Fostering scientific and technological innovation
In order to achieve the goal of becoming a developed, high-income industrialized country by 2045, it is urgent to put science and technology innovation at the right place as emphasized by the Communist Party and in the Constitution. This need is the top priority in our national policy. In addition, more policies and activities are required to encourage the spirit of scientific and technological innovation in the community. Dr. Sc. Nghiem Vu Khai, Science Doctor, former MOST Deputy Minister, Member of the National Assembly at legislature XIV, shared with reporter his perspective about Vietnam Sci&Tech Day - May 18 th.
Dr. Sc. Nghiem Vu Khai
This is the 8 thtime for us to celebrate the Sci&Tech Day. As a scientist and an administrator in the field of science and technology, would you be pleased to share with readers about the Sci&Tech Day?
Dr. Sc. Nghiem Vu Khai: In the years of 2012 and 2013, Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) was assigned the task of presiding over the project revising the Law on Science and Technology 2000. One of the requirements was to propose to submit the Bill to the National Assembly for taking a Science and Technology Day annually.
As one of MOST leader, I was assigned as Deputy Head of the Standing Committee for drafting this Law. I studied the history of the development of our nation’s science and technology field to find the most suitable time and event. Eventually, I found out that an event dated on May 18 th1963 when President Ho Chi Minh attended and gave a speech at the first Congress of Vietnam Association of Science Literacy.
In his speech, President Ho Chi Minh summed up the most important points about the development of science and technology in our country, at the same time he assigned the difficult and glorious task to the Vietnamese scientific and technological intellectuals. “Science must be improved from production and then serve production and the people as well as enhance labor productivity, improve livelihood of the community and ensure the victory of socialism”, quoted from Ho Chi Minh speech.
The Law on Science and Technology was approved by our National Assembly session XIII in June 2013 with a very high rate of consensus, in which the Article 7 stipulated: “Annual May 18 is dedicated as the Vietnam Science and Technology Day” and t his is the 8 thyear of the Sci &Tech Day so far.
Similarly, a number of developed countries do have alike the Sci & Tech Day or Week. On that day, numerous activities are held to promote science literacy, introduce innovative technology and honor devoted contributions … Such activities also have been conducted whole the year and widely and most of them have become societal with the mass participation from the crowd. Meanwhile, the relevant activities are mainly organized within one day or on the occasion of well-known Science and Technology Day. This fact is not really appropriate to the meaning and purpose set out for the importance of this national event.
Is it true that Vietnamese citizens seem enjoying achievements of science and technology of humankind in Vietnam and all over the world but showing no interests in the nation’s science and technology development?
Dr. Sc. Nghiem Vu Khai: In my perspective, it is not the point that our citizens are unaware of the role of science and technology. At present, Vietnam has basically alleviated hunger and poverty, the morale and material life of our people has been increasingly improved. The public fundamentally has idea of achieved outcomes thanks to science and technology. 50 years ago, the population of our country was just one third of the present, however, they were short of food, rice and other essential things. Nowadays, the land areas still stay the same but sometimes it is still necessary to “rescue” redundantly vegetable and fruit. Such achievements are mainly due to science and technology advances in the improvement of animals and plant varieties, in cultivation, processing and preservation of food and fruit …The public always cheer up enthusiastically any achievements gained by Vietnamese people in international contests whether that is in the field of sport, music or Olympic competitions, or scientific and technological inventions.
In my opinion, the responsibility to care about and facilitate the development of science and technology first of all belongs to State management agencies. There should be a mechanism for commanders, heads of relevant agencies, organizations to meet periodically and discuss about solutions to remove difficulties and propose policies, breakthrough mechanism to the Government and the National Assembly in order to innovate the field of science and technology of our nation.
It is necessary to immediately overcome the situation that science and technology activities remain generally quiet and has not really become the motivation for socio-economic development which mentioned in Resolution No. 20-NQ/TW (2012) on the development of science and technology serving the cause of industrialization and modernization in the context of a socialist-oriented market economy and international integration.
Celebrating Sci &Tech Day will make the public understand more widely and intensively the role of science and technology and the innovation as well as the contribution of science and technology progresses. Since then, people will respect and response to the creative emulation movement, which encourage scientists to dedicate enthusiastically to the construction of our country to be more and more developed and come up with other countries in the world.
So what is your advice to attract more active contributions from scientists to the nations’ critical issues?
Dr. Sc. Nghiem Vu Khai: In the 1960s, despite of the fierce war going on, the Communist Party and the State of Viet Nam still paid special attention to the direction and investment in order to deploy a number of measures to develop science and technology as well as education in the strong and constant manner, which indicated clearly the fact that education, training and technology were the leading national policy. At that time, thousands of excellent students were sent to study and research in the countries of socialist blocs, then a number of key universities, research institutes, faculties were established and operationalised in Viet Nam. Such trained scientific and technological human resources played an important role in building the strength of people’s army as well as the position and force of the revolution, which contributed to the struggle for the unification and victory of our country. Moreover, the scientific and technological human resources also have made great contribution to the socio-economic development since our country’s unification up to now.
Learning and perceiving the guiding thoughts of President Ho Chi Minh, the Vietnamese scientific and technological intellectuals have constantly made great efforts in scientific research, enhanced exchanged and knowledge dissemination, technological application and transfer for the development of the community and society as well as building a more and more modern science and technology and integrating with advanced science and technology in the world.
Nowadays, there are hundreds thousands of Vietnamese students and scientists going abroad for further study and research. This is a valuable asset and work force and we need to have suitable policies to attract and use talents. In the context of Industry 4.0, they do not necessarily return Vietnam to make contribution to the country. Many are living and working in host countries but still making significant contributions to the homeland.
In my opinion, besides wages and allowances for scientific intelligentsia, the most important thing is to create favorable conditions for their dedication. It is necessary to have major programs, thesis, projects from the State budget or from other socialization sources to create breakthrough scientific and technological products, that raise the science and technology position of our country as well as the reputation of Vietnamese scientists working in the field of science and technology.
Actually, Vietnamese science and technology intellectuals are keen on the revolutionary cause of the Communist Party and the people; they take responsibility to the society; they are deserved to be one of three key forces that form the foundation for the alliance of workers, farmers and intellectuals as mentioned in Article 2 of the Constitution 2013.
Our country has made great progress, which is very encouraging, however in fact we can have faster and more sustainable steps if there are really strong policies in order encourage, gather and unite intellectuals in the country and abroad.
It is said that business community should be considered as the kernel of innovation and strong development of innovative startup and technological innovation? What is your opinion on this matter?
Dr. Sc Nghiem Vu Khai: Indeed, international experience showed that our State should focus on formulating institutions, infrastructure and training science and technology field in order to enhance national capacity, which facilitate and maintain science and technology activities. Meanwhile, application and commercialization are mainly carried out by enterprises which play the vital role for innovation system.
In 2007, taking charge of examining the project of the law on high technology, I took a trip to the USA and discussed with some venture capitalists. They said that they received around 1,000 inventions every year. Then they chose some 100 proposals (10%), in which there were 10 projects (10%) commercialized successfully. Thereby, the rest ones would be considered and supported for the next tests and further improvement.
Scientific research and technological development is a series of activities which implicit high and potential risks. Therefore, investment in commercializing research outcomes is risky. The enterprises taking charge of the final step which is applying and commercializing research outcomes bear a number of risks, so they need support and incentives facilitated by the State as well as the cooperation from scientists.
In our country, major enterprises have small or micro-sized scale. In recent years, there has been a good sign that some big enterprises such as Viettel, VNPT, Vingroup… are investing more in science and technology and innovation. As a result, they have obtained positive outcomes.
Digital Government, digital economy and digital enterprises… will have been the main topics on the Sci&Tech Day this year and throughout the coming time.
Thank you very much for your time and sharing!