Mr. Jittrapon Jirakulsomchok, Innovation Developer, National Innovation Agency (NIA)
SPACE-F is the first global FoodTech startups incubator and accelerator in Thailand, bringing together leading FoodTech startups and corporates through an innovative mentorship, business connections, and co-working program – established through the cooperation of Thai Union Group,
the National Innovation Agency, Mahidol University, and supported by industry leading corporates.
In the interview, Mr. Jittrapon Jirakulsomchok shares some insights about the relationship between National Innovation Agency and SPACE-F and tips for aspiring FoodTech startups
Please explain what NIA does in one sentence.
NIA facilitates orchestrates and empowers the relevant parties to enhance the National Innovation System.
What kick-started NIA's interest in working with startups?
There are few reasons that kickstarted NIA’s interest in working with startups. Firstly, from the government’s policy to transform Thailand into an innovation-driven value-based economy. Secondly, startup is the new economic warrior, they are the growth engine for the economy, it has potential to create high impact, they bring groundbreaking technology to commercialization and promote innovation diffusion (adoption).
In what ways do you support the entrepreneurs in the SPACE-F program?
NIA has a framework called Groom Grant Growth which promotes and supports the development and growth of Innovation-Driven Enterprises (IDEs).
- Groom - building capability
- NIA finances the cost for professional mentors, industry experts, and guest speakers.
- NIA also provides consultation for budding entrepreneurs on innovation trends.
- Grant - innovative project development
- NIA provides a comprehensive non-dilutive granting schemes to Thai-owned Thailand- registered startup companies.
- Open Innovation Grant & Thematic Innovation Grant - support technology. And NIA provides a Zero-interest Loan to support the growth and scaleup of innovative projects by subsidizing up to 100% of the interests incurred up to 3 years (max. 5 million THB), when borrowing money (loan) from NIA's bank partners.
- Growth - non-financial support to promote growth of Innovation-Driven Enterprises through network and exposure.
- Publicity and Exposure
- Booth exhibition and Investor Pitching opportunities at NIA's events and programs i.e. Startup Thailand × Innovation Thailand Expo, Local and International Expos, Global Hub Startup Day.
- Featuring opportunities in NIA's social media with more than 100k followers in the form of articles, interview videos.
- Additional Privileges from NIA’ partners - under the “Sworded Tiger” scheme, the startups can enjoy special benefits from a wide range of NIA's innovation service providers e.g. Pilot-Plant and Lab testing service (TISTR), Legal Consulting (McKinsey), etc.
- Introduction and Facilitation with Government Agencies - NIA provides supports and facilitation with BOI on SMART Visa and BOI Investment incentive scheme, Food Innovation & Regulation Network etc.
What do startups receive for joining SPACE-F?
All above that I mentioned.
What does NIA stand to gain from supporting the startups?
Mainly for promotion of technology commercialization, innovation partnership (to support startups), and “Innovation Thailand” brand and build trust. As well as strengthen and promote the National Innovation System.
What, if anything, has surprised you the most about working with startups?
The majority of successful entrepreneurs are industry experts, not fresh graduates. Another important factor for successful startup is to have a strong and well-rounded team. On the other hand, the most common cause for startup failure is due to the breakup of the team.
From your experience, what are the 3 main qualities that make a startup successful
There are many qualities, the few things are strong and well-rounded team, strong operation and execution, and the right timing of the market.
What do you think will be the biggest challenge in the food industry in 5 years?
The 5 things are sustainability, ESCG (Environment, Social and Corporate Governance), Food security (national level), Food personalization in action, and Food as medicine.
Lastly, what advice would you give founders interested in joining future Batches of SPACE-F?
Show us what you have got!