In 2018, Thailand’s gross expenditures on R&D (GERD) totaled 182.36 billion THB, accounting for 1.11% of GDP. Approximately 40.12 billion THB, or 22%, were spent by the public sector. Despite a healthy public R&D expenditure, the discoveries have not been translated into commercial use as much as was initially hoped for. This is partly due to the limitation of existing law that assigns the ownership of inventions made under public research funds to the government funding agencies which inherently have restrictive licensing policies.
In innovation-driven economies like the US, Japan and Korea, the so-called Bayh-Dole Act has long been adopted. The Bayh-Dole Act allows universities, research institutes and businesses that receive government funding to own the patent of an invention, thus allowing universities and research institutes to license this out or to establish spinoffs around those high-tech inventions. Since the enactment of Bayh-Dole Act in the US in 1980, commercialization of research has surged. Over 13,600 IPs have been licensed by universities to industry. More than 9,000 new companies, 4,000 startups and 3,927 spinoffs have been formed around research from universities, creating more than 250,000 new jobs. The Bayh-Dole Act has clearly contributed to the US vibrant economy and its leadership in advanced technology.
Inspired by the success of Bayh-Dole Act in other countries, Thailand is in the process of enacting a Thai Bayh-Dole Act. The draft bill went through the public hearing process and was subsequently approved by the Cabinet on 22 December 2020. It is now in the legislative process. The bill gives institutions the right to claim title to inventions made with government funding, the power to manage their IPs and the freedom to negotiate licensing terms that would best encourage the commercialization of technology. It also provides the government with the march-in rights, allowing the government to grant patent licenses to other parties in case of national emergencies. Incentivized by the profit-sharing concept provided by the Thai Bayh-Dole Act, universities and research institutes are encouraged to participate in technology transfer activities. The expediency of licensing deals provided by the Act will also inspire researchers and academics to form startups to commercialize their own inventions. By unlocking all the inventions and discoveries made from public research funds, this bill is expected to stimulate high tech industry and invigorate the country’s overall economy.
Impacts of the Thai Bayh-Dole Act include:
- Universities and research institutes have freedom and flexibility to manage their IPs, thereby boosting the transfer of technology to industry.
- Universities and research institutes are encouraged to perform market-driven research.
- Universities and research institutes will strive to enhance their capability in research and innovation management, thereby strengthening the national research and innovation system.
- New startups and spinoffs are formed based on public-funded innovations, thus creating new economic growth.
- Publicly funded innovations ranging from new drugs to green energy can reach the marketplace more easily, therefore enabling them to make economic and social impact.
- Revenue generated from public-funded innovations is returned to the Government in the form of taxes and fees which will be re-invested into R&D, thus completing the innovation cycle.