Thailand An ASEAN Leader In Innovation Districts

September 26, 2017

Thailand An ASEAN Leader In Innovation Districts

Innovation districts, geographic areas where leading-edge institutions and companies cluster and connect with start-ups, business incubators and accelerators, have started springing up all over North America. In Southeast Asia, Thailand is one of the 1st countries to catch on to this trend.

These compact, transit-accessible, and technically-wired areas allow for open collaboration, talent growth, and offer mixed-used housing, office, and retail components. In order to foster the growth of innovation districts, the Thai government is developing 11 of these areas. The National Innovation Agency (NIA) is overseeing the project.

“We try to connect the dots, represented by innovation districts, to build cities,” says Tanachai Kulsomboonsin, Project Coordinator for NIA’s Startup Thailand Centre.

Initially the Thai government tried to woo foreign investors by offering incentives via the Board of Investment. However, the innovation districts are expected to be attractive to investors in their own right since they will be rich in talent, R&D institutions, and tech infrastructure. This is why they are more popular than smart cities.

“In smart cities you merely focus on IT infrastructure and make the city management system smarter. The innovation district is about networking people in a physical area. It should already have some specific economic value, activities,” says said Pun-arj Chairatana, NIA Executive Director.

Of the 11 planned innovation districts, 6 are set for Bangkok while 4 will be located in the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC). There will be 1 development master-planned by private property developers. Each district will have a theme that highlights a key area.

For example, the Bangkok district of Yothee will be a medical innovation district since it is already home to 24 hospitals with 6,000 beds. Ban Chang, a district in Rayong Province, has been hand picked as a logistics district since it is near the U-Tapao International Airport.

“A district would have a port, a huge number of small- and medium-sized subcontractors, and one very creative university. You can see the cluster there. Some innovation districts do not have anything at al. In this case, you need to find specific things to start with. This is difficult, but some countries have done it,” says Pun-Arj.

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