NIA Accelerates Thai FoodTech Startups to Steer Bangkok Towards Becoming FoodTech Silicon Valley Through SPACE-F Project
The National Innovation Agency (Public Organization), Thailand or NIA continues its support in scaling up the FoodTech startups through the 2022 edition of the “SPACE-F” project. With aims to encourage investment opportunities for the Thai food sector and encounter global food security crisis, the agency targets to stimulate the use of deep tech as the main engine to drive Bangkok towards becoming the FoodTech Silicon Valley – an innovative food hub of Southeast Asia and the world.
Dr. Pun-Arj Chairatana, Executive Director of NIA said, “According to the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2022 report by the UN, more than 800 million of the world population, or around 10 percent, are now suffering from hunger in the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic, economic crisis, shortage of raw material, and the decline of food safety. If we focus on food security in Thailand and around the world during the COVID-19 outbreak, all countries are fronting the same distressing situations where travel restrictions have caused a shortage of food supply. And as the world’s population is increasing rapidly, coupled with climate change, the decline of agricultural labor, and food waste resulting from mass consumption; global food security is now a serious issue that needs to be solved.”
“Not only that Thailand has sufficient raw material to serve growing demands, the country also has a top-notch logistics service. These attributes make the Thai food industry exceptional and position Thailand as the kitchen of the world. Nonetheless, the utilization of innovation and technology in the food industry is not diverse and still lack of research and development. Most of the players in the sector are stuck at the SMEs level where their focuses are mainly on domestic consumption. The NIA, therefore, stepped in to encourage the use of innovation in this particular industry. Intending to feed the world through innovation, the ‘SPACE-F’ project has initiated in 2019 to incubate and accelerate the growth of FoodTech startups in Thailand. The project brings together FoodTech startups and corporates through innovative mentorship, business connections, and a co-working program. SPACE-F provides a prominent platform to encourage entrepreneurial startups to embrace deep tech and innovation to bring advancement to their business and the food industry. Selected startups then will be mentored to take on Southeast Asian and global markets,” Executive Director of the NIA explained.
He added that the deep-tech business in food and agriculture continues to enjoy its equal growth as the e-commerce and fintech worldwide, the food companies in Thailand also relish robust supply chains. Consequently, FoodTech startup incubation and acceleration is the key to secure global food security goals, as well as help drive Bangkok to become “FoodTech Silicon Valley” or “Food Innovation Hub of Southeast Asia and the World”. Dr. Pun-Arj is confident that Thailand’s capital will contribute as an important meeting ground for startups and investors in advanced food technology from around the world. Bangkok will also serve significantly as a locally-sourced raw material development center.
Over the first and second years of the project, NIA has facilitated a suitable and conducive ecosystem for the development of deep tech for the food industry. NIA contributes to supporting emerging innovation models from a group of startups with impressive solutions through key guidelines as follows:
- Encourage the creation of innovative products or services to support the demand of consumers and large cooperates. Innovative service helps attract joint venture investment, and enhance competitiveness as most competitors are often focused solely on innovative manufacturing. It is also an important guideline to help manage the restaurant and manufacturing to steer in the right direction.
- Provide mentorship for startups through various programs ranging from the Incubator mentorship where new face startups participating in the program will be advised on how to create an effective business model from start, the Accelerator mentorship sets to speed up the growth of startups by adding value to the existing business. Both of these approaches will allow Thai startups to obtain swift growth in the food sector.
- Attract foreign FoodTech startups to receive funding from Thai food companies, set up a company in Bangkok, and to further register as a Thai company. This will enable Thai entrepreneurs and startups to use more of deep-tech, learn international business models, and exchange innovative knowledge that is crucial for the sustainable growth of their food businesses.
- Cooperate with the private sector to drive Bangkok towards becoming “FoodTech Silicon Valley”, which is a way to create a brand image for Thai food innovations in addition to street food and attract long-term investment in terms of space utilization.
SPACE-F program supports innovative food businesses covering 9 key FoodTech trends, namely, Health & Wellness, Alternative Proteins, Smart Manufacturing, Packaging Solutions, Novel Food & Ingredients, Biomaterials & Chemicals, Restaurant Tech, Food Safety & Quality, and Smart Food Services.
“By the end of 2025, the FoodTech industry is expected to be worth 7.76 trillion baht. And with our vision and commitment to supporting the startup ecosystem, NIA will continue to drive Bangkok towards becoming the Food Silicon Valley using SPACE-F as the main mechanism. SPACE-F, initiated 3 years ago, has mentored more than 50 FoodTech startups to embrace innovation and technology for their growth. Graduates from the project are now blossoming and have received continued investment from the private sector, especially the Alternative Proteins. These new economic warriors will play pivotal roles in shaping the sustainable future of global food security,” Dr. Pun-Arj concluded.