By THE NATION
WeWork Labs on Tuesday announced it would partner with National Innovation Agency (NIA), SET-listed Thai Union Group PCL. and Mahidol University’s Science Faculty in the SPACE-F programme that aims to build a sustainable ecosystem to nurture foodtech startups in Thailand.
SPACE-F is the first global foodtech startup incubator and accelerator in Thailand, and will provide innovative services and support to empower the next generation of FoodTech innovation. There are two tracks to the programme: the incubator track for initial stage startups, and the accelerator track for growth stage startups (for both Thai and non-Thai nationals), and it is accepting applications from now until the end of July.
Eligible applicant startups must innovate in one of the following nine areas: health and wellness, alternative proteins, smart manufacturing, packaging solution, novel food and ingredients, biomaterial and chemical, restaurant tech, food safety and quality, or smart food services.
The SPACE-F programme’s non-equity model allows founders to have full ownership of their ideas and products and at the end of the programme (up to 15 months for the incubator stage and three to eight months for accelerator), founders will have opportunities to meet qualified investors, including Thai Union Group PCL. and other VCs and CVCs.
With the introduction of WeWork Labs, programme participants will also be provided with unique expertise and guidance from local and global mentors.
“By providing value beyond space, we will be mentoring startups in SPACE-F, helping them with the tools and knowledge they need to succeed, and leveraging our global expertise to support them through the programme,” said Adrian Tan, the head of labs in Southeast Asia for WeWork. “The time is ripe for foodtech advancements, and along with the perfect partners for this programme, we are very excited to select Thailand as the first stop to launch our partnered Food Labs programme and help bring to life some of today’s brightest ideas right here in Thailand.”
WeWork Labs is WeWork's innovation platform that supports early-stage startups and corporations. It recently debuted its Food Labs programme, which is the company’s first innovation space dedicated to powering the future of food and aims to support growing startups by bringing together entrepreneurs, industry experts and investors to build an innovative community to address the biggest challenges facing the global food industry.
In Thailand, WeWork Labs partners with the National Innovation Agency, Thai Union Group PCL and Mahidol University to form part of SPACE-F's unique cooperation – comprising government, private, and university partners – that supports the local ecosystem by enabling greater access to resources for both ideas and startups to grow.
Dr Pun-Arj Chairatana, executive director of the National Innovation Agency (NIA), said, “As we aim to create greater platforms for nurturing deep tech startups in the food industry, we are delighted to partner with WeWork and leverage its Food Labs platforms to further accelerate startups to grow beyond Thailand seamlessly. Together with our strength in innovation, this will help foster new initiatives leading to a better quality of life, improved global food security and innovative job creation, as well as showcasing Thailand's ability to compete on the global stage.”
Dr Tunyawat Kasemsuwan, group director, Global Innovation of Thai Union Group PCL, said, “As we look at how innovation in the food industry will help us raise the competitiveness of Thailand's food industry to international standards, the partnership will open new avenues for startups to prove their ideas. As we seek to boost Thailand on the global stage, we look forward to welcoming a new wave of FoodTech startups looking to disrupt the industry.”
SPACE-F will be located at Mahidol University’s Faculty of Science, which provides downtown lab access to high-tech machinery and instrumentation that will facilitate the research and development of ideas. Expanding to other countries is made easy with access to WeWork Labs’ workspaces in 60 locations worldwide, the support of Thai Union Global connections, as well as the NIA programme of promoting startups abroad.
Said Dr Kanyaratt Supaibulwatana, vice dean of the Faculty of Sciences at Mahidol University, “By pooling our resources and faculty comprising the nation’s best minds in the field, we are committed to nurturing tomorrow’s leaders in this field by broadening their vision. We firmly believe that it is important to foster a vibrant ecosystem that can enable startups to grow and flourish, and we look forward to positively impacting the local landscape,”
To drive innovation and economic growth within Thailand, startups in the SPACE-F programme can also apply for the SMART Visa option from the Thai government, which provides numerous privileges to help attract skilled workers.