Concerted public and private sector efforts aim to drive growth of robotics and automation industry in Thailand
Speaking at a recent seminar on “Driving Thai Economic Development through the Automation and Robotics Industry,” Chokdee Kaewsaeng, Deputy Secretary General of the Board of Investments (BOI) in Thailand, talked about demand and supply side initiatives from the Thai Government for existing as well as new projects, to accelerate the growth and development of the robotics and automation industries and technologies.
In September, it was announced that the Office of Industrial Economics (OIE) in Thailand is pushing forward measures to develop the robotics and automation industries in Thailand after receiving cabinet approval. The government is aiming for an investment of 200 billion Baht (US$6 billion) over the next five years. The development plan also aims to reduce the import of robotics and automation systems by 132 billion baht (US$3.97 billion) on an annual basis.
Automation and Robotics is among the 10 targeted industries under Thailand 4.0. These industries can be divided into two segments: 1) First S-curve or five existing industrial sectors (which can be developed by adding value through advanced technologies and the New S-curve or five sectors which can serve as growth engines to accelerate Thailand’s future growth. Automation and robotics is among the new S-curve industries.
According to the press release from the BOI, the public sector’s efforts, such as tax and non-tax incentives provided through the BOI, are reinforced by those of the private sector. The areas of focus include human resources development, knowledge enhancement, information sharing and industrial support networks.
Incentives from BOI
On the supply side BOI’s investment incentives are offered to a wide range of business activities related to the robotics and automation industries and technologies, including conceptual design solutions; engineering designs and system integration methods to control system configurations; procurement and manufacturing; and assembly, installation and commissioning.
The production of telecommunication equipment and parts; the operation of electronic controls and measurements for industry, agriculture and medicine; the manufacturing of vehicular and scientific tools; the installation of security control systems; and the engineering of high-value software solutions, are all among supporting industries eligible for incentive packages.
Incentives provided to these businesses include exemptions of import duties on machinery as well as corporate income taxes, depending on the types of businesses and other incentives involved.
On the demand side, incentives are offered to both new investment projects and existing investments aimed at increasing current production efficiencies.
The incentives range from a waiving of corporate income taxes for three years on the current revenues of an existing project to exemptions of import duties on machinery when the tax exemption cap does not exceed 50 per cent of the investment capital. Subject to a minimum of 30 per cent of the total investment capital being made on local automation systems, corporate income tax exemptions will be expanded to 100 per cent of the investment capital. In addition, investors will be eligible for other incentives depending on their respective industry.
Educating the future workforce
At the same time, other parties are engaged in the nurturing of relevant skills and capacities in order to support a wide-scale adoption of robotics and automation technologies across the nation.
The Institute of Field Robotics (FIBO) at King Mongkut’s University of Technology, in Thonburi, has been offering courses on industrial robotics and automation systems.
Teaching methods have been revamped in order to make them more efficient. In addition to in-class lectures, steps are being taken to provide hands-on experience to the students.
The University is working closely with potential employers to offer opportunities for students to work and learn in real-world business environments through joint apprenticeship programmes.
Similarly, newly designed courses enable students to better understand the relationships between different areas of study with the aim of helping them integrate knowledge and learning more holistically. At the end of their studies, students are expected to be able to create industrial robots and automation systems that work well in real-world settings.
Dr. Varin Rodphothong, from the Centre of Robotics Excellence (CoRE) at the Thai-German Institute, said, “Without using robots, it is forecast that 85 per cent of domestic industries will lose their competitiveness in five years and 53 per cent of SMEs may have to shut down,”
“The cooperation between the public and private sectors in encouraging the demand for and increasing the supply of robotics and automation systems will increase the overall productivity of Thai industry by 50 per cent with 200 billion baht worth of investment expected in the next five years. More importantly, the country will reduce its imports of industrial robots and automation systems by 30 per cent. By 2026 Thailand will become an exporter of robots and automation system, we hope,” added Dr. Varin.
CoRE is aiding both manufacturers and users in four major areas: system integration (SI) certification; human resource development; consultant and technology transfers; and industrial prototype development and testing.
Private sector efforts
On the private sector side, suppliers and developers of industrial robots and automation systems have joined forces to develop their industries. A large number of associations, institutes and communities have been set up, including the Thai Automation and Robotics Association (TARA) and the Thai Robotics Society.
Mr. Narakorn Ratchapolsitte, Vice President of the Thai Automation and Robotics Association, commented that the diversity of TARA members provides the association with a high capability to help robotics and automation system companies find the best solutions for their businesses and their customers alike.
“TARA’s survey has shown that in the next one-three years, 50 per cent of Thai industry will have more readiness to adopt automation systems. In the short term, large companies are ready to go automated while small companies will need more than 5 years to become automated. This means the trend for industrial robots and automated systems in Thailand is strong and well.