Thailand’s prescription for medical robotics investment

Moving to expand its role as a regional medical sciences hub, Thailand has announced generous investment incentives for companies researching and manufacturing medical robotics and high-technology medical devices.

In unveiling the new package of tax holidays and investment privileges, the Board of Investment (BoI) believes it can convince cutting-edge foreign medical firms to join a local ecosystem with several innovative Thai companies that have developed award-winning medical robots and systems.

“To promote medical robotics, Thailand BoI has offered a wide range of investment promotion incentives related to three targeted activities – manufacture of automation machinery/equipment with engineering design, assembling of robots or automation equipment/parts, and manufacture of high-risk or high-technology medical devices,” the Board said in a press release.

The full range of incentives, their details, and eligibility requirements are listed on the BoI website.

Research and manufacturing of advanced medical devices, and providing top-shelf international standard medical care are among the 10 S-Curve industries the Thai government is supporting as part of its 20-year national development strategy known as Thailand 4.0. Government officials have said they expect the market for advanced medical devices in Thailand to grow between 8.5 to 10 percent a year.

Thai hospitals have been employing medical robots for several years in surgery, diagnosis, rehabilitation, and services, and their use has been increasing. In 2017, Ramathibodi Hospital, a leading government hospital in Bangkok, successfully performed the first robot-assisted brain surgery in Asia.

For rehabilitation and therapy, the robots known as SensibleTAB and SensibleSTEP, were developed by a local company to help patients with arm and leg injuries perform practiced movements aided by the robots.

A Thai firm also created Dinsow, an elderly care robot that Japanese nursing homes are widely using. Other Thai firms have created BUMBEE, a medical dispenser robot, and ROBODOCTOR, which allows specialist doctors in hub hospitals to assist doctors in remote hospitals in diagnosing and treating patients with complicated conditions, such as stroke.

The Food and Drug Administration is on board, supporting and streamlining efforts to allow greater use of new technologies and robots in the Kingdom’s health care sector.

“We aim to strengthen the capability of medical device entrepreneurs in manufacturing, supplying, exporting or importing medical devices, as well as to enhance the potential of medical and healthcare professionals; thus, prepping Thailand to become the medical hub of Asia,” said Korrapat Trisarnsri, director of the Medical Device Control Division for the Food and Drug Administration, which is part of the Ministry of Public Health.