State agency offers THB200m grants to startups in big push for innovation in Thailand


Thailand's National Innovation Agency (NIA) will grant more than 200 million baht to innovative start-ups and entrepreneurs in an effort to become a "country of innovation”.

The grant is part of the “Thematic Innovation” programme, which aims to encourage targeted strategic industrial sectors with up to 5 million baht per business.

Therefore, approximately 20 innovative businesses will benefit from this type of assistance, said Vichian Suksoir, NIA's deputy executive director.

During an exclusive interview with a small group of invited media, he explained that the “Thematic Innovation” programme is the NIA's support for Thai entrepreneurs so that industry could be the motor of the national economy.

Thematic Innovation, now in its fifth year, has recategorised innovation into six categories, from two categories — food and ARI Tech (automation, robotics and immersive technology) — in previous years.

Furthermore, for the first time this year, NIA has decided to include electric vehicles (EV) and related technologies in the programme.

Therefore, the assistance is focused on six sectors: high-value food for export; food security; circular and low-carbon economy; clean energy; digital technology incorporating AI, robotics, augmented or virtual reality (ARI Tech); electric vehicles and related technology.

Vichian Suksoir, deputy executive director of NIA

"The NIA has a policy to encourage and support Thai startups and entrepreneurs who have developed their own technology and innovations that are capable of competing on a global scale. We help S-Curve industries that have the potential to drive the national economy," Vichian noted.

He differentiated this programme from other supportive programmes by various public sector agencies. He stated that companies interested in applying must have at least three years of experience in those industries.

To qualify, the company must be a legally registered juristic person with at least 51 per cent Thai ownership. It must own the technology used in the programme or have a licence to use the intellectual property. To efficiently scale up the programme, it must have a clear business model and operational plans. To make retroactive payments, it must have cash on hand.

Vichian added that upon acceptance into the programme, the NIA would provide numerous support mechanisms, such as connecting experts in each business field for know-how to develop products and services that are market-ready, business matching with investors for innovation that is in demand from various sectors, and support in business planning and intellectual property consulting.

"It underpins the government's economic plans, which are aimed at reviving the economy by deploying creative ideas, research, and manpower capable of developing innovations that meet the needs of global markets," Vichian explained.

The programme is now accepting applications online until November 30. The NIA will then take time to consider their qualifications before offering the grant in the first quarter of the following year.

State agency offers THB200m grants to startups in big push for innovation in Thailand

Kiatipong Ariyapruchya, senior economist for Thailand at the World Bank, had stated earlier that the adoption of digital technologies and innovations has the potential to support Thailand's post-pandemic recovery while enhancing its competitiveness over the long term.

While the Thai government has already shown a strong commitment to taking the digital agenda forward under the banner of Industry 4.0, he believes that more can be done to develop digital services and business digitalisation.

This includes efforts to increase competition from businesses of all sizes and to ensure a level playing field in order to promote market contestability and digital system interoperability.

Vichian said that the goals have been set to achieve commercially deployable products, processes, or services in a minimum of 40 programmes with a minimum economic value of 40 million baht.

Currently, there are over 92 innovation programmes aimed at meeting industry needs, ranging from medicine and healthcare to agriculture and food, with a total value of approximately 530 million baht.