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National Innovation Agency Committed to Making Bangkok an Innovation Hub

The National Innovation Agency (NIA) has vowed to make Bangkok an innovation hub in ASEAN attracting foreign investment in research and development (R&D) and start-ups by working with other government agencies to amend the Foreign Business Act, which limits foreign shareholding to 49% of a business. It also aims to groom deep tech start-ups and expand innovation districts into the provinces.

The move is also part of its plan to raise Thailand’s position in the Global Innovation Index from 43rd in 2021 and ensure Bangkok appears in the top 50 best cities for start-ups as the capital was ranked in 71st place in the Global Startup Ecosystem Index 2021.

The Executive Director of the NIA stated that the agency will focus on building the country’s brand as ‘Innovation Thailand’ and turning Bangkok into an innovation hub in ASEAN to increase innovation and tech firms here. Bangkok has a healthy start-up ecosystem with large corporate firms heavily investing in tech areas and several corporate venture capital funds. However, there is a lack of multinational firms investing in R&D in Thailand. This is why the country’s position in the Global Innovation Index has not improved much, the Executive Director noted.

To achieve the target, NIA is working with the government to devise a regulation that will allow foreigners to wholly own a business in Thailand if they are registered as a tech and innovation developer and recruit employees to work in the country, he said. This would draw multinational firms to invest in R&D facilities in Thailand rather than just a production base or sales office.

NIA is also hopping on to the metaverse trend by aiming to kick off an “NIA verse” campaign which would gather innovation firms as a community to capitalise on the metaverse opportunity in the first quarter of next year.

The agency also aims to build a local innovation community ecosystem, not only in Bangkok but also in major cities, by increasing the number of innovation districts in the provinces, he said. The local ecosystem will connect local administrators, universities, policymakers and science parks with private firms and local citizens.

NIA has been working with the Board of Investment (BOI) to provide tax incentives for businesses in selected fields operating in innovation districts. At present, there are 12 innovation districts in Bangkok, 11 in the North and 12 in the Northeast. NIA is focusing on supporting local deep tech start-ups, particularly those in medical, food, defence, agriculture and artificial intelligence fields with a target of 100 deep tech start-ups by 2023, up from 60 now.

In another article, the newly appointed secretary-general of the Office of the National Digital Economy and Society Commission (ONDE), has pledged to push for 5G industrial adoption, a centralised platform for state agencies for tasks related to the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA), and a platform prototype for e-signatures and e-documents as key priorities. “2022 will be a critical year to move towards a complimentary digital ecosystem, as the fundamentals have been laid out over the past few years,” he said.

The former Deputy Permanent Secretary for the Digital Economy and Society Ministry also indicated ONDE has a clear mission to promote a sustainable economy, improve people’s quality of life and increase national competitiveness. ONDE is working under the national digital economy master plan by focusing on six areas: infrastructure, economy, society, digital government, manpower and digital tech confidence.

The agency is also developing a centralised platform to be used by state agencies for tasks related to the PDPA, such as seeking data consent as well as making data records and reports, he said. Full enforcement of the PDPA is slated for June 1, 2022.

ONDE is working closely with the Personal Data Protection Committee to establish the platform. The office wants to formulate a platform prototype for e-signatures and e-documents for state agencies as well. The prototype requires the approval of the National Digital Economy and Society Committee and the cabinet for adoption by all the agencies dealing with e-signatures and e-documents, in line with the framework stipulated by the Electronic Transactions Development Agency.

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