy office in Bangkok and several cities in Thailand. Their economy structure has changed from agriculture based economy to industrial economy (manufacturing in particular).  Thailand’s economy also received a boost with the improvement in their tourism industry where few tourist attraction areas has been upgraded, renovated and equipped with state of art facilities in Phuket, Bangkok, Chiangmai and other cities in Thailand. This has successfully upgraded Thailand’s economy where currently tourism, science and technology sector are the main contributor as reigning economy leader after Singapore in Southeast Asia.

The 10 year Science and Technology Plan launched by ex-Prime Minister of Thailand, Thaksin Shinawarta (2004-2013) has set an objective to enhance Thailand’s capabilities in respond to suiting the age of globalization and strengthens the country long term competitiveness under this vision, Thailand: Knowledgeable society, compete internationally, Strong Thai economy, Strong security of Thailand and high quality life in Thailand.  Thailand is concentrating on strengthening its technological capabilities by focusing on genetic engineering and biotechnology, material science, electronics and computer. Thailand has also established National Nanotechnology Centre, which focused on the development of nanotechnology, National Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology which focused on research on genetic engineering and exploring more into biotechnology which will improve Thai’s agriculture sector and eliminate the traditional way of producing products from farming industry to a more high-tech way of producing products to be exported to all countries in Asia and world.

Thailand Institute of Scientific and Technological Research were founded in 1963 with the assistance of United Nations where its job is to promote government’s initiative to improve Thailand’s technology and science industry and they focus of research mainly on biotechnology, agricultural technology, materials technology where this will improve Thailand’s economy and reduce the reliance on agriculture as main source of income and contributor to Thailand’s developing economy. Their responsibility is to conducting research and assist government agencies and private enterprise to improve the results of scientific and technological research which will benefit the country in agriculture, industry and commerce and also committed to the idea of commercialization.

TISTR has listed out the few activities to enhance commercialization, which is: Cooperating and coordination research with other universities and research institute, form better links with private enterprise through seminar organized by Board of Investment, attending meetings, and consulting governors of all Thai state to find solution  to improve rural and small scale technologies and  using informal channels to connect with  knowledgeable executives, financiers, and deal makers  to have a better perspective by private sector and finding ways to exploit the chances to improve Thailand economy.

Thailand is upgrading its innovation system and government is making efforts to ensure efforts in bringing various investors to invest in Thailand’s technology and science industry to make sure that Thailand, like other countries in Southeast Asia, will be on par with world developing economy in 5-10 years’ time. Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation has outlined the STI context in developing Thailand’s science and technology industry which states challenges of STI which includes commercialization of research outputs, STI budgeting system, next-generation knowledge workers, lack of innovation for future competitiveness which lead to reformed government policy in STI on 2014. On 2014, Thailand has reformed the STI administration system which will increase effectiveness of public-private partnership; accelerate support for STI manpower development which uses education, work-integrated learning, education, talent mobility and technology assistance to SME’s.  This plan also includes reforming the incentive system where regulation and laws will be applied to enable commercialization of R&D and develop STI infrastructure and services to enhance infrastructure and services to support technology plus R&D commercialization.

STIP has recommended ways to improve Thailand’s science and technology innovation which is:  moving leaders and institutions off their comfort zone, achieving goals and aspiration, balancing of social, environment and economic objectives, strengthening of STI governance and management, improving resource management, expanding of international connections by engaging international experts on STI policies and program design and evaluation.  Other initiative that had been done to complete STI recommendation is:  implementation of new STI law to enhance governance and management, new IP commercialization law is tabled in Thai Parliament, 300% tax exemption for R&D plus innovation expenditures, development of special innovation zone in various cities in Thailand, increase of industrial technology assistance program to SME’s. Thailand has  initiated a plan called Transformation  to Innovation-driven economy toward a high income country by 2026  which: Increasing pool of talent and innovators, innovation-driven enterprises, implementing strategic industry for the future, to develop world-class STI infrastructure in Thailand and reform on STI budgeting system.  In early 2016, Thailand has created Thai Food Innopolis where it functions as global food innovation hub, focusing on research, development and innovation for food industry. It is equipped with required facilities and human resources to support the food production for local, regional and global and it is located at Thailand Science Park, Pathum Thani, Thailand.

In 2012, Thailand introduced a master plan called as National Science, Technology, and Innovation Master Plan 2012-2021 which part of its Economic and Social Development Plan initiated by Thai Government in 2012. The plan layout are:  Green Innovation for  quality society and sustainable economic growth, empowering society and local communities, enhancing competitiveness and flexibility, ensuring and maintaining energy, resource, and environment security, developing and enhancing STI &human capital,  promoting and assisting the development of STI and enabling infrastructure and factors. This plan targeted 12 economic sectors, and they are:  creative & digital contents, rice &rice productivity, bio-based energy, rubber products, processed food, electrical and electronics, automotive and parts, plastics and petrochemicals, fashion ,value-added tourism, logistic and rails, construction industry.

On March 26,2017, Thailand and Philippines has signed an agreement on cooperation to work together in promoting science and technology between the two nation where both nations will carry out  science and technology joint research development, exchange of scientists and specialists, representative of research, academic, industrial and trade organizations, exchange of technical information and knowledge and cooperation in all aspects in developing and promoting science and technology for Thailand and Philippines society.   Philippine Science and Technology Secretary Fortunto de la Pena  said that both nation representatives will discuss on negotiating programs and approved areas and terms of science and technology cooperation and agreed on all aspects in the cooperation agreement. This Philippines-Thailand agreement allowed universities/organizations/agencies and firms of both nations of exchanging information and knowledge on improving and enhancing knowledge to drive citizens of both nations from traditional society to IT and science knowledge society and the agreement will start from March 2017 and end on March 2023.

The Vientiane Times reported that Laos and Thailand also extending science and technology cooperation during the meet of both nations in Bangkok on 5th February 2017  where  both nations representatives attended a workshop  of Lao-Thai Committee of Cooperation on Science, Technology and Innovation where exchange of ideas and networking between the two countries on areas of health, water management and environment, bio-energy, food security and safety, innovation and other scientific fields.  Mr Phimpha Outhachak, Acting-Director General of Department of  Planning and International Cooperation under Ministry of Science and Technology, said that the workshop highlighted the importance of support and development of science, technology and innovation sector.  This workshop has a role in promoting creation and study of application of new technology and innovation and observing its implementation of innovation information for socio-economic development in ASEAN countries and Laos and the Laotian government has the ASEAN Plan for Science and Technology and will continue the development of green principles and environmental sustainability.  The exchange of ideas will also benefit Thailand in continuing its plan to develop science and technology sector in Thailand and achieving its high-income nation aim in 2023.

Cooperation between Thai government, citizens, agencies, universities, are important in maintaining  stable growth of Thailand economy, and reduce the reliance on agriculture industry and tourism industry where it severely affected due to political unrests and other crisis in Thailand. Thailand also need to learn from other countries, not only in Southeast Asia, but also economic powerhouse China, United States, Japan, South Korea and soon to join the economy powerhouse list: India to ensure their progress in science and technology developed continues and adapt to constant changes and technology advancement in the world.