Many parties have widely agreed that national competitiveness and economic development in each country is highly determined by the level of research and development on every developmental aspect.
The success story of economic development in developed countries and new emerging economies has been supported by the great progress on research and development, which includes not only budget allocation but also human resource development and effectiveness of institutional arrangement.
Under well developed research, many innovations have been created and fully used by governmental agencies, private corporations, business people and societies for establishing new opportunities and socio-economic benefits. And finally those creations have been boosting economic growth and strengthening human capability in improving the quality of life.
Examining more closely the stage of research and development in Indonesia, there are still many tasks for its improvement in the future. Although various governmental agencies in charge of research and development in cooperation with international agencies, and also private corporations, have been developing research and development, the results and impact are still far from expectation.
Research and development is closely related to innovation system. The Research and Technology Ministry has published a valuable book regarding knowledge-based economics so-called KBE (Ekonomi Berbasis Pengetahuan/EBP), which has documented national economic performances based on the progress of knowledge and technologies.
The innovation system is one of four main structures of the KBE. Based on the KBE Report for 2009, in general it was concluded that the performance of research and development, approached with the innovation system, is still relatively poor as compared to neighboring ASEAN countries.
It described several key indicators of an innovation system for analyzing the performances of research and development in 2008.
Main indicators such as the number of researchers, budget allocation based on GDP, research cooperation between universities and private businesses, the number of published scientific articles, and the number of registered patents and research and development expenditure by the private sector, are used for identifying the performances.
Even though in total, researchers in Indonesia are 42.722, the largest among ASEAN members, but if it is accounted per million inhabitants, Indonesia with 199 researchers per million people is still below Singapore (5.713), Malaysia (503) and Thailand (292). By using statistical data of UN-ESCAP (2009), the Indonesia position is also still lower than Iran (947) and Pakistan (310).
As reported by The Jakarta Post (01/22/2010), in 2010, the Indonesian government will allocate Rp 1.9 trillion, which was almost double to the allocation in 2005.
However, if compared to GDP, it is still less than 1 percent (0.07 percent). The KBE report also confirms that budget allocation for research and development in Indonesia is much smaller compared with Singapore (2.36), Malaysia (0.63), Thailand (0.25) and Vietnam (0.19).
In terms of research cooperation between universities and private businesses, the Indonesian position has improved. By applying a scale of 1-7, among ASEAN countries, Indonesia scoring 3.8 is placed only below Singapore (5.6) and Malaysia (4.6).
Research and development is tightly connected with the number of published scientific articles. The number of published scientific articles per million inhabitants in Indonesia is 0.9; much lower than Singapore (831), Malaysia (24) and Thailand (20).
Indonesia is also regarded very weak in assessing the number of registered patents. In 2008, regarding to the KBE report, the number of registered patents at American-based USPTO, Indonesia only registered 19 patents. It is far less compared with Singapore (450), Malaysia (168) and Thailand (40).
Research and development by the private sector in Indonesia is also still less developed. Applying the scale of 1-7, the expenditure of research and development by private sectors in Indonesia scored 3.8 and is placed below Singapore (5.1) and Malaysia (4.6).
The private sector in Indonesia still has low interest in investing for research and development. We should learn from the success stories of Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and China. One key success is the high involvement of private corporations on research and development.
The huge budget for research and development undertaken by own research institutes in cooperation with government agencies and universities have become common face for the industrial development in Japanese societies.
Many high reputable private research institutes belong to multinational corporations in Japan such as Toyota, SONY, NEC, Toshiba, Hitachi, Mitsubishi, Shimadzu, among others, are among the most productive and innovative corporations for discovering and developing new technologies.
Extraordinary achievement of private research institutes in Japan has been internationally acknowledged. For instance, Koichi Tanaka, an engineer of research and development at Shimadzu Corporation, received the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 2002.
In addition, the massive penetration and dominance of industrial products innovated by Japanese corporations have become evidence of the important role of research and development.
Japan is among the countries that has been investing a huge budget for research and development. Data from the Internal Affairs and Communication Ministry of Japan, said in 2008, Japan allocated 3.78 percent of its GDP for research and development.
This expenditure stood at ¥18,800 billion. Research and development personnel as of March 2009 numbered 839,000. It can easily be supposed that the return of the investment will be very high. Looking at the technology balance of payment by business enterprises, they receipted ¥2,266 billion.
The lesson learned from the pro-gress of research and development in developed countries and also in developing economies such as ASEAN members, it is noted that research and development is one of main drivers for national economic development.
Indonesia should pay much attention to research and development; at least we should compete with neighboring countries. Indonesia has many and various natural resources, without improvement on research and development, those resources will not provide any significant impact on national economic growth.
There is no other way to increase national competitiveness at the global level without proper development of research and development. Indonesia should build quality and competitive human resources, infrastructure and institutions for science and technology.
The writer is a lecturer at the School of Agriculture, Gadjah Mada University, Yogyakarta, and is a PhD candidate at the University of Tokyo. The opinions expressed are his own.