Public sector R&D and innovation in an emerging country: an analysis of knowledge flow between public and private sectors in the Thai National System of Innovation
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This thesis explores Thailand’s efforts to pursue greater competitiveness in global markets by enhancing the effectiveness of its National System of Innovation. The concept of national system of innovation (NSI) has been employed widely to study and describe the development of science, technology and innovation in a national context. NSI studies seek to explain systematic differences between national economies in their innovation performance in terms of the flow of knowledge among actors/players and the impacts of institutions and factors on their relationships or interactions. The concept was formally introduced into Thai policies in 2001 and it was adopted widely by the organisations directed to build up a strong national innovation system. However, the Thai innovation system has been identified by previous studies as a weak and fragmented system. This study investigates the current situation of the Thai NSI by exploring the relationships and the patterns of knowledge flows among actors in the Thai innovation system; heavily focusing on exploitation of public sector research. A comparative study was undertaken of innovations arising as a result of initiatives arising through the Thai NSI policy. Eighteen case studies were undertaken including 6 that were seen as successful and 12 failures. The study was carried out using in-depth interviews with relevant staff in both public and private sectors together with secondary analysis of science and technology policy implementation in Thailand. The interviews show that there are still many problems hindering the attempt to build up an effective relationship between the public and private sectors; many of them fail to construct R&D collaboration and to conduct technology transfer. The influential factors are analysed and identified from the cases. Those found repeatedly among successes, but largely absent in the failure cases include technological readiness, R&D capability, good management skills, and positive attitude towards R&D while some external factors are found specific to the individual case. Some of them can be contingent factors for particular features of the case resulting in diversity among the cases especially successful ones. The analysis of science and technology policy implementation is also integrated to explore the case studies in order to investigate the impact of those policies on the pattern of the Thai innovation system. Particularly, the policy that has been implemented after the introduction of the NSI concept which was intended to fix the linear model of innovation in Thailand. However, the analysis from this research demonstrates that there is a shortcoming in the adoption of the NSI policy in Thailand as it still follows the ‘linear plus’ model of innovation (Tait and Williams, 1999) revolving around promoting knowledge flows from research. The development of ST&I is embedded in the advanced science (most in the public sector) not for building up the competitive firms. The centre of development is not on firm capability development to create learning economies but on a science push model. To summarise from the empirical findings, the concept of NSI adopted in Thailand is used as a tool to briefly analyse the big picture of science and technology development at the national level and to identify the problems facing the country. However, this concept alone is not enough to stimulate a country’s innovation process. The NSI concept has been understood in two broad ways: the Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) mode and the Doing, Using and Interacting (DUI) mode. In Thailand the former has prevailed. Secondly, the concept itself is too broad and vague to be used as the main guideline for building up innovative capacity; it only tells what should be done not how to do it. The NSI helps Thailand to initiate change in its ST&I development process although greater attention should be given to the DUI mode. However, the process requires other frameworks to support and translate the NSI concept into the level of action plans. As a result this research suggests that the factors that determine the success of technology/knowledge transfer are not only from the policy level but also other factors from the bottom up level such as social factors determining the relationships among actors.