NIA discusses 2021 Startup Trends in Thailand Deep-tech boost and regional opportunities


The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a significant impact on the economies and affected businesses and startups worldwide. However, many considerable transformations in response to the crisis have posed promising opportunities. The National Innovation Agency, Thailand, or NIA reveals four startup trends in 2021 for recuperating from this unprecedented situation.

Dr. Pun-arj Chairatana, the executive director of NIA, explained, “there are four emerging trends in 2021 including,

  1. Deep-tech and Content-based Innovation: Platform innovations have become a buzzword for Thai startups, and they tend to focus on serving the market needs by utilizing the digital platform. However, without suitable technologies, they are likely to be copied easily. Innovations with deep technology are hence considered an engine for long-term business growth. Regarding these potentials, NIA places the strategic move in five key areas, including Agritech, Foodtech, ARI (AI, Robotic, and Immersive), Spacetech, and Healthtech. Besides, content-based innovation, such as MARTech (Music, Art, and Recreation), is another form of innovation growing potential as people spend more time at home during the pandemic crisis. Moreover, TravelTech and MICE innovation will back on track after the pandemic is over.
  2. Youth startup: Youths, nowadays, have greater potentials than we could ever imagine. Through accessibility to a load of knowledge and information, youths are considered seeds for the future. Thai public and private sectors provide them various kinds of support ranging from acceleration to grant programs. These make them are likely to start their businesses while they are in universities.
  3. Bigger ticket size: There is a good sign in the Thai VC market as the size of deals growing considerably. Even the number of VC deals decreased slightly last year, the amount of investment increased significantly from USD 10 million to USD100 million.
  4. Regional Opportunities: Thailand’s regional areas have high potentials for growth. Plenty of resources are underutilized, and public investments are on track to develop local infrastructures. We are constantly finding new opportunities to support regional communities. So that, people will more live and work in their hometown, rather than leave their family to find a decent job in Bangkok.”

Dr.Pun-arj continued, “To support Thailand’s innovation ecosystem, NIA works as a ‘System Integrator’ to connect and work together with various key sectors, including public, private, university, and people. There are three missions in supporting Thai startups including,

  1. One hundred new deep-tech startups in 3 years: If Thailand wants to have a ‘Unicorn’ startup (a startup company with a value of over $1 billion), we need deep-tech startups. NIA works with universities and science parks countrywide on Entrepreneurial Universities to groom youth startups. We are running Startup Thailand League, a competition for university students to try out their business ideas. Besides, a particular grant program, called Youth Startup Fund, will be provided to youth startups if their business ideas are ready to start as a real business.
  2. RTOs Connect: Utilizing knowledge and researches is a significant challenge. Thailand has invested a lot in researches and facilities, but they are underutilized. NIA collaborates closely with research and technology organizations (RTOs), such as National Astronomical Research Institute of Thailand (NARIT) and Synchrotron Light Research Institute (SLRI), intending to transform deep technologies into high-value products or services.
  3. Regulatory Environment: According to the Global Innovation Index (GII), Thailand was ranked 44th out of 131 countries. The R&D Expenditure and the Creative Goods Export are the areas we performed well and were ranked No.1. However, the Regulatory Environment requires considerable improvement as it was ranked 113th. Sandbox and regulation reform are something we need for the Startup ecosystem, and NIA is working on them together with authorities and private sectors.”