Board of Investment banking on biotechnology

Thai economic planners have said they will support advanced industries such as biotechnology and the numbers are bearing them out as the Board of Investment said last week it had approved privileges and incentives for 40 projects involving biotech research and development since last year.

Hiranya Suchinai, secretary-general of the Board of Investment (BoI), said the combined investment value of the 40 projects was approximately $187 million. She was confident, she said, that the BoI would reach its target of $17.5 billion in total investments across all industries in 2017.

Biotechnology is among 10 industries targeted for support under Thailand 4.0, the 20-year national strategy designed to transform the Thai economy from one driven by traditional manufacturing to one relying on advanced industries, green and digital technologies, innovation, creativity, and research and development.

The 10 industries are next-generation cars; smart electronics; affluent, medical and wellness tourism; agriculture and biotechnology; food; robotics for industry; logistics and aviation; biofuels and biochemical; digital; and medical services.

The secretary-general said the BoI is urging local companies to invest in high technology to improve efficiency and competitiveness. Biotech investment is in line with the national strategy and goals, she said. Companies that invest in research and development are eligible for tax exemptions of up to 13 years, among other privileges, Hiranya added.

She named a few projects that received generous incentives and hold great promise. One is Siam Snail Company, a research-intensive firm developing Thai cosmetics using snail slime. Siam Snail is planning to expand investment to increase its volume of slime, which has shown impressive market growth.

Slime from farmed snails contains anti-fungal properties that are useful in tropical countries where the climate is hot and fungal infections are fairly common. Siam Snail has invested in a snail farm and production plant.

Bowon Vongsinudom, vice chairman for the Federation of Thai Industries, has said the private sector is ready and capable of developing businesses in the biotech field. The development of a bio-hub within a single area with close access to raw materials would be ideal for Thailand, he added.

The Kingdom offers biotech investors a developed research and development and manufacturing infrastructure, and a skilled but cost-competitive corps of laboratory scientists, field technicians and facility support staff.

Other industries in which Thailand excels provide a solid platform to support the biotech industry. These include agriculture, food exports and medicine. Thai agriculture offers an abundance of raw materials for biotechnology.