Innovation in Thailand is now a big deal. Company Executives are under increasing pressure to innovate further, but the fact is many Thai companies do not do particularly well at that. Even though the government of Thailand has offered more incentives and funds for research and development, and despite many companies spending tens of millions of dollars in targeted recruitment every year, the situation remains the same. In developing nations, where small and medium-sized enterprises make up a large proportion of the economy and rely heavily on research conducted in academic and public institutes, public-private partnerships are even more crucial in driving the nation’s economy. When properly managed, partnership can be extremely rewarding for both parties. Despite the lack of innovation, one sunrise business stands out.
A good example is the case of the development of bioremediation products under the brand name KEEEN. KEEEN products are the result of collaboration between the National Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (BIOTEC) and KEEEN Limited (previously known as Hi Grimm Environmental and Research Co., Ltd.).
Dr. Watson Ariyaphuttarat, the founder & CEO of KEEEN Limited pointed out that KEEEN recently has broadened its operations in order to support growing market demand and has developed strong links with Thailand’s flagship government research program, the National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA). The company works with NSTDA’s BIOTEC center to strengthen its research program in biotechnology applications for environmental solutions. Since 2012, it has collaborated in biotechnology research and development in strategic alliance with Mahidol University. For Dr. Watson, environmental impact concerns are a global trend that encourages the industrial sector to adapt their production processes to be more environmentally friendly and become ‘Green Industries’.
In 2009, KEEEN was established at the Thailand Science Park, home to the National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA), sixty start-up companies, and four NSTDA research centers, which include BIOTEC. KEEEN was founded in 1992 as an industrial ecology management company, providing products and services in environmental management, and specializing in oil clean-up. Being on the Thailand Science Park campus in the proximity of research centers inspired KEEEN to develop its own technology and products. KEEEN was also aware of the global concern about environmental conservation and the increasing demand from the industrial sector for green products, and thus was determined to develop bioremediation agents. Recognizing BIOTEC’s expertise in microbial biotechnology and biological waste treatment, KEEEN started exploring collaboration with BIOTEC. The two parties embarked on a joint research project to develop a commercial bioremediation agent in November 2008. Led by Dr. Somkiet Techkarnjanaruk of BIOTEC and Dr. Watson Ariyaphuttarat of KEEEN, the project involved screening for the most effective oil-degrading microorganisms, designing the cultivation of selected microorganisms, product formulation, product testing and large-scale production. Information provided by the engineering and environmental teams of KEEEN was crucial to the success of the project as it addressed actual industrial environments and conditions for BIOTEC researchers to screen for suitable microbes that could perform well in the field. The project also benefited from KEEEN’s experience in product formulation and field testing. This is a good example of collaboration, where both parties work closely to overcome the myriad obstacles to innovation in order to create a commercial product.
KEEEN bioremediation agent was launched in October 2010. It offers solutions to wastewater treatment, oil tank degassing and cleaning remediation, oil spill response and clean up, industrial applications and site remediation, as well as sanitary treatment. KEEEN built its market through technology and product demonstration. Over a period of five years, the company has been able to secure major clients in various business operations, namely gas stations, restaurant chains, automotive assembly and repair shops, automotive service centers, the petrochemical industry and the government sector, amongst others. To demonstrate the effectiveness of its products for oil spill clean-up operations, KEEEN’s team, in close collaboration with the Thailand Pollution Control Department, responded promptly to the 20,000L oil spill caused by an accident when a liquid petroleum gas tanker truck overturned in Songkhla Province in May 2013, and again when an oil slick washed ashore on the famous Bang Saen beach in Chonburi Province in October 2013. KEEEN’s product was tested by Minibea, a major manufacturer of high-precision small motors and other electronic devices and components in the de-greasing and cleaning of finished parts and components. The tests showed that the use of KEEEN’s products is more economical than current chemical cleaning agents, and in addition, creates a safer working environment for workers. Furthermore, the waste stream from this process is easier and more cost-effective to treat due to its biological, as opposed to chemical, characteristics.
Furthermore, Dr. Watson pointed out that KEEEN engineers have created 18 formulas at lower prices to suit the specific requirements of different industries while offering more effective microbes with degradable bio surfactants. Additionally, production is monitored closely through all the stages of the manufacturing process: from culture and fermentation to product processing at a modern technology operation facility. With a market dominated by chemical-based and biodegradable cleansers, Dr. Watson has sought to promote practical alternative bioremediation that has permitted the company to provide solutions for its customers.
“KEEEN is a green, environmentally-friendly, innovative technology that adds value to products by reducing waste treatment costs”, declared Dr. Watson. “We can say that KEEEN is a win-win situation for sustainable industry management”. In fact, KEEEN has moved into the global “green market”, enhancing environmental conservation and potentially bringing benefits to every entrepreneur. The company not only uses a method that can help reduce problems at the source and minimize pollution, but also provides consulting services for Wastewater management, Oil Storage Tank Degassing & Cleaning Remediation, Oil Spill Response & Clean-up, Industrial Applications, Site Contamination & Remediation Service, Sanitary Treatment as well as Testing, Diagnosis & Research.
It can be said that Dr. Watson and his KEEEN staff are cutting-edge ‘technopreneurs’. The company employs around 50 team members, both at the KEEEN Innovation Center and at its research and development centers, located at the Thailand Science Park and Mahidol University. The educational background of KEEEN personnel ranges from bachelor degrees to PhDs. Dr. Watson has put together a highly skilled team that consists of specialists in marketing, sales, customer service, research, quality control, and logistics. The growth and development of KEEEN staff is high on the list for Dr. Watson as their advancement contributes to the prosperity of the company.
KEEEN joined the NSTDA business incubation program in 2012. Under this program, KEEEN had opportunities to enter a number of innovation competitions and proudly took home several awards. Participation in these overseas competitions provides exposure to prospective partners and clients. KEEEN currently has two official representatives in Singapore and Finland, covering the Asia-Pacific region and the European, Russian and Middle East regions, respectively. Its products have been shipped to South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Japan, Indonesia, India, and others. With its European partner, KEEEN is working around the clock to register its products in Europe, Russia and CIS and the Middle East, all known for their stringent standards.
Under the leadership and vision of Dr. Watson, KEEEN has been able to extend its reach beyond the borders of Thailand in a very short time. It also has a plan to guide it to another level of operation and business sustainability. In the words of Dr. Watson, “KEEEN has been on a journey that has moved from inspiration to innovation, then from innovation to greenovation, and later from greenovation to satisfaction”. As a pioneering sunrise business, KEEEN aspires to transform Thai industry by example, and to assert itself as a leading “green market” multinational.