The Changing Role of Public Research Institutions for the Innovation Potential in Thailand

Until the Asian crisis emerged in 1997, Thailand could look back on an impressive economic catching-up process. One of the important factors for this positive development was a comparative cost advantage due to cheap labour costs. However, it is uncertain, to which extent the national and regional innovation potential is able to foster a more knowledge-based economy in the future. Only if Thailand is able to stay competitive globally it will improve the living conditions further. In order to achieve this goal public research institutions play a vital role in the innovation system. However, particularly for an endogenous economic development an understanding of the role of public research institutions is essential. The question is which role public research and training institutions play for the Thai science system and for the national and regional innovation capacity.

A joint research project between the University of Kiel and University of Hanover undertakes a comprehensive evaluation of the Thai innovation system. The project is divided into two parts. One part of the project explores the topic from the research institutions perspective while the other part analyses it from the companies perspective. Furthermore, a comparison with European and other Southeast and East Asian regions will offer policy recommendations for an improved efficiency and fortification of the innovation potential in Thailand. This research project follows up on previous studies undertaken in Europe and several Southeast Asian regions (Penang (Malaysia), Singapore, Thailand). The project will contribute to a better understanding of innovation processes in developing countries.

The paper discusses first findings and will focus on the following key questions:

In how far can theoretical concepts of regional and national innovation systems, which were developed for industrialised countries, be applied for developing countries? Is it possible to utilise the same set of analytical methods?

How do Thai companies develop technological capabilities? How can regional research and training institutions foster this process? What are the differences between these institutions in an interregional and international comparison? What impact do these differences have for the innovation potential? What political recommendations can be derived for the further improvement of the Thai S&T system?