Super Clusters Project

The Thai Government’s eight-year economic plan, ‘Super Clusters’, will be introduced to make Thai business more appealing to foreign direct investment by grouping industry. The plan aims to offer more stability in that investors can engage with the cluster as whole and reduce their overall exposure.

As part of the Thai Government’s eight-year economic plan, ‘Super Clusters’ will be introduced, focusing certain industries within specific geographic areas. The first industries focused upon will be  

Automotive and Parts

Electronics and Telecommunications Equipment



Food and Food Innovation

Medical Tourism

Medical Devices and Manufacturing

Other industries will be added in time, with robotics and aerospace already earmarked.

But what will the benefits be to the regions, industries and businesses involved in these super clusters?

The overarching concept is to make Thai business more appealing to foreign direct investment through the amalgamation of an industry in one location, offering more stability in that investors can engage with the cluster as whole and reduce their overall exposure. With Japanese investors among those already showing interest, and the business model undeniably solid, it’s likely that other countries will soon follow suit.

Of key interest to many is likely to be the inclusion of medical tourism as one of the primary focal points. Along with India and Singapore, Thailand makes up 90% of this lucrative market in Asia. With a view to consolidate the industry and increased regulation and innovation a likely part of that, Thailand will be well positioned to increase it’s market share and create a meaningful windfall for the industry.

But it’s not only businesses that will benefit. As more people flock to the super cluster centres, local business owners will see an increase in revenues. From a tourism standpoint, this is an opportunity for business travellers to see more than the traditional Thai tourist hotspots and the potential exists for regional governments in these areas through the creation of tourism infrastructure, to enticing them back as leisure travellers or at least to achieve an increased profile as places worth visiting.

Potential added benefits

The potential advantages to these locations is not limited to increased revenues through tourist and business dollars. With industries focused in a specific area, the impact on employment, local economic confidence and lifestyle enhancement due to the required additional amenities will be profound. Education and up skilling in these locations is likely to be focused on the particular Super Cluster industry and as a result, increased job security and the availability of more specifically skilled workforce will create room for innovation, increased and more specific education, such as universities and the population boom that will come with this.

Businesses through this will have access to the best talent available and will, because of the inevitable local competition for specific skilled employees be forced to offer better working conditions and contractual flexibility. Businesses will also be able to negotiate with suppliers, not as individual businesses, but as a single cluster. Their bargaining power and ability to influence a deal will be improved which will mean increased margins, which in turn will present them with potential flexibility for deal making.

Businesses will also be able to work together on innovation and build centres of excellence which will result in Thailand being able to take the lead in certain industries globally with regards to cutting edge technologies and market defining concepts that simply cannot come about in a single-business model. This will inevitably attract international talent, wanting to share in the knowledge exchange and to experience the resulting experiment based culture in action. This may be seen as specific to the traditionally innovative industries, such as digital or medical devices, but even automotive parts and chemicals can benefit from increased innovation through the redefining of best practice methodologies and discovering new ways to build value for consumers across the globe.

Fostering super clusters

Even with clear benefits, The Thai government are not resting on there laurels and have put in place significant tax exemptions for industry and a robust plan for the building of infrastructure and the shredding of red tape in order to reduce bureaucratic holdups. There will also be reduced restrictions for world-class specialists coming to work in Thailand. Deputy Prime Minister Gen. Thanasak Patimapragorn spoke of the importance of unity in order to sustain growth, which has been consistent over the last few years, and vital to Thailand’s continued contribution to the Southeast Asian community.

Just as Silicon Valley has grown to iconic status due to it’s fostering of startups, bringing together of innovative practitioners and offering businesses the opportunity to operate with limited outside involvement, the opportunity for areas for Thailand to achieve a similar recognition through their super clusters is very real. China’s manufacturing hubs formed the basis of that country’s economic transformation and there’s no reason the impact on Thailand won’t be similar. In fact, as long as financial benefits are redirected back into industry, there could be a very real rethink required by business practitioners and governments around the world as to how they foster businesses and support them. In this, the Thai government is showing forethought and courage in a very uncertain global economy and that can only mean investors looking to Asia will begin to see Thailand as a safer option.

Indeed, the real winner will be Thailand. As more industries are brought into the Super Clusters, the challenge will be to maintain the momentum and to offer safeguards to heavily invested industries in the event of inevitable global upheaval – something that many other countries have failed to do until it’s too late. Having plans in place to keep investment and innovation growing even in down times will form part of a model that is sustainable and attractive both locally and from an investment standpoint. For the average Thai, this strategy could be the beginning of a more affluent Thailand and one where opportunities that compliment the traditional areas of farming and manufacturing are plentiful. Getting talent to Thailand is one thing, but diverse industries and the educational and career opportunities that come with that will mean that the next generation of Thai leaders will remain in the country and many that have already left will choose to return and prosper in their own country.

‘Made in Thailand,’ will be a badge that the country can wear with pride.