The government should encourage greater movement of researchers between non-business fields and the private sector in order to speed up innovation and commercialisation of research, says Kan Trakulhoon, the CEO and president of Siam Cement Group (SCG).
A lot of Thailand’s research and development (R&D) takes place in areas that are not related to business, resulting in many ideas not being used, Mr Kan said yesterday at a conference held by the Science and Technology Ministry on improving industrial competitiveness.
A study by the International Institute for Management Development noted only 20% of Thailand’s 40,000 researchers are in the business area, which is a ratio of 1.2 researchers per 10,000 people.
The number of researchers in business is considered low compared to other countries. The ratios were 38% in Malaysia, 28% in Korea, 34% in Japan and 32% in China as of 2007.
Thailand has six researchers per 10,000 people, and its current target is to increase the figure to 10:10,000.
”The worst thing is that we [Thailand] lack awareness, both among policymakers and CEOs,” said Mr Kan. ”This is because the mindset of Thais is that good technology and R&D should come from overseas.”
Kittichai Trairatsirichai, the president of Khon Kaen University, maintained that more than 50% of the research in universities is related to the business sector, and only 10% of the studies end up being shelved without further commercial application.
Some university 300 researchers cater directly to the private sector, he said.
”For the past five to 10 years, regional universities have been the hope of communities as studies focus on their problems. Nowadays we don’t get research funds if we don’t follow social issues,” said Dr Kittichai.
Mr Kan suggested Thailand’s R&D budget should be 3% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), while the researcher ratio should be 30 per 10,000 people. Researchers in the business area should be 80% of the total.
Science and Technology Minister Plodprasop Suraswadi said he aimed for Thailand’s R&D budget to reach 300 billion baht in eight years, or 2% of GDP, up from the current 0.25%.