Over the past 25 years, Thailand has demonstrated it is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to the life sciences and biotech industries in the ASEAN region. Since the industry’s infancy in the early 1980s, the country has nurtured a diverse biotech ecosystem spanning across the health, industrial and environmental, and agricultural sectors. The growth of this ecosystem has laid the foundation for Thailand’s global biotech footprint.
Much of the success of Thailand’s diverse biotech sector can be attributed to the cooperative measures between the public and private sectors. With the new millennia, came new found political energy within the country to revitalize the focus of Thai economic policy. In seeking new, advanced, and sustainable ways to grow the Thai economy, 2003 was dubbed the “Year of Biotechnology”, signaling the country’s commitment to fostering the sector and identifying it as a key driver of economic growth. This announcement led to the establishment of a National Biotechnology Policy Framework in 2004 that aimed to create and foster Bio-Business, engage in agricultural policies that allowed Thailand to serve as “Kitchen of the World”, improve environmental sustainability across its industries and improve healthcare access for its population. Specifically, it stressed the importance of developing key technologies, including:
- Environmental protection processes
- Plant/animal breeding
Since the updated policy framework in 2004, the Thailand Board of Investment (BOI) has continued to support the industry by offering tax incentives for qualified projects that can be used by biotech companies to foster R&D and further their manufacturing capabilities. Specific to the agriculture and industrial and environmental space, special incentives for research in seed and plant improvement, food and environmental applications of biomolecular and bioactive compounds, biological substance analysis or synthesis services were provided. These tax incentives, as well as public financial investment in R&D infrastructure, inclusive of the country’s numerous science parks and centers of R&D excellences, have been key aspects to developing this market.
Continuing its focus on biotechnology, the Thai government launched the Biotechnology Development Policy Framework 2012-2021 (an update of past innovation policies) that placed an even stronger emphasis on enhancing R&D within the private sector to improve the country’s global competitiveness.
This recent policy includes four key components, two of which focus on:
- Growing its Bioenergy sector
- Fostering a strong Biobased economy
With aims to meet 25 percent of its energy needs via renewable sources by 2021, Thailand’s National Science Technology and Innovation Policy Office estimates that ethanol production will need to increase to 9 million liters per day and biodiesel to 6 million liters per day, calling for additional and perhaps alternative raw materials to serve as energy source. Crops such as palm oil, sugarcane, and cassava have served as primary sources of bioenergy, but securing alternative raw materials may be necessary.
Currently, palm oil is used to generate 2.8 million liters of biodiesel per day, leaving a gap of roughly 3.2 million liters of biodiesel required to meet that 6-million-liter mark. That said, developments in biogas, cellulosic ethanol, and biodiesel from algae may offer innovative alternatives to address this challenge and further grow their global influence as leaders in this space.
Further, Asia serves as a major hub for industrial and environmental biotech that is focused on bioplastics production. The region accounts for a nearly 30% share of the global demand for bioplastics. Industrial biotech companies like Corbion are siting production facilities in Thailand for biobased polylactic acid, to be used in the creation of biodegradable plastics and other biobased products. As Thailand continues to expand in the biobased chemical space, the country has great opportunity to utilize their exports for bioprocesses and to apply innovative technologies to grow the industry.
To learn more about how Thailand plans to strengthen its industrial and environmental biotechnology sectors, we invite you to visit the Thailand Booth at the BIO World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on July 16-19, 2018 where the country will be showcasing its growing biobased economy on a global stage. This year we are pleased to welcome a strong delegation comprised of Thai government officials and companies eager to partner, collaborate and share the latest advances in the industry.
With over 40% of attendees from countries other than the United States, the BIO World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology welcomes a truly international audience. It serves as the global event for business executives, global government officials, academic researchers and industry titans to share the latest advances in renewable chemicals, synthetic biology, enzymes, food ingredients, biofuels, algae and more. To learn more about the event, please visit www.bio.org/worldcongress.