Dr. Peter Nelson, adviser to the MoST Belgium Technical Cooperation project, discusses recent measures in Vietnam for bringing new ideas to fruition.
Vietnam has come a long way in the last 15 years. A lot of the development has come from taking the best ideas from around the world, improving where possible but also adapting these to suit Vietnamese requirements and conditions.
An indication of the innovative progress can be seen from the fact that 20 years ago there were no patents awarded to Vietnamese. Protection now exists and while the numbers are still dominated by foreign companies Vietnam is rapidly catching up.
In reality there have not been a great number of completely new inventions worldwide over the last 100 years. The light globe is most quoted and we have the steam engine, internal combustion engine, electricity, microwaves, computer chips and, of course, digital communications technology. Man has landed on the moon and placed a lander on Mars; something our grandparents could not have dreamed possible.
Development has come from taking a few basic ideas and adapting them to new uses. Adaption, however, is not much good unless one can take it to the market, and a new mousetrap is not going to attract much investment capital. But take the Swiss invention of the eye glass, which allowed applications previously impossible in fine machinery technology that for years allowed the Swiss to lead the world in making precision watches.
Recognizing the need for technological innovation, the Ministry of Science and Technology (MoST) is devoting considerable time and resources to promoting new innovation in this field. One of the ways of achieving this is to support incubators, through which budding innovators and entrepreneurs can get a start-up moving for their ideas.
Incubators are areas providing land and office space with appropriate facilities that people can move straight into and try to develop their new technological ideas without having to set up their own facilities. Where the incubator is aligned with a university at the same time this can also provide ready-made expert assistance.
The most recent endeavor in this area of incubator support is through the BIPP (Support to the Innovation and Development of Business Incubators Policy Project) under MoST and backed by the Belgium Technical Cooperation (BTC) program over a four year cycle. The BIPP will next month be calling for applicants to receive its first tier of grants in the technological field.
With an application process as simple as possible and eligibility covering any Vietnamese individual or organization domiciled locally, there remains the underlying concept that ideas should be backed by some form of business plan directed towards the idea having some commercial application.
Dr. Peter Nelson is the InnoFund adviser for the MoST Belgium Technical Cooperation project to run to 2019. He has over 30 years experience through his consulting company, P.J Nelson & Co Pty Ltd, in running company start-ups in 52 countries and has worked in Vietnam since 2000.