Thailand is gradually shifting from an economy characterized by heavy industry to a high-value manufacturing economy. Under the economic model Thailand 4.0, the country is focusing on promoting the use of science, innovation, and advanced technology in 13 targeted industries.
Thailand terms these industries “New Engines of Growth,” and expects them to drive the country’s continued prosperity. Here is a listing of the “New Engines of Growth,” most of which involve science in one way or another:
- Smart electronics
- Next-generation automotive
- Agriculture and biotechnology
- Affluent, medical, and wellness tourism
- Food for the future
- Aviation and logistics
- Biofuels and biochemicals
- Medical hub
- Alternative dispute resolution
- Human resource development in science and technology
- Environmental management and renewable energy
Many countries compete with Thailand in these areas. Yet Thailand nimbly engages in all of these areas with a uniquely Thai twist.
Thai Twist #1: Food of the Future and agriculture
With 40% of the Thai workforce employed in agriculture, this sector is a massive component of the Thai economy, and Thailand 4.0 reflects that fact. Thai farmers enjoy competitive wages, and they have historically embraced new seeds, methods, and machinery.
Thailand was the first Southeast Asian nation to adopt agriculture biotechnology. Thanks in part to its long-standing tradition of applying bleeding-edge research, food manufacturing expertise, and research and development expenditures (targeted at 1.5% of GDP), Thailand enjoys the mouth-watering designation of “Kitchen of the World.” It is one of the largest exporters of food globally, but there is still room for improvement.
In 2017, the Board of Investment (BOI), Thailand’s arm in promoting and facilitating investment, received 215 new applications for projects related to agriculture and agricultural products. Approved projects, valued at over US$1.9 billion in total, will steer the industry toward agricultural technology (AgriTech) and food technology (FoodTech).
A key component of AgriTech is smart farming, which uses technology such as GPS, robotics, and data analytics to improve crop yield and quality. In typical Thai fashion, though, Thais expect more than increased yield and quality from smart farming. They also want to strengthen the entire agricultural industry by enabling collaboration between producers, the public, and private companies.
Thai Twist #2: High-touch fuels high-tech, and vice-versa
The BOI funnels millions of baht to local businesses to transform themselves into high-value high-tech companies. One shining BOI-backed success story is C.C.S. Advance Tech Co., Ltd.
C.C.S. Advance Tech is the first Thai aerospace and aviation part supplier to be certified by AS9100 and NADCAP, a well-known international aerospace standard. From its inception as a lathe shop producing molds and automotive parts, the company has transformed itself into a producer of semiconductors, hard disk drives, and now aerospace parts.
Based on its expertise in metal part manufacturing, C.C.S Advance Tech began supplying aerospace parts to a leading international company. It currently produces and provides sensing, landing lights, lights, and seats, among other parts. Its client list includes global luminaries like Boeing, Airbus, and Bombardier.
C.C.S. CEO Ketan Pole says that through its change from a lathe shop to an aerospace parts manufacturer, company revenue has skyrocketed by 400% in the past four years. Pole expects revenues to reach 725 million baht by 2023.
The rise of C.C.S. is tied to a high-touch industry—tourism—which Thailand integrates with high-tech. Explains Pole, “Thailand’s tourism industry is very strong. It has good infrastructure, high technology, attractive incentives from BOI, good machines, and mature manufacturing industries. All of these make Thailand a very attractive and competitive base for the aerospace part industry,” said Pole.
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