Thailand’s economy is seen to be caught in a middle-income trap. This makes it more difficult to compete with other countries in the economic aspect. However, a knowledge that can uplift Thailand’s competitive edge is Deep Tech innovation development. Today, Digital Ventures will talk to Erg Chonchayong Trairatkeyoon, CEO, and Co-Founder of Juiceinnov8 and Asst. Prof. Boonrat Lohwongwatana, Co-Founder of Meticuly. They are Deep Tech Startup entrepreneurs from the Digital Ventures Accelerator Batch1 or DVAb1. They will share about Deep Tech, what it is and how it is applied to their business as well as the current situation in Thailand.
From the interview, Erg of Juiceinnov8 and Asst. Prof. Boonrat of Meticuly has a similar definition for Deep Tech. They see Deep Tech as a startup with a product development process that requires advance science and engineering. This knowledge is used to create solutions for problems in the market which results in products with more complex research and development schemes. It can be seen as the next step of startups wherein the developing process is more complex, yet the output product is a user-friendly interface. An example is the search engine by Google that uses complicated, deep algorithm in the process, but for users, the interface that we see is only a simple keyword input and search results.
Regarding the advantages of Deep Tech, both specialists agree that the complex development process can help prevent imitations. Players in the business need to possess a certain level of expert skills. Once combined with the intellectual property certificate system, competition becomes fairer.
The landscape of HealthTech and FoodTech in Thailand
We begin with HealthTech by Asst. Prof. Boonrat of Meticuly which is divided into 2 parts:
- Access to healthcare is quite good with several applications making patients and doctors closer. An example is Telemedicine or Ooca, an application to communicate with psychologists which is a startup in the DVAb1 team. Nevertheless, some branches of medical practice may not be able to provide this service, hence, the interface needs to further develop for even better access.
- Medical resources: Today, medical equipment in Thailand, especially technology-based, still hold various limitations. Importing makes them high-priced while also requiring a longer waiting time. This is true for hospitals in rural areas wherein problems and limitations regarding access to medical equipment exist. If the government and Thai entrepreneurs look into driving Deep Tech medical equipment, hospitals and patients may have better, easier, faster, and cheaper access to the equipment. Moreover, this can help lessen the country’s burden from the trade deficit.
Erg of JuiceInnov8 talks about FoodTech and AgriTech in Thailand wherein value-added from Deep Tech development will enhance sustainable growth. Erg views that, although the country’s policy seeks to become the kitchen of the world, we are actually raw material manufacturers at the beginning of the supply chain. We are unable to add more value to our products and this may put us in a commodity producer trap forever while competition with other countries will become more intense in the future.
Although we see ourselves as the leading agricultural country of the world, in fact, Deep Tech startup in the world’s FoodTech and AgriTech industry is much more advanced. For instance, Novel Farming uses robotics, Blockchain, and sensors in their process while soil analytics studies microbiome of the soil to adjust quality. In terms of FoodTech, there is a future food of both plant-based and cultured meat which may affect Thai producers in 10 or more years to come.
“Thailand holds talented professors and researchers no less than in other leading countries. We have sufficient academic knowledge but lack support of how to make them truly applicable. Encouraging Deep Tech research and making them become real products and services will help increase Thailand’s competitive edge.” – Erg of JuiceInnov8
The key technology that makes a team become a Deep Tech startup
To gain a better picture of what Deep Tech is, we asked both teams to present the Key Technology that involves Deep Tech.
JuiceInnov8 integrates the Biotech and Foodtech technology. They have developed a way to reduce sugar in juice using natural microorganism and advanced chemical engineering. It began as a pilot production process at an industry level.
As for Meticuly, they mainly use 3 technologies namely, Image Processing to duplicate the bone part, Material Engineering to create a material fit for a human body, and 3D Printing that produces the output in the last stage. Moreover, medical knowledge from specialists is used to further develop the product.
Why should Thailand care about Deep Tech and what is needed to become successful?
A good answer is that Deep Tech will move Thailand from a middle to a high-income economy. This will benefit businesses at every level from startups to large enterprises. Aside from being more difficult to imitate, products and services deriving from Deep Tech can encourage an innovative society that will bring about sustainable growth.
Difficulties of how to make Deep Tech happen in Thailand and how to create a wholesome Ecosystem in the country.
Asst. Prof. Boonrat sees that the public sector can drive Deep Tech in Thailand by launching policies that are appropriate for development with suitable funds and time of delivery. Also, establishing a Sandbox will also help prove the prospect of the innovation.
For corporates, Erg sees that Deep Tech is the only hope for corporates in Thailand in terms of competition in the global market. This is because most corporates are large in size which slows down processes and decision making. This is the reason why, in the past, we see Deep Tech flourish in more flexible startups. In some countries, startups are supported by corporates. Therefore, if fair collaborations are possible among corporates, startups can commercialize their innovation faster while corporates can access innovation that can help their business, thus, resulting in a mutual benefit.
The above perspective of startups in Deep Tech from DVAb1 shows that Deep Tech may sustainably enhance Thailand’s competitiveness. We hope that Thailand’s Deep Tech startups will be further supported by the tech ecosystem so that they can enter the global sphere in the near future.