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Thai BOI Unveils Incentives to Enable Tech Research

Thailand Board of Investment (BOI) Incentives to Enable Tech Research

The Thai government launched the economic vision known as Thailand 4.0 roughly two years ago as well as a series of strategies to support the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC), a digital hub of Southeast Asia covering three provinces outside Bangkok.

To achieve the vision, Thailand will need to fill 475,000 new jobs by 2023 in the EEC alone, one report notes. These positions will require a bachelor’s degree or higher as well as increasingly sophisticated vocational skills.

In addition, to become a fully developed nation by 2035, Thailand realized that it too must leapfrog from traditional manufacturing into the innovation age and become a hub for artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, biosciences, aerospace and other new pillars of what is frequently termed the world’s fourth industrial revolution.

Thailand’s government, therefore, merged four separate government departments into a new Ministry of Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovations. The Ministry aims to work closely with the private sector in Thailand and overseas to increase research and human resource development (HRD).

Meanwhile, Thailand’s Board of Investment (BOI) is offering additional tax incentives to companies engaged in HRD. Companies investing in the establishment of education and vocational training institutes specializing in science, technology, engineering and mathematics – known as STEM subjects – will be granted five years of corporate income tax exemption.

The BOI also offers ‘SMART visas’ that enable foreign investors and their families, as well as key talent in business, science and education, to enjoy privileges that include residing in the country for up to four years without needing to obtain a work permit.

Moreover, the BOI signed an agreement with Thailand’s Research Universities’ Network, comprising eight of the country’s leading research schools, to improve R&D information sharing.

The agreement aims to stimulate collaboration in private sector demand-driven R&D activities, co-operative education programs and high-skilled workforce recruitment.

The Secretary-General of the BOI stated that the agreement reinforces the BOI’s facilitation role in fostering cooperation between business and academics to increase research and development in Thailand and to strengthen our manufacturers’ competitiveness in key technologies.

These recent initiatives add momentum to an already identifiable trend.

In the five years to 2017, Thailand’s spending on R&D doubled to 1 percent of GDP and the government aims to raise that to 1.5 percent by 2021.

Thailand jumped five places to 25th in the IMD Business School’s annual global ranking of the world’s most competitive economies in 2019.

The country was also placed first among the nine countries that form the ASEAN, on the UN’s 2019 Sustainable Development Goals, which include quality education.

Collaboration between local and foreign educational institutions and the private sector is also another essential driver to support the HRD.

King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology Ladkrabang, (KMITL), based on Bangkok’s eastern outskirts near Suvarnabhumi International Airport, teamed up with Pittsburg’s Carnegie Mellon University.

And, in 2019, CMKL University, a joint venture between KMITL and CMU, launched its first masters and doctoral programs in computer and electrical engineering.

KMITL’s deal with CMU is just one example of Thailand’s efforts to upskill its workforce through human resource development and incentivize foreign investors and some of the world’s best academic and vocation training institutions to supply critical support.

In addition, Bangkok’s Thammasat University and Amata University in the EEC have both partnered with National Taiwan University while Vidyasirimedhi Institute of Science and Technology, which is funded by Thailand’s biggest company, is in collaboration with leading Japanese, Korean and European educational institutions with the aim of becoming a world-class university and centre of cutting-edge innovation.

Bangkok’s Burapha University has combined with Japan’s Mitsubishi Electric Factory Automation to develop and accelerate education standards in automation technology using AI and industrial robots to operate intelligent factory systems.

Significantly, Thailand’s education reforms stress the importance and status of vocational studies.

This is exemplified in the collaboration by KMITL with Japan’s National Institute of Technology to open a tertiary engineering school offering world-class vocational training provided by the Japanese KOSEN technical college system.

KOSEN-KMITL, as it is called, teaches a five-year course from age 15 that produces engineers qualified in mechatronics, a combination of electrical and mechanical engineering that is required in both robotics and AI.

Japan is the biggest foreign investor in Thailand and graduates are expected to mostly join the Japanese companies that are moving into the EEC. Classes are held in English and Thai, with Japanese added in year three.

The first batch of 24 students was chosen from more than 300 applicants from all over Thailand.

A second KOSEN institute, known as KOSEN-KMUTT, will open at KMITL’s sister campus, King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi, next year.

Thailand’s educators and businesses are also tapping European vocational expertise.

One of the world’s leading education companies is working with the EEC to develop career-focused programs that offer BTEC diplomas awarded by Britain’s Business and Technology Education Council.

With such a strong commitment to human resource development, Thailand’s target of boosting innovation-focused foreign investment and achieving developed nation status by 2035 is looking increasingly attainable.

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