The Reorientation of Thailand’s National R&D Programmes - Limits and Challenges

Anittha Jutarosaga, Yupadee Hengjan, Santi Charoenpornpattana, Kommate Jitvanichphaibool


Since 2016 Thailand has recognised a significant transition in research and innovation policy, with government increasingly acknowledging the importance of national R&D programmes and favourable institutional conditions as determinants to overcome middle income trap. Drawing a lesson-learned from successful experiences of South Korea and Japan, the Thai government decided to experiment the national large-scaled mission-oriented R&D programme, known as ‘Spearhead R&D Programme’. This novel innovation financing scheme was designed to accelerate the commercialisation and economic impact of R&D outputs. From the outset, it was clear that the outcome and impact of Spearhead R&D Programme was yet to be realized. The purpose of this paper is to investigate the reorientation of Thailand’s research and innovation landscape with the focus on the efficiency of operation in relation to the objective of the Spearhead R&D Programme. It is found that the Spearhead R&D Programme is equipped with four novel conceptual and operational features including strategic national STI agenda, R&D commercialization, multi-year budget allocation and proactive research management. Yet, there were also potential limits and challenges that need to be addressed to move the Programme towards greater sectoral contribution with open innovation and flexibility in policy learning.


Keywords: Research & Innovation Reform, Mission-oriented R&D Programme, Policy Experiment, Catch-up, R&D Commercialisation, Thailand

Full Text:



Juntong, P. (2018), “Research and Innovation System Reform towards Thailand 4.0.”, presented in the Annual ATPAC-MOST-OHEC-IPST Conference, on January 26-28, 2018. Florida: USA.

Bangkok Post (2019), R&D spending continues private-boosted trajectory, Source: 12 Mar 2019.

Cabinet Office (2017a), ImPACT Impulsing Paradigm Change through Disruptive Technologies Program, ImPACT Promotion Office, Tokyou: Japan.

Cabinet Office (2017b), Cross-Ministerial Strategic Innovation Promotion Programme (SIP): Pioneering the Future: Japanese Science, Technology and Innovation, Source:

Chaminade, C., P. Intarakumnerd and K. Sapprasert (2012), 'Measuring systemic problems in National Innovation Systems. An application to Thailand', Research Policy, 41 (8), 1476–1488.

Chaminade, C.; Padilla-Perez, R. (2017) The challenge of alignment and barriers for the design and implementation of science, technology and innovation policies for innovation systems in developing countries. in Kuhlman, S. and Ordoñez-Matamoros, G. “Research Handbook on Innovation Governance for Emerging Economies: Towards Better Models”. Edward Elgar Publishing. Cheltenham, U.K. Pp. 181-204.

Cresswell, A. M. (1999), Education finance in Thailand: A review and recommendations for improving allocative efficiency. Report prepared for UNESCO-Bangkok as part of the Asian Development Bank Social Sector Programme Loan, in the framework of the Education Management and Finance Study (Project TA2997896-THA), July 1999. Bangkok: UNESCO.

Degelsegger, A., Gruber, F., Remøe S. O. and Trienes R. (Eds.), (2014), Spotlight on: Stimulating innovation in Southeast Asia. Austria: SEA-EU-NET.

Intarakumnerd, P. (2015), Best policy practices in small and medium-sized enterprise innovation and technology transfer for ASEAN and East Asia’, in Oum, S. Intarakumnerd, P., Abonyi, G. and Kagami, S. (eds.), Innovation, Technology Transfers, Finance, and Internationalization of SMEs’ Trade and Investment, ERIA Research Project Report FY 2013, No. 14. Jakarta: ERIA, pp. 1-35.

Intarakumnerd, P. (2017) Mismanaging Innovation Systems: Thailand and the Middle-income Trap. Routledge-GRIPS development forum studies; volume 5. London: Routledge.

Intarakumnerd, P. and Wonglimpiyarat, J. (eds.) (2012). Towards Effective Policies for Innovation Financing in Asia: A Comparative Study of Singapore, Taiwan, Malaysia and Thailand, Bangkok : Thammasat Printing House

Intarakumnerd, P. et al. (2002), 'National innovation system in less successful developing countries: the case of Thailand', Research Policy, 31 (8-9): 1445-1457.

Lao R. (2015), A Critical Study of Thailand’s Higher Education Reforms: The Culture of Borrowing, New York: Routledge.

Lundvall, B.-A., Joseph, K. J., Chaminade, C. et al., Eds. (2009). Handbook of Innovation Systems and Developing Countries. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar.

Marcelle, G.M. (2017), Science, technology and innovation policy that is responsive to innovation performers, in Kuhlman, S. and Ordoñez-Matamoros, G. “Research Handbook on Innovation Governance for Emerging Economies: Towards Better Models”. Edward Elgar Publishing. Cheltenham, U.K. Pp. 181-204.

Mushin Lee , Byoungho Son, Kiyong Om (1996), Evaluation of national R & D projects in Korea, Research Policy, vol. 25, pp. 805-818

Niosi, J. (2010), Rethinking science, technology and innovation (STI) institutions in developing countries, Innovation: Management, Policy & Practice (2010) 12: 250–268.

OECD (2017), Japan Policy Brief,

OECD (2018), Effective operation of competitive research funding systems Science, Technology and Industry Policy Papers.

Olsson, Å. and Meek, L. V. (eds.) (2013), Effectiveness of Research and Innovation Management at Policy and Institutional Levels in Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam, OECD, Paris.

Stipcompass International Database on STI Policies (2018) [Source]

Wong, P.K. (1999), National Innovation Systems for Rapid Technological Catch-up: An analytical framework and a comparative analysis of Korea, Taiwan and Singapore, Paper to be presented at the DRUID Summer Conference on National Innovation Systems, Industrial Dynamics and Innovation Policy, Rebild, Denmark, June 9-12, 1999

Wong, P. (2001), ‘Leveraging multinational corporations, fostering technopreneurship: the changing role of S&T policy in Singapore’. International Journal of Technology Management, Vol. 22. No.5-6.



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2021 STI Policy and Management Journal

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Copyright of Journal of STI (Science Technology Innovation) Policy and Management Journal (e-ISSN 2502-5996 p-ISSN 2540-9786). Powered by OJS.