Japan is in talks with Thailand to set up a joint project to develop and create new startups, expecting to make Thailand an Asean innovation hub, says the Industry Ministry.
Industry Minister Uttama Savanayana said the project is called "Open Innovation Columbus", with Japan aiming to attract national startups to Thailand.
"They will come with innovative ideas," he said. "Thailand has been chosen as the future hub for Japanese startups, with both countries offering to bring them to business matching events."
Mr Uttama said Japan's ambassador, Shiro Sadoshima, met Industry Ministry officials yesterday to discuss the initiative. Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) plans to work closely with Thailand's Industry Ministry on the matter.
Mr Uttama said Japan and Thailand will set up a bilateral committee, including government officials and private companies, for the project.
"We will choose 30 competitive startups from each party to join the business matching event," he said.
METI representatives will visit Thailand again in May to hold talks with the ministry and provide updates on bilateral cooperation, as the two sides already signed a memorandum of understanding last September.
Japan is further providing support to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to access the Internet of Things to help them improve their efficiency and productivity under the Lean Automation System Integrator project.
"Japan will bring around 60 companies such as Denso, Hitachi and Kojima to serve as business coaches, training 33 local companies from 11 industrial clusters," Mr Uttama said. "Japanese companies are also joining the government's Big Brother project."
Mr Uttama said the Thai government plans to run business matching events for other sectors such as agriculture, farm-product processing and seafood.
The government expects all the projects to see greater progress next quarter.
The state is also attempting to help local SMEs increase their competitiveness and efficiency through automatics and robotics systems, in line with the Thailand 4.0 initiative.
That initiative is further aimed at improving the country's competitiveness.
Mr Uttama said Japan is ready to support Thailand's upgrade efforts in many respects, as the country serves as a production base for numerous Japanese firms.
"Thailand is expected to upgrade all of its fundamentals, putting it on a par with Japan's business efficiency, driving further expansion of [Japanese business] in Thailand," he said.
Both countries are also working on a training programme for human resource development with local educational institutions under the Pracha Rat (People's State) initiative.
Some 30-40 Japanese firms have agreed to participate in the Pracha Rat scheme's Flex campus project.
The government is also keen on the much-touted Eastern Economic Corridor project, expecting investment value to top 300 billion baht after the recent enactment of the EEC bill.