Carnegie Mellon University
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Navigating Political Change: A Study of the Resilience of Key Stakeholders in the Innovation Ecosystem

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posted on 2023-09-06, 17:15 authored by Natharat MongkolsinhNatharat Mongkolsinh

This thesis explores the intersection of political turmoil and high-tech innovation, with a focus on Thailand. The country is emblematic of this tension, having experienced more coups than any other country in the last century, yet also being considered one of the eight "East Asian Miracles" and a major destination for foreign direct investment. Through three papers, the thesis examines how businesses and governments can navigate political turmoil to enhance high-tech innovation. 

The first paper investigates why firms continue to invest in R&D amidst political turmoil. The study uses a unique firm R&D survey to explore this question and finds that R&D investment may increase as it is flexible and redeployable once political uncertainty is more clarified. To further mitigate the risks from political uncertainty, firms invest their R&D in functions that are more reversible and in sectors that have more potential returns from innovation. The second paper explores how multinational corporations (MNCs) adjust their innovation activities differently than domestic firms when their target country is facing turmoil. The study finds that although MNCs are associated with increased R&D investment after the coup, their rate of associated increase is lower than that of domestic firms. MNCs from countries with more politically-oriented business cultures were also associated with less R&D investment after the coup. The third paper explores how governments sustain and adapt the development of science and technology (S&T) systems to political events. The study finds that officials are not just able to maintain public STI institutions, investments, and policies, but they are even able to enhance their efforts in certain instances. The study uncovers two key theoretical constructs that help explain this unexpected phenomenon: bureaucratic expansion and bureaucratic adaptation. 

Overall, this thesis identifies ways in which stakeholders in an innovation ecosystem can more effectively handle the challenges and opportunities presented by political transitions. It offers insights that can guide stakeholders in making informed decisions and taking calculated risks amidst such turmoil. This research can be particularly beneficial to economies that aim to emerge from the middleincome gap by leveraging science, technology, and innovation but face adverse conditions such as political uncertainty and violence. By providing a roadmap for how Thai stakeholders have navigated such challenges, this thesis can help Thailand and similar other economies unlock their full potential and achieve sustained growth and development. 




Degree Type

  • Dissertation


  • Engineering and Public Policy

Degree Name

  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Daniel Armanios

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