PTT seeks digital advantage

PTT seeks digital advantage

PTT Digital Solutions is exploring strategic technologies as it prepares to spin off innovative startups by 2020.

"The electric value chain and quality clean energy are challenges for the oil industry, driving us to find new technologies," said Chansin Treenuchagron, chief of technology and engineering for PTT Plc and chairman of the board at PTT Digital Solutions.

The company is teaming up with Rise, the regional corporate innovation accelerator, to lure Asean startups and encourage innovation.

These digital solutions should enable the company to diversify its revenue sources, Mr Chansin said.

PTT's strategic technology and focus on innovation will include the Internet of Things (IoT), drones, artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, automation, biotechnology (including biochemicals, biopharma and biocosmetics), smart grids, smart metering and circular economies (waste reuse).

The company is testing proof of concept for sensor technology used at a gas separation plant for preventive maintenance, as well as use of robotics in dangerous areas and drones as surveyors. These technologies can be commercialised and spun off by 2019-20, Mr Chansin said.

Mrs Arawadee says PTT aims to make operations as lean as possible to deal with the risk of fluctuating oil prices.

Arawadee Photisaro, managing director of PTT Digital Solutions, said the company has allocated 500 million baht this year to invest in emerging technologies such as IoT, big data and blockchain for efficient operations.

The budget covers a cloud data centre in the Eastern Economic Corridor of Innovation in Rayong, procurement and human resources, and blockchain technology for fund transfers among PTT group members.

"We are aiming for our operations to be as lean as possible because fluctuating oil prices affect our revenue," Mrs Arawadee said.

PTT plans to allocate 30 billion baht over five years to find new potential businesses.

The company has invested in four funds to draw interesting startups through its "Fund of Funds" model, but it has yet to invest directly in any startup.

Mrs Arawadee said the company initiated the D-Next programme with Rise to find 15 global startup teams.

Supachai Parchariyanon, founder of Rise, said the accelerator has a strong startup network and will hold roadshows in Singapore, Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia.

During the three-month D-Next programme, selected startup teams will receive support for business operations, meet experienced mentors and make pitches to, as well as do business with, companies under PTT Group.

Those startups who are interested in the programme can apply at from now until March 9. Participating startups will maintain ownership of their intellectual property generated during the programme.

"We are targeting startups whose technology is related to energy to serve PTT Group, with a focus on innovations serving the retail sector so that we can diversity PTT's revenue sources to areas including blockchain, AI and more," Mr Supachai said.

Through its partnership with big corporations in Thailand and startups, Rise aims to contribute 1% of Thailand's GDP by 2020.

Rise has 1,000 startups in its network with a valuation of US$200 million (6.38 billion baht).

Mr Supachai said 2018 will be a challenging year for local startups as more Asian players enter Thailand, especially those from Japan, China, Singapore, and Vietnam.

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