Mead Johnson Nutritionals, part of Bristol-Myers Squibb Co, yesterday (15 February 2007) opened its largest research and development centre outside the United States at its plant in the Amata Nakorn Industrial Estate in Chon Buri.
The opening of the centre was presided over by Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn.
Matthew Chapple, general manager of Mead Johnson Nutritionals Thailand, said the parent company chose Thailand as the site of its largest R&D and technical centre outside the US following its policy to set up a management centre in Bangkok. Thailand was also a centre in the region with highly skilled manpower, he said.
As well, the demand for science-based nutrition in the Thai market has been expanding by by 5-10% annually, surpassing the country's birth rate. This indicates that parents have been spending more money on nutrition for their babies.
While Singapore was among the countries that offered the most attractive incentives in the region for investors, particularly in terms of finances, Thailand could compete if it simplified working and investment processes, he suggested.
Mr Chapple added that the company had invested 300 million baht in its facility in Chon Buri, which included the 2,000-square-metre R&D centre and another 2,000 sq m for future expansion.
''Having an R&D centre in Thailand would help increase our competitive edge. We could develop products in response to the needs of Asian markets faster because we now have no need to wait for R&D from the US,'' said Tunyawat Kasemsuwan, R&D director for Asia-Pacific.
Mr Tunyawat said the centre in Chon Buri was Mead Johnson's largest outside the US in terms of manpower, annual budget and investment costs. The Thai centre is the company's fourth after the US, Holland and Mexico. It also has two small R&D facilities in China and the Philippines, where they report directly to the Thai operation.
Currently, there are 70 scientists working at the centre, 40 of whom are Thais.
Mr Tunyawat said the R&D would serve all of Asia, where the double-digit growth rates of science-based nutrition demand outpaced those in other regions.
Apart from the new regional R&D centre, Thailand is among the five countries Mead Johnson is considering for a new four-billion-baht powdered-milk plant.