Innovation center planned for Eastern Economic Corridor

The government is planning to invest in an Innovation Center in the Eastern Economic Corridor – the new development zone for higher technology and green industries – to help spur research and development that will benefit both the public and private sectors, the Minister of Science and Technology said last week.

Atchaka Sibunruang, the Science and Technology Minister, said the center will be located in one of three provinces that comprise the corridor – Chonburi, Rayong and Chacheongsao – and initial investment would run about $14 million. It would consist in the beginning of a laboratory and pilot plant where new technology could be employed, tested and demonstrated to show its efficacy and benefits.

Development of the Eastern Economic Corridor, or EEC, is a crucial component of Thailand 4.0, the 20-year national strategy to evolve Thailand’s economy to one driven by innovation, creativity, research and development, higher and green technologies.

The 10 industries the government considers essential to Thailand 4.0 will be clustered as much as possible in the EEC, and companies in those sectors could make use of the center. The industries are automobiles; smart electronics; petrochemicals; aviation; energy; food, agriculture and biotechnology; public health, health care, biomedical technology; robotics and smart devices; digital economy, the Internet of Things, and artificial intelligence; and creative economy, culture and lifestyle.

The minister said the government has done many things to support research and development (R&D) and innovation in Thailand. The National Policy Council for Research and Innovation, chaired by the prime minister, was established last year, awarding generous tax incentives to spur private sector spending on R&D.

The government has set an ambitious plan to increase domestic spending on R&D to 4 percent of GDP, a similar percentage found in many developed countries, by 2036. About 70 percent of that is expected to come from the private sector.

Thailand already has a well-developed Science Park, but it is located north of Bangkok, outside the corridor. It mainly serves smaller entrepreneurial inventors and innovators, but is also expected to play a role in pushing forward Thailand 4.0.

One location under consideration for the new center in the corridor is the Wang Chan Valley in Rayong province, where PTT, the partially privatized state-owned energy giant, has already set up its own R&D center.

Photo courtesy of Thailand Board of Investment/slideshare