Opportunities for innovation policymakers in Thailand
The Thai Government has set out a plan for an ‘innovation-driven economy’
The Thai Government launched the national Thailand 4.0 campaign in May 2016 to promote innovation, in an effort to revive the economy. It focuses on ten industries, five existing industrial sectors which will be boosted through the use of advanced technologies (next-generation automotive, smart electronics, high-income tourism and medical tourism, efficient agriculture and biotechnology, and food innovation), and five ‘growth-engine’ industries destined to accelerate Thailand’s future expansion (automation and robotics, aerospace, bio-energy and bio-chemicals, digital, and medical and healthcare).
In parallel, a special economic zone located on the Eastern coast of Thailand was set up, the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC), and in the last year the BCG (bio, circular and green economy) strategy was implemented with the aims to facilitate the goal of raising Thailand's GDP by one trillion baht within the next five years (or equivalent to an economic growth rate of 30 per cent over the next five years). All investors undertaking investment projects in the EEC are incentivised through mechanisms like corporate income tax exemption or grants.
There are many programmes targeting innovation and offering continuity
Innovation programmes have flourished in Thailand in the last few decades, aimed at supporting different parts of the innovation ecosystem, from small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to researchers. Good examples include the Innovation and Technology Assistance Programme, launched in 1993, which offers financial support to SMEs for technology capacity building projects, and the Innovation Coupons, launched in 2011, which provide grants for innovation to SMEs.
The Talent Mobility Programme, launched in 2013, aims to encourage researchers working more closely with industry. Initiatives like Food Innopolis, set up in 2016, are very ambitious and aim to build an entire ecosystem for innovation around large companies and startups alike, providing them with space for R&D or better access to government support services.
Subsidies and tax waivers for innovation activities are increasing
Adopted in February 2017, the National Competitive Enhancement Act for Targeted Industries supports Thailand’s long-term investment promotion strategy. Through the Fund for Enhancement of Competitiveness for Targeted Industries, around US$285 million is available for investment projects involving R&D or innovation. The Act also allows for specific industries or companies to be exempt from paying corporate income tax for up to 15 years.