The National Innovation Agency (NIA) has earmarked 100 million baht to support innovation development projects carried out by startups and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) financially constrained by the pandemic.
"As the pandemic triggers a global economic crisis, the NIA is rolling out a financial support programme to assist innovation-based SMEs, social enterprises and local startups," said NIA executive director Pun-Arj Chairatana.
NIA has provided a grant of 39.8 million baht to support 10 innovation projects, he said, and after the pandemic subsides, 70 million baht would be given to support innovation-based SMEs working for the country's economic and social development.
The agency is also working with Government Savings Bank (GSB) to support a zero-interest loan programme of up to 3 million baht, spanning three years, for those who develop good innovations.
GSB and Siam Commercial Bank (SCB) will also offer 20 million baht in lending with a 2% interest rate for innovation developers.
NIA is stepping up efforts to explore new markets for startups and encourage the government to procure products developed by local startups, Mr Pun-Arj said.
He said before the outbreak startups were developing with support from corporate venture capital funds, and most of them have kept growing.
After the pandemic ebbs, developers are likely to focus more on deep tech, including hard sciences such as medical tech, artificial intelligence and biotech, said Mr Pun-Arj.
More universities should attach importance to these technologies.
The use of government tech, civil tech, health tech and education tech should become more common as people become more familiar with them during the lockdown.
He said local startups have to turn the pandemic into an opportunity by adjusting and recovering fast.
Half of the companies on the Fortune 500 emerged from the past recession, said Mr Pun-Arj. They continue to provide jobs.
"If local startups think they cannot survive, they have lost the spirit of entrepreneurship," he said.
"If we learn from the past, crisis always comes with opportunity. The government also needs to promote new businesses and take care of those who are ready to evolve."