The National Innovation Agency (Public Organization) or NIA, under the Ministry of Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation (MHESI) is responding to government policy to attract foreign investment and make Thailand a venue for startups from around the world to access Asian markets. Three key locations for Global Startup Hubs have been established with the necessary infrastructure, industry, tourism, accommodation, and networks: Bangkok, Chiang Mai and the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC). There has also been coordination with the Board of Investment (BOI) to bring forward the Smart Visa program to attract foreign startups and investors to conduct their business in Thailand. As of now, 356 startups of both Thai and foreign origin have expressed interest and made enquiries about the service, with 38 already incorporated as companies.
Dr. Pun-arj Chairatana, Executive Director of National Innovation Agency (Public Organization) noted that NIA’s mission is to support and develop Thailand’s innovation system, with one of the policies to attract investment to Thailand. The Kingdom has been positioned as a Global Startup Hub for startups around the world to access Asian markets. The locations are centers for comprehensive government services under One Stop Service (OSS) for enterprises, enabling both Thai and foreign startups to conduct their business efficiently. Activities and services available include incubating business growth, business consulting on marketing, the law and intellectual property, building networks of startups and investors, holding forums to meet investors and pitch business ideas, and holding events bolstering knowledge for inspiration to start new businesses. Networks connect them to markets which match their products or services, to promote collaboration and growth in Thailand.
Three strategic locations have been determined, considered from their context in terms of accommodation, a supporting industrial network and a region facilitating setting up offices and socializing, including human resources which have the potential for innovation and entrepreneurship, as a source of growth for both Thai and foreign startups. These locations comprise:
- Bangkok: A city ranked by StartupBlink as the 71st most favourable city in the world for startups, and previously number 1 as the preferred location in Asia for startups from every country. NIA has promoted the Punnawithi and Ari districts as models for digital innovation with the best developed ecosystems for startups in Southeast Asia. Incomers with professional expertise from both inside Thailand and abroad are attracted to set up shop in these districts. Yothi innovation zone has also now been designated as a district to promote medical research and innovation, with a focus on deep tech, centered on operations at NIA in Soi Yothi. This area is also replete with networks and government policies supportive of investment. Here are also startups in other categories such as organizing conferences and exhibitions (MICE), food innovation or FoodTech under the Space-F program to drive Bangkok to be a FoodTech Silicon Valley, plus smart electronic AI and over 20 showcases of startup performance in the Bangkok area.
- Chiang Mai is the economic powerhouse of the north, particularly with regard to startups, because of its outstanding diversity as a creative city, the strong university network, livable accommodations, young people with tech and innovation skills, and being a global tourism hub. NIA has established its first regional office in the Science and Technology Park (SteP) of Chiang Mai University as the center to promote, support and develop innovation in all 11 provinces of the northern region. A partnership has been established with Chiang Mai Municipality to promote the city center as a laboratory for innovation, to promote and address the issues of city communities (City Lab). Suandok Medical Innovation District (SMID) has been developed as a district to foster growth of businesses involved in medical innovation and as a regional center for health care. There is also a district for innovation in agriculture and food, which has now started to expand into agri-business and food processing industries.
- Eastern Economic Corridor or EEC is another strategic area targeted for industry by government policy, covering the provinces of Chonburi, Rayong and Chachoengsao. This is also serviced by basic factors including leading educational institutions, research departments, logistic systems and residential areas which are both urban and in rural communities. The workforce has many capabilities, and industry encompasses every scale, from small to middle to large. The region also boasts extensive tourism, agriculture, and food, making it a sandbox supporting startups introducing technology, innovation, and ideas to solve problems, or to operate businesses meeting local needs. There are 12 target industries (S-Curve) comprising modern automotives, smart electronics, health tourism, robotics, aviation and logistics, defense and digital. To promote startups in this area, NIA has focused on deep tech startups in the areas of ARI (Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Immersive & IoT). These have already had the opportunity to work with over 10 large industrial sectors, and in 2021-2023, there will be Pre-series A investment in startups at a minimum 30MB per startup. This effort is centered at Eastern Science Park (EAST Park) of Burapha University.