Prior to 2019, there were four agencies – the National Research Council of Thailand (NRCT), the National Innovation Agency (NIA), the Agricultural Research Development Agency (ARDA) and the Health Systems Research Institute (HSRI) – responsible for administering public research fund in Thailand. Each agency already had specific funding scope which collectively was insufficient to fulfil overarching areas required to transform Thailand into an innovation-based economy. As part of the higher education, science, research and innovation system reform, the National Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation Policy Council (Policy Council) decided to establish three new program management units (PMUs) as independent funding bodies operating under the legal framework of the Office of National Higher Education Science Research and Innovation Policy Council (NXPO) with the goal to spin off as independent organization(s) within three years.

The three new bodies are aimed at addressing three distinct missions: manpower development, competitiveness improvement, and area-based development and grassroots economy. These three PMUs are (1) Program Management Unit for Area-based Development (PMU-A); (2) Program Management Unit for Human Resources & Institutional Development, Research and Innovation (PMU-B); and (3) Program Management Unit for Competitiveness Enhancement (PMU-C).

PMU-C is a research funding unit that manages research and innovation fund aimed at enhancing the national competitiveness by creating innovations that enable industries to develop high-value goods and services to enter the global market, facilitating collaboration between the public and private sectors in Thailand and from abroad, and encouraging joint investment from firms, ranging from SMEs to large corporates. The seven industrial sectors of focus are:

Functional ingredient and High Valued Agricultural Products and Health Foods

Emphasis is given to the development of innovation and high-value food and agricultural products such as functional ingredients, flavorings, natural extracts, healthy food products, as well as cold chain systems and machineries for the agriculture and food industry.

Health and Medicine

Focus is placed on the development of drugs, biopharmaceuticals, advanced therapeutic medicinal products (ATMPs), medical devices, cosmeceuticals, laboratories, scientific infrastructures, as well as standard-compliant facilities for manufacturing and testing of medical products for product registration.

Bioenergy, Biochemical and Biomaterials

Attention is given to the development of renewable energy, biofuels, bioplastics and biochemicals.

BCG for Creative Tourism

Emphasis is put on the management of tourism and creative economy, including wellness tourism, cultural heritage and natural heritage to support sustainable tourism.

Digital Platform

Focus is put on the development and application of digital technology and artificial intelligence (AI) to strengthen Thailand’s digital economy and competitiveness.

Circular Economy of Thailand

Support is directed to the development of technologies, innovations, business models, platforms and ecosystem to support the circular economy transformation.

Future Mobility, Robotics and Automation

Attention is given to the development of electric vehicle, railway, aviation, robotics and automation industries.

In addition, PMU-C also promotes industrial competitiveness through the following five enabling programs:

Technology Localization

The Technology Localization Program enables the adaptation of foreign technologies to local conditions in Thailand, focusing on partnering with strategic alliances to upgrade Thai industry from OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturing) to ODM (Original Design Manufacturing) and bring technologies to market.

Deep Science & Technology Accelerator

The Deep Science & Technology Accelerator Platform aims at bringing research to commercialization by supporting a business incubation and acceleration platform for deep science and technology. Grants are provided for research institutes to set up an incubation and acceleration center with a complete ecosystem to expedite the development and commercialization process of technology and innovation. The program is a mechanism to foster collaboration between the public and private sectors and among players in the value chain, thus elevating capacity and competitiveness of Thai enterprises.

Public Private Partnership – Innovation Driven Enterprise (PPP-IDE)

As the source of innovation and employment, the industrial sector plays a vital role in freeing Thailand from the middle-income trap and leading Thailand to become a high-income nation. It is necessary to build technological capacity of Thai enterprises so that they can be upgraded to innovation driven enterprises (IDEs) to fuel the economy and enable Thailand to achieve its goal. The Public Private Partnership – Innovation Driven Enterprise (PPP-IDEs) Program aims at developing technological capacity of SMEs by connecting them to potential clients in the public or private domains and enabling them to develop products and services meeting customers’ requirements. The program also promotes the knowledge and technology diffusion from large enterprises to smaller ones in the value chain, thus strengthening the entire industry.

Global Partnership

Collaboration with foreign partners is a mechanism that can be employed to enhance the national competitiveness. The Global Partnership Program fosters international collaboration that helps facilitate the diffusion of knowledge and technology in areas essential to the national social and economic development, enabling the creation of useful innovation benefiting the economy and society and making Thailand less dependent on foreign technology. Collaboration with foreign partners can also accelerate the innovation development in Thai firms and offer an opportunity to introduce Thai goods and services to international markets.

National Quality Infrastructure

The National Quality Infrastructure Program aims at strengthening Thailand’s national quality infrastructure system to support Thai industry to manufacture high-quality products and services that meet the requirements of international markets.