“ENTREPRENEURS’ success is my success,” Suwipa Wanasathop says with much-evident pride in her role as vice president of the National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA).
When Suwipa was young she wanted to be a tour guide and she now sees parallels with her current job in guiding entrepreneurs to put scientific and technological advancements to work in realising their business ambitions.
“I like to take care of people and I see myself applying this attitude with guiding and travelling. When I thought about becoming a tour guide it was because I wanted to meet people and also have a way to explore the world,” Suwipa says. “I also wanted to have an opportunity to invite many people to travel to Thailand.”
After completing her secondary schooling, she chose to study for a bachelor of arts degree at Thammasat University. Suwipa graduated in March 1984 with Honor and King Bhumipol Scholarship awarded to the top student in the Major.
“At that time I wanted to be an interpreter at the United Nations and to explore the world and offer amazing information on Thailand to other people, so that they would explore Thailand and the rest of the world,” Suwipa says.
During her time at university, she also loved to take part in some of the many activities available on campus, including with her membership of the student club at Thammasat. She also took on roles as such as being a tutor for the |subjects of Eastern civilisation, Western civilisation and Thai civilisation.
These subjects enabled to her to learn about a broad range of civilisations and cultures, including dynamic culture, from the perspectives of these different cultures and civilisations. Indeed, she says she put some of the concepts she learnt to use in her personal life and later in the upbringing of her children.
“I very much enjoyed studying the subjects of Eastern civilisation, Western civilisation and Thai civilisation,” she says. “I gained A grades from the three subjects. I think that history tends to repeat itself, even though in many respects the behaviour of people, the world of the social sciences and the broader world has changed.”
Suwipa looks back with fondness at the recollection of her mother’s pride in the good grades achieved by her and her siblings. “My mum always said she worked hard to support her children through their years of study and asked only that we repay her by paying attention during our lessons and studying hard,” she says. Her mother’s attitude shone as an example to her when it came to Suwipa’s own children. She says she sought to impart her own love of learning to her four children. She saw it as her mission to prepare her children to become global citizens by acquiring the right life skills, including proficiency in English. And in this task she also remembered the guidance she received from her own teachers.
“I sought to prepare them well, equipping them with the necessary life skills and knowledge so that they will able to explore and find their own spots in life and make a difference," Suwipa says.
Suwipa started her professional life as an investment promotion officer at the Board of Investment of Thailand (BOI), where she served in that role for one year. She distinguished herself by having been assessed as the No.1 candidate out of the 1,600 people who applied for that post at the BOI.
“I have been very lucky and gained a good opportunity when I worked at the BOI,” she says. “I was always excited by the opportunity to follow the lead of my boss in considering big international investment projects for our country. My job taught me to explore international business and this enabled me to study and learn along that pathway.”
After having worked at the BOI for that year, she won a Fulbright Scholarship to pursue an MBA in marketing and an MA in international trade at the State University of New York in Buffalo, New York, |in the United States.
“I chose to study marketing and the MA in international trade as I thought that these subjects covered very important roles that were necessary in the support government agencies to promote their activities and services to the public,” Suwipa says.
“I was also motivated by the thought that government offices need to utilise aggressive marketing skills to support their organisations in providing services to public. To achieve this, government agencies should have marketing arms to provide and promote their services to the public and to educate users.
“An aggressive marketing arm could also be put to work in inviting foreign direct investment into the country and, in this way, encourage the economic development of the country as a whole.”
Suwipa says that, given the fact that all countries are actively pursuing foreign direct investments, the professionalism behind the marketing campaigns is vital. “Foreign direct investment plays a very important role in supporting the development of the economy in our country,” she says.
In 1998, Suwipa joined the National Electronics and Computer Technology Centre (NECTEC) and worked in the field of marketing. In 1999, as the assistant director, she co-pioneered the establishment of Software Park Thailand, which is an agency under the National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA). Working in the marketing arm, Suwipa first provided and then filled up to 13,000 square metres at Software Park for the incubation of proposals in the first year.
She continued to play a key role in aiding the development of Software Park and, in 2005, was appointed as the director of Software Park Thailand.
Currently, she is a vice president of the National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA). She is in charge of overseeing marketing. Also, she plays a prominent role in the information technology (IT) and software sectors and has been elected president of the Asia-Oceania Software Park Alliance, and president of the Thai Business Incubator and Science Park Association (ThaiBISPA).
For her duties at the NSTDA, she is responsible for providing technology commercialisation, a process that takes forward promising ideas from the shelf, and is involved in industry engagement in order to attract entrepreneurs and industry players to work with the NSTDA in technology utilisation.
She also facilitates connections between private-sector organisations and the research and development services unit of the NSTDA and its network. Suwipa and her colleagues link knowledge and technology arising from research and development to support entrepreneurs in their need to keep abreast with new technology and the offerings from global competitors.
Moreover, she also supports technology entrepreneurs with different mechanisms such as the agency’s Technology Business Incubation scheme, a 300 per cent tax deduction for research and development spending, low-interest loans and joint investments. Also available to help entrepreneurs are the Research Gap Fund, the Thailand Innovation List, the Start-up Voucher programme, Thailand technology shows and business-matching events.
“Be the best you can be is the inspiration that I take in doing my job and focusing on Nation First in order to create a greater impact for the country,” Suwipa says.
“I also listen to feedback from our customers. These are people who contact our organisation such as entrepreneurs, investors and startup founders in terms of reading between the lines, so that I am able to profoundly understand our customers and provide our services to support demand and create satisfaction for them.”
Suwipa says she works as facilitator who can help to connect the dots for technology commercialisation and industry engagement between entrepreneurs and researchers. In this role, she is able to help with the facilitation and matching of projects that are moved from the shelf to commercial application. She is also engaged in “strengthening the team with deliverables in order to create confidence for customers” and support the demands of business.
“I have people skills, connections, marketing skills and expertise in order to help connect the dots,” Suwipa says. “I help to match people who want to do business with researchers engaged in research and development projects. I also match projects and try to identify entrepreneurs and researchers who have a similar chemistry in their operations. In this way, they can join hands to bring research and development projects from the shelf to the commercial stage in a smooth manner. As a result, entrepreneurs are able to scale up their businesses in the next step.
“I think that as facilitator that connects the dots, I draw on the worlds of both the arts and science in seeking to solve the question of how to find the key to success for businesses,” Suwipa says.
She places great stress on her duty of industry engagement in order to offer technology transfers and technology commercialisation.
Suwipa says she has tried to find an easier path for entrepreneurs to access research and development projects, such as through the agency’s conducting of science and technology showcases.
She says that she is currently offering more than 500 projects that are earmarked for commercialisation as a means of supporting the demands of the market.
“I think that we are utilising the strength of our agency to create a greater impact for the country,” she says.
“Meanwhile, human resources play an important role in this collaboration. The collaboration will combine the various ways of business matching in order to strengthen the collaboration and create more economic benefits for the country.
“I think that the focus on human resources will empower people to show their efficiency and experience. I want to see the success of entrepreneurs that have utilised the mechanisms of government with eased access. The success of businesses and entrepreneurs is my success, too.”
Suwipa says she also has milestones on the path to guiding entrepreneurs to utilise the processes available to them under the mechanisms provided by the government. Further, they can benefit from the effect of a seamless network.
Suwipa says tries to listen to people and to her subordinates in order to find the right information and connect all the dots.
There are around 40 institutes across the government and private sectors that are participating in her plans for the creation of partnerships at home and abroad. Suwipa has benchmarked herself against these organisations in other countries.
“I think that the key to success of technology commercialisation starts with a mindset that focuses on a collaboration between the arts and science. This success comes from the collaboration between researchers and those with expertise in marketing to drive projects forward and make them happen in a win-win situation.
“My team prompted me to facilitate and provide easy access for entrepreneurs to support people who want to utilise technology and research and development projects. We are here to support technology businesses in the country and for me, personally, this helps me to live my life to the fullest.”
Suwipa has succeeded against the odds, having lost her father when she was aged just six. Her mother was left to take care of the four children on her own. But the decision of her family to choose Suwipa to be the family’s representative in pursing a career as a government officer has paid off handsomely. And aspiring entrepreneurs are now sharing in the benefits of that family decision.