Thai government is creating an ecosystem for food innovations. Like most emerging Asian economies, key challenges are addressing the huge infrastructure deficit and improving regional connectivity. On the new science, technology, and innovation (STI) platform, Thailand is transitioning from a resource-intensive to innovation-based economy.
Innovation to drive new growth engine
Thailand is Southeast Asia’s second largest economy with a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $405 billion (USDA Foreign Agricultural Service, 2015). Food Industry is a major driver of Thai economy with the export revenue of over $26 billion representing 12% and 6.7% of our overall export and GDP, respectively. Thailand has been recognized as a world’s leading exporter of agricultural products including frozen shrimp, canned tuna, canned pineapples, cooked poultry, cassava, sugar, and rice. This strength of Thai food industry lies in its having a great variety of raw material and technological competence of the industrial work force. However, Thailand cannot rest upon its potential of becoming the kitchen of the world and keep capitalizing on its fertile soil. The country has to keep developing and building a competitive edge to stay ahead of the curve.
Food industry is a national industry in which roughly 40 of 60 million of Thai population involved thus contributing to Thailand’s GDP. Export and domestic consumption equally contribute to the country’s total GDP of over 20%. Food industry is the terminal industry of the agricultural industry. Considering the whole food value chain consisting of farmer in agricultural production up to manufacturer at various sizes who transform agricultural raw materials into food products, it is a process that flows together. If demands of the industry at the end of the chain shifts the up-stream process will start to shift as well. In the past, Thailand tried to push forward to become the best by using basic capacity in various field; however, this capacity is not likely to help the country last long under influence of globalization. Using innovation, food industry is transforming into new engine of Thailand’s economic growth. Adding value to process and product through innovation will cause a disruptive shifting from resource-intensive to a more sustainable and highly productive food production. Science, technology, and innovation (STI) will create a driving force in this mechanism.
“Innovation” is vital to drive knowledge-base economy that enables Thailand to keep pace with globalization.
Innovation can be perceived as a management of knowledge aiming toward production or viewed as a critical connection between knowledge and productivity. Therefore, when a company wants to innovate, it is unreasonable to first try to set up research unit because it may take too long to produce some novel invention. The right way is to explore existing knowledge and try to top it up transforming into new technology or product that has market potential.
Food Innopolis – Thailand’s most influential food innovation platform
Thailand’s STI advancement project is now in a full swing. The STI atmosphere is especially vibrant in food industry sector. In context of two years, Thai government under the implementation of Ministry of Science and Technology has emphasized on infrastructure projects. As the government has created a platform and mechanism to accelerate STI advancements with the building of Food Innopolis targeting food industry at all levels, Thai food industry is ready to push the economy. Along with Food Innopolis project to support an urgent need of infrastructure, the government has also proposed a set of strategies to stimulate the linkage and development of STI actors.
Food Innopolis is a flagship under the Ministry of Science and Technology aiming at strengthening capacity of STI infrastructure for R&D, innovation activities, and service. Food Innopolis (a physical building) which covers 20,000 square meters was built on top of existing facility within Thailand Science Park which covers 140,000 square meters situated in a vast, strategic location of Pathumthani province in north of Bangkok, Thailand. Focused areas of the Innopolis project are health and functional food, high value added food products and supporting business (e.g., packaging, design, IT, food safety, traceability, testing and certification, technology consultation). The MoU signing ceremony of Food Innopolis on May 27th, 2016 marked a key milestone on STI advancement roadmap gaining big momentum through collaboration among stakeholders from 13 established food companies, 12 leading universities, and 10 governmental agencies. This public, private, and educational partnership is crucial mechanism to create needed synergy to drive innovations in Thailand food industry.
Food Innopolis is a global food innovation hub and gateway to ASEAN that will enhance the ability of food industry at all scales to continuously innovate and thus boost national and regional economy. This infrastructure platform welcomes all players, be it research institutes, universities, or private companies, to collaborate and invest in innovation activities with well-knitted expertise and motivating incentives. See more details from http://www.foodinnopolis.or.th
About the Author:
Dr. Aunchalee Aussanasuwannakul is 2016-2017 ASEAN-U.S. Science and Technology Fellow working under Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) Policy thematic area. Aunchalee has Food Science and Technology background. She received her Ph.D. in Animal and Food Sciences with an emphasis on Aquaculture from West Virginia University, WV, U.S.A. in 2011. Aunchalee is a researcher in the Institute of Food Research and Product Development, Kasetsart Univeristy, Bangkok, Thailand. Under this Fellowship, Aunchalee is currently working with the National Science Technology and Innovation Policy Office, a policy agency of the Ministry of Science and Technology of Thailand. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org