R&D spending limited by the pandemic

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R&D spending limited by the pandemic

NXPO chief pushes government to strive to increase spending to 2% of GDP by 2027

R&D spending in Thailand is expected to be limited by the pandemic, remaining below 1% of the country’s GDP until next year, according to the Office of the National Council for Educational Science Research and Innovation Policy higher (NXPO).

NXPO Chairman Kitipong Promwong said R&D spending was estimated at 0.91% of GDP last year and is expected to reach 0.94% this year and 0.96% next year.

Some 193 billion baht was spent on R&D in Thailand in 2019, or 1.14% of GDP, up 5.9% from the previous year, Kitipong said, citing a study conducted jointly by NXPO and the National Research Council of Thailand.

Of the total amount, 77% or 149 billion baht was allocated to the private sector, while the remaining 23% was spent by the public sector.

He said private sector R&D spending was focused on economic tasks, while public sector spending was mainly in four main areas: quantum technology, space science and technology, high energy physics and molecular biology. .

The food industry spent the most on R&D in 2019 at 32.3 billion baht, followed by the oil and petrochemical industry at 11.9 billion and financial and insurance services at 11.5 billion.

In 2019, there were 166,788 full-time researchers in Thailand, a ratio of 25 researchers per 10,000 people in the country. A total of 115,543 or 69% of full-time researchers worked in the private sector.

Mr Kitipong said the goal is for the ratio to reach 40 researchers per 10,000 people by 2027.

He said the pandemic had caused most private companies to cut spending on R&D, keeping the total below 1% of GDP in 2020-22. However, R&D spending is expected to pick up in the future, Kitipong said.

Without stimulus from the government, R&D spending is unlikely to reach 2% of GDP in 2027 as expected, but should instead reach 1.46%, he said.

If the pandemic is brought under control, it would be a boon for R&D investments, Kitipong said. With strong competition in the market, companies would prepare for more R&D spending.

From 2022 to 2023, various measures are available to increase spending on R&D, such as several public research funds, tax incentives and the unblocking of complex regulations, he said.

The government can play a role in supporting private sector R&D investments, for example by fostering an ecosystem conducive to investment, providing matching funds, offering infrastructure support, relaxing complex regulations as well as ‘Coaching new entrepreneurs on how to do marketing and fundraising,’ Kitipong says.

“We are still confident that R&D spending in Thailand will reach 2% of GDP in 2027, thanks to the strong capacity of the private sector,” he said. “We have academic strengths in Thai universities and our bio-based food products are comparable to other countries.”

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