Director of the National Innovation Centre under the Ministry of Planning and Investment Vũ Quốc Huy. — Photo mpi.gov.vn
Director of the National Innovation Centre (NIC) under the Ministry of Planning and Investment Vũ Quốc Huy spoke to Vietnam News Agency about the start-up ecosystem and innovation in Việt Nam
Việt Nam’s economy faced difficulties and challenges last year. However, increased investment in innovative start-ups is a bright spot for the economy. What are your thoughts on this?
In the past five years, Việt Nam’s innovation ecosystem has developed rapidly and is now gradually being completed with components including innovative start-ups, a network of experts, start-up incubation and innovation support organisations, financial institutions and investment funds.
The start-up and innovation movement has been active with many projects bringing positive values to businesses and society. Many innovative start-ups have grown rapidly and have a foothold in the market.
Enterprises can adapt well to market fluctuations thanks to innovation in business model, digital transformation, research and development (R&D) of products that follow modern trends. Many large enterprises have established R&D centres to develop technologies for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
The system of universities and research institutes has gradually been renewed towards autonomy and increased co-operation with businesses. Highly qualified experts and intellectuals with rich experience are ready to support and co-operate to promote innovative activities.
Organisations that incubate start-ups and support innovation have accumulated a lot of practical experience. They have sufficient capacity and facilities to support start-up and innovation activities.
Central and local agencies have established units to support and develop start-up and innovation ecosystems. Programmes and activities are launched to connect the start-up ecosystem. Some localities like Hà Nội and HCM City have initially formed a relatively complete innovation ecosystem.
In particular, the legal environment for investment in start-ups and innovation is increasingly improved such as the Law on Support of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises and the Law on Investment.
Although 2021 is considered to be the most difficult year in more than 35 years since Đổi mới (renewal), due to the pandemic, Việt Nam’s innovative start-ups received a total investment of nearly US$1.4 billion – the highest from 2016 to the present.
The number of start-ups is constantly growing with 3,800 start-ups, more than 200 investment funds and more than 100 business promotion organisations, operating incubators.
Việt Nam is becoming one of the attractive investment destinations of international investors. The quality of the start-up market in Việt Nam has also improved.
The outbreak and prolonged pandemic has left a serious impact on the global economy. Do you see any change in investment trends compared to previous years?
The pandemic poses many difficulties and challenges, but it can also bring great opportunities. The pandemic has severely affected incomes and consumer behaviour, creating conditions for new business models.
Innovative business models such as e-commerce, online learning and working, and online medical services took many years to convince customers to use them. Now, thanks to the pandemic, the transformation has sped up rapidly.
In the past, we witnessed many tech unicorns born in crisis, most notably Airbnb, Uber, and Grab, when people’s incomes were severely affected. The role of the sharing economy became more important.
A survey conducted by NIC and the Venture Capital Fund recently showed that the investment trend had also changed. Observations show that the industries that benefit from the pandemic have get breakthroughs in growth such as e-commerce or financial technology; educational technology, medical technology, online communication, and logistics technology.
Taking advantage of these opportunities, many Vietnamese start-ups such as VNPay, MoMo, Tiki and Sendo are growing day by day, hour by hour.
What do you think is the most attractive industry to investors going forward? What do our start-ups need to do to attract investment?
Việt Nam’s start-up and innovation activities still have a lot of potential for development such as FinTech, HealthTech and LogTech and some emerging technology industries such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, 3D printing, VR/AR. This is an opportunity for us to have more unicorns shortly.
But to be successful, start-ups need a lot of factors such as opportunity, ideas, environment, business model, capital, and support from related organisations to design the best solutions and offer suitable products.
Many large international technology companies are operating in Việt Nam. Do you think young Vietnamese start-ups have a chance to win?
In big markets like the US and China, or even small and emerging markets such as Southeast Asia, young start-ups still have the opportunity to thrive in new waves of technology.
We can talk about vivid examples such as Facebook surpassing Yahoo, Apple and Samsung surpassing Nokia and Blackberry. It can be said that opportunities are always available everywhere, at any time for start-ups to take advantage of.
In Việt Nam, our start-ups still have advantages compared to international giants. Designing products suitable for the Vietnamese market is the most important factor. Zalo is a typical example, or recently, game start-ups. Besides, we have a quality human resource in the information technology sector, which is also the basis for Vietnamese start-ups to design products and introduce the products to the world.
How does NIC plan to promote Vietnamese innovation in 2022?
As an agency to promote the innovation and start-up ecosystem, the NIC will focus on studying and proposing policies to create more sandboxes for innovative businesses to support businesses on working locations, taxes, investment capital, and shortening administrative procedures related to bidding procedures, the establishment of industrial property rights and immigration.
In the immediate future, the NIC will concretise regulations in Decree No. 94/2020/NĐ-CP stipulating preferential policies for the centre to guide businesses, organisations and individuals to innovate activities at NIC facilities.
Currently, the Ministry of Planning and Investment is coordinating with agencies to study and propose amendments to several laws and decrees to create more incentives for innovative businesses as well as promote innovation and boost the growth of the innovation ecosystem in line with the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Credit: Viet Nam News