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Fine-tuning of scientific research policies required

Released at: 08:27, 02/12/2018

Fine-tuning of scientific research policies required

Photos: Viet Tuan

Tweaks are needed to existing policies to encourage the application of scientific research in production and business.

by Nghi Do

The leadership team at the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology is aware of the need for management and scientific works towards creative innovation, not only academic research. Many results of scientific research have already been successfully transferred to local enterprises, according to Deputy Director General of the Department of Application and Development of Technology at the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology, Dr. Phan Tien Dzung. From the partnership, many enterprises have recorded major business achievements and contributed notably to the State budget. “With each research applied into production and business activities, we contribute to the development of the country’s creative innovation,” he said.

Improvements made

As a public institution in science and technology, the academy owns the largest amount of intellectual property (IP) in the country, with average growth of nearly 30 per cent annually. It currently owns 71 patents and 131 utility patents, with nearly 100 applications for IP being considered for approval. 

The public institution is also active in approaching local enterprises, defining their requirements and challenges in order to arrange research and identify technological solutions. It also regularly organizes workshops to raise awareness among IP managers and intellectuals, holds training courses on writing patent descriptions, develops science and technology programs where products or inputs from projects are evaluated regarding IP, and adopts policies on rewards and incentives for inventors.

The academy also assigns ownership of inventions to allow for commercialization. Many academic institutions affiliated with the academy are also active in this regard and have recorded significant results, Dr. Dzung told VET. “Each research institution needs to identify solutions to existing challenges,” he said. “We are continuing to encourage scientists to pursue their passion for science and technology and the application of their research into daily life.” 

The Ministry of Science and Technology (MoST) recently issued a policy on dissemination, training, writing patent descriptions, and knowledge on technological commercialization for inventors. “I believe such measures will bear fruit in the near future,” Dr. Dzung said.

Effective policies in need

As a scientific researcher and a manager, Dr. Dzung sees both improvements and obstacles in R&D in particular and in science and technology activities in general over recent years. The science and technology sector has moved from being simply academic, conducting scientific research, to creative innovation and applying scientific research into daily life. 

Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has recognized existing issues resulting in scientific research not being applied in production and business. Only a few technological products have been commercialized. The development of science and technology has not been linked to the requirements of socioeconomic development, he added, and many local enterprises are yet to become the center of a national innovation system, as expected.

Vietnam’s aim is to become an innovative startup economy, Dr. Dzung emphasized, and the government needs to issue policies that connect scientists and industry and create favorable conditions for partnerships. “We need more scientists with entrepreneurial capacity than simply academic researchers and scientists,” he said. “They can create technological products that can be applied in daily life and resolve ongoing issues facing enterprises and society.” 

To commercialize the results of scientific and technological research to create value for society and raise the competitiveness of local enterprises and the country, the results must be registered for IP protection, but policies and mechanisms supporting such protection are insufficient, in particular international IP protection, while local scientists lack the financial resources to secure such protection. According to existing regulations, results must be evaluated but guidelines in this regard have not been introduced. “It is quite difficult for scientists to commercialize their research results,” Dr. Dzung said. 

Decree No. 70/2018/ND-CP on the management of assets formed from the implementation of scientific and technological tasks using State budget funds is insufficient for encouraging scientists and enterprises, Dr. Dzung added. R&D and science and technology can be risky endeavors and few enterprises are ready to spend money on research, so the role of the government is key, providing finance for research or inventions and their commercialization. 

Under existing regulations, funds for science and technology activities account for 2 per cent of total budget expenditure annually. “There also needs to be better collaboration between MoST and the Ministry of Finance in using these funds,” he said. 

The barriers limit a number of scientific inventions and research and their commercialization, which are indicators in the Global Knowledge Index 2017 (GKI). Vietnam was ranked 56th out of 131 economies in R&D and innovation, according to the GKI. Rankings for R&D and innovation are based on factors such as average document per researcher (104th), quality of scientific research institutions (86th), and patent applications per million inhabitants (85th). 

Further development 

MoST collaborated with the Can Tho City People’s Committee last month to hold the Technology Demonstration and Connection Conference 2018 (TechDemo) in the Mekong Delta city, which attracted nearly 500 scientific research projects and technological products from 120 research institutes, universities, and scientific and technological organizations. The projects and products were aimed at resolving issues in agriculture, forestry and fisheries, machinery, the automotive sector, information technology, electronic technology, IoT, biochemical technology, and pharmaceuticals.

Another joint program between the ministry and the Dong Thap Provincial People’s Committee in the 2018-2025 period supports the restructuring of agriculture in the entire Mekong Delta and will help the province become a model in the application of advanced science and technology to develop the value chain and improve the economic efficiency of its key agricultural products. 

Provincial leaders have issued policies on encouraging local enterprises investing in science and technology activities in recent years, and the successful application of scientific research has been increased in agriculture and resulted in improvements to production capacity and the quality of products such as pepper and lemons. 

Attending a review conference on scientific research activities in 2017, Prime Minister Phuc lauded the major achievements of MoST in recent years and was particularly impressed by successful science and technology products displayed at local and international banking and finance, healthcare, seafood, and construction industry conferences. MoST has made notable efforts recently to cooperate with relevant agencies in cities and provinces to boost science and technology activities, not only in R&D but also in the application of scientific works for socioeconomic development.

Vietnam jumped two ranks in the Global Innovation Index 2018 (GII), to 45th out of 126 economies, with the indicator on R&D expenditure by local enterprises being a highlight. Vietnam has made great progress in its innovation capacity and performance, according to the GII 2018, co-published by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), Cornell University, and graduate business school INSEAD. 

“Vietnam is outperforming in innovation relative to its level of development and this is true for the last eight years,” Mr. Francis Gurry, WIPO’s Director General, told VET. “The country is also highly efficient in translating its innovation inputs - investments into education and R&D, for example - into pro-growth innovation outputs, such as high-tech exports or domestic high-tech production. This is a success, when we consider that the top 10 most efficient countries in innovation include China, the Netherlands and Germany.”

Vietnam actively engages with WIPO and the GII, as the Prime Minister mandated a special Resolution No. 19-2017/NQ-CP that measures how an improving business environment enhances national competitiveness. Through this resolution, the government has assigned responsibilities to ministries, agencies, and local governments to undertake actions to improve Vietnam’s innovation performance, according to Mr. Gurry. MoST has been tasked with coordinating these efforts, he added.  

Since 2017, WIPO and MoST have held workshops in Hanoi to address missing and outdated innovation data and help leverage the country’s innovation strengths and overcome related weaknesses. MoST’s National Institute for Science and Technology Policy and Strategy Studies continues to be an active partner of WIPO in the process. 

Most of Vietnam’s relative innovation strengths are concentrated on the innovation output side of the GII, and especially in the area of knowledge and technology outputs. In particular, the country demonstrates strengths in indicators such as productivity growth and high-tech exports, where it achieves great results and ranks first in the world as a share of its total trade. Other strengths are found in indicators such as the filing of trademark applications and mobile app creation.

Work is also ongoing between WIPO and Vietnam to shape IP policies and activities to match Vietnam’s ambitious innovation plans. “As one of the most dynamic economies in the ASEAN region, Vietnam is now considered in the GII report as one of the rising ‘new Asian Tigers’,” Mr. Gurry said. “It is increasingly participating in regional and global value chains, including in some high-tech sectors. Taken together, this represents a rich opportunity for Vietnam to use innovation to boost economic growth. Implementing innovation strategies with measurable targets and staying the course will now be of the utmost importance."

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