Techfest 2018 to open more opportunities for innovative start-up ideas

Thursday, Nov 29, 2018 10:53

Deputy Minister of Science and Technology Tran Van Tung. — VNS Photo Hong Minh

Deputy Minister of Science and Technology Tran Van Tung talks to Viet Nam News reporter Hong Minh ahead of the national start-up event Techfest 2018, which starts today and will run until December 1 in the central city of Da Nang.

What are the Ministry of Science and Technology expectations for Techfest 2018, and what will be the highlight of this year’s event?

Techfest this year will be an opportunity to review innovation-related activities implemented by ministries, sectors, localities and political and social organisations over the last year. The Ministry of Science and Technology (MoST) will also use the event as an opportunity to evaluate and select the best innovative and creative ideas from Techfest activities throughout the country.

This year will be the fourth time we have organised Techfest, and it will be bigger and better than ever before. Local leaders and foreign partners will be attending the event, and we have invited representatives from the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) – the world’s largest start-up network – to participate.

I would like to stress the importance of meetings between Government leaders and young people that will be taking place, which will encourage young start-ups. We will also see some special start-up ideas that our young entrepreneurs have come up with.

There will also be high-ranking meetings between Vietnamese and international partners to exchange, learn and share start-up experiences from each other.

On December 1, there will be an awards ceremony for best ideas at Techfest 2018, which will also have a chance to compete at events in Silicon Valley, Israel, South Korea and Japan.

Some experts at a recent international conference for young researchers in economics and business claimed that young start-up people in Việt Nam often focus on product ideas and forget the bigger problems of resources and capabilities of the businesses themselves. What do you think about this assessment? Does it accurately reflect the start-up status in Viet Nam? What solutions would the MoST suggest to make innovative start-ups in Viet Nam more effective?

I agree in part. The main weakness among young start-ups in Viet Nam is their business plans are not realistic. They lack the skills to call for resources, both in financing and human resources. They need to learn and be mentored and supported by successful groups and entrepreneurs.

We see the problem but we have to admit that support for start-ups in Viet Nam remains lacking, so the assessment is a reminder for us to pay more attention to this.

The Prime Minister has already approved three projects regarding this.

The MoST is in charge of Project 844 on supporting a national innovative start-up ecosystem. This is the main project. We have received co-operation from other ministries, sectors and political and social organisations, and it has been adopted across the country.

In the first stage, we focused on building policies and a legal framework for the innovative start-up ecosystem in Việt Nam. Recently, the project has shifted focus to supporting idea incubation centres and working complexes. We have supported training and fostering ideas, creativity and innovation. We want to do what the rest of the world is doing, so we have brought in trainers, lecturers and successful and professional start-up businesspeople to help young start-ups in Viet Nam.

Start-up enterprises in Viet Nam are still facing obstacles despite the support from the MoST. What do you think about comments made by some experts that policies to support start-up enterprises have not caught up with the rapid development of the industry in Viet Nam? Will the upcoming meetings at Techfest 2018 between start-up businesses and Government leaders discuss this issue?

It is easy to see that innovative start-up activities have been blooming in Viet Nam. I can feel the spirit of start-up development everywhere, and the whole society is talking about start-ups and innovative ideas. TV, radio and even social networks have started to talk about start-ups and innovative ideas every day.

It is normal for policies to lag behind the development of start-up activities because they are new things, new ideas. In addition, the legal framework depends on different agencies. Laws must be passed by the National Assembly, decrees must be promulgated by the Government, and circulars need to be issued by ministries. So there is always a delay to the issuance of legal documents.

We need a balanced and appropriate management mechanism to stimulate innovative start-up activities.

These policy problems need to be solved, and at Techfest 2018 we hope young start-ups will explain the problems they are facing to Government leaders. By listening directly to these enterprises, the leaders will gain a better grasp of what current policies are holding them back. Relevant ministries and agencies will then develop documents and policy frameworks to support and resolve difficulties in the development of start-up businesses in Viet Nam.

The “start-up ecosystem” and “innovative start-up ecosystem” have been mentioned a lot in Việt Nam lately. Could you elaborate on these two concepts?

These two concepts are easy to get confused.

The start-up ecosystem facilitates entrepreneurial activities in general, or, facilitates the start of a business. The innovative start-up ecosystem is the focus of Project 844 and all other start-up support projects that are different and show innovation. When you start your own business, you can bring the initiative, the improvement, the technology, the application of scientific research in the process of developing your production and business plans. That is the potential of the innovative start-up ecosystem.

Is there connectivity between the innovative start-up ecosystem in Viet Nam with international and regional ecosystems? How has the MoST supported promoting Vietnamese start-ups around the world?

The innovative start-up ecosystem in Viet Nam is not that different or far from the activities of other ecosystems around the world.

Our idea of start-ups in Viet Nam is based on sharing and exchanging skills, expertise and experiences with other countries in the region and the world. If Viet Nam’s creative ideas are good enough and well-evaluated, we can take those ideas to Techfest in the US, South Korea, Japan or Israel. And as I mentioned before, the MoST will sponsor the first prize winners at Techfest 2018 to visit Silicon Valley to attend a global start-up festival. If we want to get connected, we have to move with the world and speak the same language as other start-up ecosystems.

There will be also a gala dinner between investors and businessmen at Techfest 2018 so that participants can meet, exchange and present their ideas. Investors will also have the opportunity to talk with people who are starting businesses in Viet Nam.

Last year, the MoST launched its national start-up portal at which has gone into operation smoothly. It is a useful bridge for young people to seek opportunities to participate in start-up activities and share with start-ups across the country. — VNS

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