An emerging market

At 'Bio Economy', TCDC shines a light on sustainable materials and the products that can be made from them

Dararat Mekkriengkrai, specialist of knowledge promotion at TCDC.

Due to negative impacts of pollution, many people are interested in sustainable development goals (SDG). As a result, many researchers and entrepreneurs have developed environmentally friendly materials which can be developed into eco-friendly products.

Thailand Creative & Design Center (TCDC)'s exhibition "Bio Economy" showcases 15 innovative materials and the technology behind their production can add economic value to the marketing of the materials and products made from them.

Among the highlights is Indin Studio, which created an innovative textile substitute made of synthesised melanin produced by Streptomyces in soil. This innovative material is washable and has the same tear strength as a regular fabric. The material also contains melanin pigments similar to human skin tones.

Hide and Seek, a brand of cat litter made of tapioca starch.

Bioform, which manufactures bio- material-based products, showcases many plant-derived materials that can serve as plastic substitutes. These materials are bio-degradable and can decompose 150 times faster than conventional plastics. Meanwhile, CO2 Lab presents an innovative perfume or Make/Scent. Ethanol in the perfume was converted from carbon dioxide molecules, but the product is stilll in the developmental stage.

Created by Boonyapanit Company, plant-based innovative materials made of rice and rubber were developed into medical devices and are used in hospitals. "Khao Fong Surada" is a rice sponge used to stop bleeding. "Sak Khao Din" is an absorbent bone plug which acts like a tamponade to stop bleeding. Other devices are rice ultrasound gel and natural rubber latex tubes for vascular prosthesis. The company claims their product quality is equal to that of imported products.

Created by Boonyapanit Company, plant- based innovative materials were developed into medical devices.

Hide and Seek is a brand of cat litter which is made of tapioca starch. The tapioca starch went through processes to change its molecules. The sand is absorbent and forms clumps easily. Since the sand can naturally decompose, cat owners can flush it down the toilet or mixed it with soil as fertiliser.

Dararat Mekkriengkrai, specialist of knowledge promotion at TCDC, explained the exhibition is a part of the BCG exhibition series (B for bio-economy, C for circular economy, and G for green economy).

"Bio-economy refers to materials made using bio-technology. We organised this exhibition because TCDC is part of the state agency which supports the government's sustainable policy. TCDC has a wealth of information about materials created by Thai entrepreneurs and many materials fall into the category of BCG economy. After Bio Economy, there will be Circular Economy and Green Economy. Circular Economy will display how to use materials and resources effectively while Green Economy will showcase materials that reduce negative impacts on the environment," said Dararat.

The "Bio Economy" exhibition aims to provide information to TCDC members and visitors since many people have no idea these materials are available in Thailand. Even Dararat was surprised to see some materials.

"I was surprised to see a mushroom Styrofoam by FungiMatter, a bio-composite material made from mushroom cultivation on agricultural waste by Mycon Lab and bio-cement made from fish sauce processing by King Mongkut's University of Technology Thonburi. These materials are available abroad, but I did not know that Thai entrepreneurs had researched and produced these materials. It was our TCDC crew that discovered it," she added.

Since Thailand has various bio-materials, Dararat feels we should benefit from them.

The exhibition 'Bio Economy' showcases 15 innovative materials at TCDC.

"Thailand has excellent bio-materials and the country can take on the bio-economy. Many raw materials such as cassava, corn, seaweed and coconut fibre can be developed and with creative innovation can be an added value," she said.

Although TCDC has a large database of bio-materials created by Thai entrepreneurs, the organisation has a limited channel of communication, so many people and companies, especially manufacturers, do not know about this source.

"TCDC mostly communicates with students and designers, so many entrepreneurs and manufacturers have never used the TCDC database. When people from TCDC contact entrepreneurs and manufacturers, many do not know what TCDC is. As a result, it has to integrate with other state agencies involving entrepreneurs and manufacturers, including the Ministry of Commerce," she said.

Material ConneXion Bangkok, a source of information on commercial materials from Thailand and overseas. Suwitcha Chaiyong

According to Dararat, entrepreneurs and manufacturers are currently interested in BCG and bio-materials because they are concerned about environmental issues. However, many Thai consumers are not enthusiastic about BCG because it does not affect them.

"To raise awareness among Thai consumers, there must be a policy that affects them. For example, people realised they were the cause of marine debris after they saw a video of a sea turtle with a straw stuck in its nose and heard about a young dugong that died after ingesting plastic waste. People may become more aware of the BCG economy if it is regulated. In Europe, people have to do waste sorting. If a person does not do it properly in Germany, they will be fined," Dararat said.

Since products made from bio-materials have a higher price than regular products, entrepreneurs may have to look for opportunities in international markets. TCDC has Material ConneXion Bangkok, which is a branch of Material ConneXion New York. Material ConneXion Bangkok is a source of information on fascinating commercial materials from Thailand and overseas. If local entrepreneurs want to have their bio-materials and innovation included in this international database, local entrepreneurs can submit their samples, information and contact information to Material ConneXion Bangkok.

"Afterwards, Material ConneXion Bangkok will send the information to Material ConneXion New York and MCX New York committees will certify materials based on their qualities, innovativion, eco-friendliness and applications. When MCX New York approves and certifies a material, members around the world can see that information in the database. If a member is interested in the material, the member can directly contact the creator. After MCX New York approves it, local entrepreneurs will receive certificates they can use as a quality guarantee when they contact international clients," Dararat explained.

At TCDC, Dararat has seen many excellent researches and projects which have potential to be developed and launched in the market. However, some researches and projects cannot be developed further.

"Two main reasons why some projects cannot go further are investment and marketing. To launch a product requires effective equipment and a factory. Some projects involve microbes which require proper hygienic handling. Thus, they need investment support. Also, some projects have many competitors. Effective marketing strategies are required," Dararat explained.

According to the industry ministry, with BCG, Thailand will become an Asean bio-hub by 2027. But is it possible?

"Thailand has a lot of resources as well as researchers and entrepreneurs who are interested in the BCG economy. However, these resources, researchers and entrepreneurs sometimes do not have access to one another. The government must consistenly support researchers and entrepreneurs, so they can develop their projects," she said.

As the TCDC material expert, Dararat hopes that the exhibition will provide opportunities to entrepreneurs.

"I hope that entrepreneurs will get new opportunities, connections and networks as well as meet people who are interested in their products and want to further develop the products," concluded Dararat.

"Bio Economy" runs at Thailand Creative & Design Center (TCDC), Charoen Krung Road, until May 29. Free admission. For more information, visit facebook.com/tcdc.thailand.

 

Ethanol in the perfume Make/Scent was converted from carbon dioxide molecules.

Indin Studio created an innovative textile substitute produced by Streptomyces in soil.

Do you like the content of this article?
  COMMENT  (1)