Revamping Board of Investment receiving R&D applicants

THAILAND FOCUS | October 3, 2016

3boi1Thai firms are responding to incentives to invest in research and development (R&D), the secretary general of the Board of Investment (BoI) said last week as the agency undertakes a three-month restructuring to better support Thailand 4.0, the national policy to develop a digital and innovative economy.

Since the BoI adjusted its policies to promote investment in science, technology and innovation, a range of Thai investors and companies had applied for privileges to expand in these businesses, according to Hirunya Sujinai, the secretary general of the board. She cautioned, however, that the BoI does not expect total investments in R&D to be huge in monetary value because the returns on such investments are often long term.

“The BoI does not look forward to having colossal investment in the groups of R&D and biotechnology, as their expected benefits do not go for money, but the country’s innovation that could aid people’s living in terms of food, medication and vaccination,” she said.

The companies that have been investing in R&D have often been doing so in collaboration with top educational institutions, she said. She expects that more collaborative investments in R&D are in the pipeline and will continue to grow over time as the private sector aligns with the national goal of creating an economy that relies on innovation.

With that in mind, Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak, who oversees the economy, recently ordered the BoI to undertake a restructuring so that its organization, policies and services work in support of Thailand 4.0, the national policy of transforming the Thai economy to become more competitive through creativity and innovation.

“The newly restructured BoI must serve new-generation industries, especially the 10 targeted industries, as Thailand needs a new working model to stimulate investment,” Somkid said.

The 10 industries are automotive and auto parts, including electric vehicles; smart electronics; affluent, medical and wellness tourism; agriculture and biotechnology; food; robotics for industry; logistics and aviation; biofuels and bio-chemicals; digital; and medical services.

“Thailand needs to invite investors involved in several high technology sectors, including automotive, aviation and digital,” Somkid said, while urging the BoI to embark on more roadshows, especially to countries where investors are tech-minded.

Hirunya said that since last year, the BoI has been promoting investments that use advanced technology and innovation, especially those associated with the government’s policy to promote science, technology and innovation. Those types of investments have had the most project applications from January to July.

For the first seven months, investments associated with the “digital economy” policy had 143 project applications worth $106 million, an increase of 85.7 percent in numbers of applications and 237 percent in value from the same period last year.

Under the policy to promote science, technology, and innovation, there were 133 project applications worth $923 million, an increase of 160.7 percent for the number of applications and 409.8 percent for investment value.