NIA touts 'innovation hub' aim

NIA touts 'innovation hub' aim

Bangkok has a healthy startup ecosystem with large corporate firms heavily investing in tech areas according to the NIA.
Bangkok has a healthy startup ecosystem with large corporate firms heavily investing in tech areas according to the NIA.

The National Innovation Agency (NIA) has vowed to make Bangkok an innovation hub in Asean attracting foreign investment in research and development (R&D) and startups by working with the government to amend the Foreign Business Act, which limits foreign shareholding to 49% of a business.

It also aims to groom deep tech startups and expand innovation districts into the provinces.

The move is also part of its plan to raise Thailand's position in the Global Innovation Index from 43rd in 2021 and ensure Bangkok appears in the top 50 best cities for startups as the capital was ranked in 71st place in the Global Startup Ecosystem Index 2021.

"We will focus on building the country's brand as 'Innovation Thailand' and turning Bangkok into an innovation hub in Asean to increase new innovation and tech firms here," said Pun-arj Chairatana, executive director of the NIA.

Bangkok has a healthy startup ecosystem with large corporate firms heavily investing in tech areas and a number of corporate venture capital funds but there is a lack of multinational firms to invest in R&D in Thailand, so that is why the country's position in the Global Innovation Index has not improved much, he noted.

To achieve the target, NIA is working with the government to devise a regulation that will allow foreigners to wholly own a business in Thailand if they are registered as a tech and innovation developer and recruit employees to work in the country, he said.

This would draw multinational firms to invest in R&D facilities in Thailand rather than just a production base or sales office.

"It is time to open up the country for travelling mainly for business," said Mr Pun-arj.

NIA is also catching the metaverse trend by aiming to kick off an "NIA verse" campaign which would gather innovation firms as a community to capitalise on the metaverse opportunity in the first quarter of next year.

The agency also aims to build local innovation community ecosystem, not only in Bangkok, but also major cities, by increasing the number of innovation districts in the provinces, he said. The local ecosystem will connect local administrators, universities, policymakers and science parks with private firms and local citizens.

NIA has been working with the Board of Investment (BOI) to provide tax incentives for businesses in selected fields operating in innovation districts.

At present, there are 12 innovation districts in Bangkok, 11 in the North and 12 in the Northeast.

According to Mr Pun-arj, NIA is focusing on supporting local deep tech startups, particularly those in medical, food, defence, agriculture and artificial intelligence fields with a target of 100 deep tech startups by 2023, up from 60 now.

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