The priorities of innovation policymakers in Thailand
Better advocacy for why and how innovation is needed
While there is growing awareness that it is critical for Thailand to make long-term investments to create the right conditions for innovation, the general perception of innovation in the public sector is still vague.
'The public sector is familiar with investment in hard infrastructure development, but it is challenging for them to envision the intangible outcomes from an innovation perspective.'
An inclusive movement to drive innovation looking at the whole system
There is no proper ecosystem to facilitate the process of innovation in Thailand; conditions must be created to foster innovation in the long run. The Thai innovation system is one that is still quite fragmented, with many public sector institutions still showing a top-down, siloed mentality. There is a real need for government officials in Thailand to shift from being purely regulators to acting more like facilitators, encouraging the design of more demand-driven innovation policies, and engaging better (and more frequently) with policy beneficiaries from all spheres, public and private, working closely with them within the mandates of what constitutes public value. Engagement is a crucial driver of innovation and alignment of actors is key to technology development.
'Policymakers must know how to match supply and demand at the right time. It is of significance to not only know why it should be this policy, but also why it should be this policy now.'
Similarly, it will be critical for Thailand to ensure that small-scale farming is also represented in the national innovation system, as innovation has traditionally tended to be developed and concentrated in urban areas. The notion of ‘rural innovation’ is yet to fully integrate the National Economic and Social Development Plan, though there have been considerable recent efforts through the Thailand 4.0 campaign.
'The innovation system has been fragmentally developed. Most research has, for instance, been conducted with the aim of academic publication, and they have hardly made a contribution to innovation.'
Smarter data management to design more inclusive innovation policies
Data management is crucial to innovation. The public sector in Thailand needs to manage data in more comprehensive ways, ultimately allowing them to develop better policies and manage knowledge and resources more effectively. Smarter policymaking can help keep track of policy results, and how inclusive their results are, particularly as there is a real need in Thailand for policies to not only benefit large multinational companies, state-owned enterprises or family-owned conglomerates, but also small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and smaller-scale agriculture.
Training the innovation policymaker to be fit for the future
There is no such thing as a ready-made toolbox for innovation policymaking, but there are ways in which policymakers can develop the skills and capabilities needed to tackle the big challenges of the 21st century. There is a need for Thai innovation policymakers to be better trained to understand the key challenges, use the appropriate tools and collect appropriate evidence.
Key areas for innovation policymaker training in Thailand could include: building effective collaboration between the public and private sectors; aligning priorities across government agencies to avoid working in silos; allowing room for experimentation, risk taking and failure; learning from other contexts, and more generally leveraging new methods for better policy formulation and implementation (e.g. stakeholder engagement, monitoring and evaluation, foresight, etc.).