A graphic outlining challenges facing innovation policymakers in Thailand: political instability, fragmented administration, need for more training programmes, IP policies, disparity in the innovation system

Thailand must deal with political instability and regional competition

Although innovation is now a top priority for the Thai Government and policymakers, the Thai innovation system is still relatively weak compared to other Asian countries of similar size and development level. According to the Global Innovation Index 2017, Thailand is not only far behind Singapore and the Republic of Korea (which are top world performers), but also outpaced by neighbouring Malaysia and Vietnam.

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) pointed out that ‘political instability and a lack of policy continuity have weakened the ability of public institutions to provide an enabling environment for businesses and, equally important, to steer and sustain major reforms over time’.

The Thai administration is still hierarchical, fragmented and silo-based

According to UNCTAD, the various existing financial and non-financial schemes to improve innovation in Thailand are ‘too fragmented and uncoordinated’, thus leveraging little R&D and private sector funding for innovation, and involving only a relatively small number of firms. Additionally, in spite of the 2017 National Competitive Enhancement Act for Targeted Industries, there has been little or no synergy between the existing innovation promotion schemes managed by different ministries.

Some public institutions within the Thai innovation system are still quite hierarchical and silo-based in their administrative processes, impeding innovation policy implementation. On the other side, the lack of transparency and heavily bureaucratic procedures also negatively impact the environment for business and innovation.

Programmes developing skilled labour in innovation do not keep up with the pace of demand

Many programmes supporting the development of human resources in science, technology and innovation have been put in place and implemented at all levels of education. Increasing market demand for human resources in innovation, both at the vocational and higher levels of education, has however exacerbated the shortages of skilled labour.

Intellectual property (IP) policies are not yet meeting the needs of the system

A basic level of protection and a registration system has been put in place for copyrights, trademarks and designs with a basic legal framework enforcing IP rights. However, the commercialisation of research and IP management is still underdeveloped in Thai universities and patent protection is inadequate, suffering from holes in patentability and severe patent backlogs.

There is a persistent disparity in access to the innovation system

Large multinational companies, state-owned enterprises and family-owned domestic conglomerates play a major role in the development of science, technology and innovation capabilities and exercise a considerable influence on the design of economic policies. On the other hand, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), though accounting for 80 per cent of national employment and about 36 per cent of the GDP, still have limited participation in the national innovation system.

Authors

Florence Engasser

Florence Engasser

Florence Engasser

Senior Foresight Analyst

Florence is a Senior Foresight Analyst within Nesta’s Discovery Hub, which aims to create a link between Nesta’s current portfolio and our pipeline of future work.

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Benjamin Reid

Benjamin Reid

Benjamin Reid

Head of International Innovation - Development Programmes

Benjamin is head of the International Innovation team within Nesta's Policy and Research division, examining new global trends and practices in innovation, with an emphasis on emerging…

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Silvia Pau

Silvia Pau

Silvia Pau

Assistant Programme Manager, A Fairer Start mission

Silvia is an Assistant Programme Manager.

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Paulina Gonzalez-Ortega

Paulina Gonzalez-Ortega

Paulina Gonzalez-Ortega

Design Lead, International Innovation

Paulina was the Design Lead for the Global Innovation Policy Accelerator, a 14-country collaborative development programme for senior innovation policymakers.

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Nathan Kably

Nathan Kably

Nathan Kably

Senior Strategy Analyst

Nathan worked on the design and delivery of Nesta's strategy

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Anna Schlimm

Anna Schlimm

Anna Schlimm

Learning Experience Designer, Global Innovation Policy Accelerator

Anna was a Learning Experience Designer for the Global Innovation Policy Accelerator.

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