Thailand, Japan team up for robotics

Thailand, Japan team up for robotics

Some 1,400 specialists targeted over 3 years

A model show for the EEC attracted more than 500 Japanese investors last September. PORNPROM SATRABHAYA
A model show for the EEC attracted more than 500 Japanese investors last September. PORNPROM SATRABHAYA

Thailand and Japan have entered into a joint agreement to form a consortium for the development of robotics specialists, with the aim of producing at least 1,400 people skilled in the field within three years.

The consortium consists of the Industry Ministry, the Technology Promotion Association (Thailand-Japan), the Japan-Thailand Economic Cooperation Society, the Japan External Trade Organization (Jetro) Bangkok, and Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

The time frame for cooperation is 2018-21.

Uttama Savanayana, the industry minister, said the consortium hopes to draw up an action plan for robotics and system integration (SI) over the next two weeks.

"The government is very keen to promote and support the usage of robotics and SI, and we are confident that these systems cam improve our small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in terms of productivity, efficiency and competitiveness," he said.

Last year, 30 foreign firms in the robotics and automation systems sector met with the Thai government and expressed their intention to invest in the country after the government began pushing its flagship Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) scheme.

They include many well-known companies such as Panasonic, Universal Robot, OTC Daihen, ABB Robotics, Kuka Robotics, Yaskawa Motoman, True Robotics, Okura Yusoki and Gerenga Service.

Most of the firms are interested in entering Chon Buri and Rayong, two of the three EEC provinces. (The third is Chachoengsao.)

Djitt Laowattana, founder of the Institute of Field Robotics, said investment in robotics and the SI sector in Thailand is projected to reach 60 billion baht in 2018, thanks to the government's S-curve policy, as robotics is one of 10 targeted industries.

"That target can be reached, as many foreign firms have expressed their intention to invest in robotics here, including those from China, Japan and Europe," said Mr Djitt, also committee chairman of the Industry Ministry's robotics cluster.

He forecast local demand for robotics and SI products at 6,000-6,500 units annually, a figure projected to grow with the government's Thailand 4.0 initiative, intended to upgrade the industrial sector with higher technology.

Mr Uttama said the ministry also met last week with Japanese parts maker Ryoki Tool & Die Corporation, which also expressed interest in investment in aerospace services in Thailand.

The company is a designer and manufacturer of heavy press dies and is expanding to enter automobile parts, aircraft components and machining items.

"Ryoki is interested in the EEC project, as it presents yet another opportunity to enter Southeast Asian markets, with a population of 600 million," Mr Uttama said. "The firm aims to invest in a maintenance repair overhaul centre at U-tapao airport, for which the government aims to announce the term of reference (ToR) this year."

The ToR for the U-tapao aerotropolis, worth over 200 billion baht, will be open for bidding through a public-private partnership model in October, with the winner expected to be unveiled early next year.

The first phase of the aerotropolis, targeted for the next five years, is set to support linkage with the high-speed rail connecting three airports: Don Mueang, Suvarnabhumi and U-tapao.

Mr Uttama said the government has assured foreign ambassadors that the EEC project will not be delayed, as the 2018 EEC Act has already been implemented and related laws for the investment there are being drafted.

The government believes that the national election, targeted for next February, will not hinder the EEC scheme, he said.

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