Thai Union an Innovative Organization that prioritizes collaboration on innovation at both the Global and Local level

Achieving organizational management success is not easy, but gaining acceptance as an “innovative organization” is even more difficult. Each organization has their unique operational approach. The first and foremost activity of Innovation Thailand Alliance was, thus, all about providing a platform for knowledge exchange and experience sharing from different organizations. Today, we have the honor of having Dr. Tunyawat Kasemsuwan, the Global Innovation Director, Thai Union Group PCL, the winner of National Innovation Awards 2021, as an Outstanding Organization in Innovation under the category for large organizations, to share his experiences. In this interview, we can learn that before becoming an innovative organization, the management needs to put multiple aspects at the heart of its business in order to efficiently drive the organization forward.

From a vision to build confidence to creating business sustainability

Thai Union embarked on our journey with a vision to be The World’s Most Trusted Seafood Leader, while maintaining business sustainability towards the ultimate goals of achieving Healthy Living, Healthy Oceans. Prioritizing the well-being of our consumers and the abundance of marine life, we have set our 6 Strategic Pillars, namely, 1). Global Innovation 2). Sustainability 3). Mergers & Acquisitions 4). Operational Excellence by strengthening the network of global manufacturers 5). Strategic Sourcing and 6). Global Talent Development.

Prioritizing innovations at both the Global and Local level

Thai Union's business comprises three main categories: canned seafood, chilled and frozen food, and lastly, pet food and value-added products. The innovation within our organization, thus, consists of two components: Global and Regional Innovation. For us, innovation does not come from only the center but it can stem from across the board in any region. Though developed from the center, such innovation would serve as the technology platform that connects to local consumers. As specific markets require targeted and unique approaches to technology applications, Thai Union, has developed many leading brands that cater to the needs of consumers in different countries by capitalizing on the same technology.

From Global Innovation Incubator to Global Innovation Center

Thai Union’s concept of Innovative Organization has recently been introduced in 2015, stemming from the Global Innovation Incubator (GII), an innovation center located in Mahidol University campus while also fostering collaborative partnerships with many institutions. Later, the network of cooperation was expanded to many industries across leading universities around the world before emerging as the Global Innovation Center (GIC), located in an office building in Bangkok since 2019. Meanwhile, the original location of the GII Center has become the office building for the SPACE-F project. The SPACE-F project is the collaboration between National Innovation Agency (NIA) and Mahidol University, serving as the innovation incubator for Food Technology startups. In addition, Venture Capital Fund has been established in seeking to invest in food technology start-up companies around the world.

The turning point from creating innovation to collaborating on innovation

Innovations at Thai Union are not limited to the innovations within our organization but we also collaborate with educational institutes while seeking synergy with diverse organizations in both the public and private sectors. In our view, innovative organizations do not do everything themselves, as developing an innovation as a single company is not an easy task, even though over 100 people at the innovation center are driving towards that goal. We see that through collaboration, we can attract talents from other organizations to join forces in developing Open Innovation with Collaboration. Thai Union has fostered the research with universities across Thailand and many other leading institutes abroad including Nofima, Norwegian fishery research institute, Corbien from USA while also joining hands with SCG and PTT in developing Packaging, Product, Processing and many ground-breaking technologies in the near future.

SPACE-F, the Project we take pride in strengthening the Food Tech industry

Thai Union, in collaboration with NIA and Mahidol University, established SPACE-F, a non-profit project to support food technology startups around the world. The objective is to strengthen the Food Tech and Startup industry, both of which are the core foundation of the industry. We see the potential of this industry in Thailand which can still be developed further. Within the SPACE-F project, startups are divided into Incubator and Accelerator stages. Resources are provided to startups to develop their capacity, expand their network, receive consultations so that they can become successful companies and eventually can secure the funding, from our support. Thai Union ceaselessly fulfills our mission in creating SPACE-F but also investing in these startups that could also help strengthen our business.

Finally, Dr. Tunyawat concluded that to become an innovative organization, it is crucial to have both internal and external drivers. It is equally important that the Innovative culture is instilled and promoted so that employees embrace the changes and become willing to think outside the box to help develop innovation. Most importantly, fostering an open and collaborative atmosphere is the key to success. This is how we encourage employees across the organization, not necessarily those from Global Innovation Center to brainstorm and innovate. In addition, Thai Union has also launched its Pre-incubator program to encourage startups within the company and start to invest in the startups created from employee ideas. The initiative has brought about a cross-Team culture in an S-curve model, encouraging the employees to work with many agencies while resulting in competitions within the company. All employees are keen to take part in this enjoyable and rewarding experience that they can take pride in.