Vietnamese Government Support for the Startup Ecosystem

Vietnam, a country with war torn past is now known by a growing population of young developers, scientists, entrepreneurs, and students taking part in economic and technological growth of the country. Since 2000, nearly 14,000 IT businesses have been set up in Vietnam. In 2010, due to rapid economic growth the country gained status of a lower middle-income country. Vietnam aims to develop as a country with middle-income status by 2020 and become a modern industrialized state.

To achieve this goal, the government has planned to develop a functioning national innovation system. Currently, Vietnam has all the required elements for innovations systems: businesses, universities, research institutes and public sector actors. The Vietnamese innovation system is still not actively functioning because it lacks necessary cooperation among different stakeholders, weak institutional capacity and the limited financial recourses for innovations.

In past few years the Vietnamese government is trying as best as they can to foster an ecosystem of startups and supporting the growth of innovation. The government programs that support in building this ecosystem are listed below

NATECD stands for National Agency for Technology, Entrepreneurship, and Commercialization Development. NATECD is a national platform under the ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) to promote the startup economy in Vietnam by providing training, mentorship, business incubation & acceleration and financial aid to new startups and enterprises.

In May 2015, the NATEC successfully organized TECHFEST, an anchoring event similar to Echelon of Singapore, which gathered innovators, entrepreneurs, investors, tech experts and media.

The National Technology Innovation Fund (NATIF) was setup in 2015 by Ministry of Science and Technology with US$47 million capital. 50% of the fund is used for S&T research carried out by enterprises, import technologies and foreign expertise for technological innovation. The other half of the fund is used to provide preferential loans, guarantee commercial loans or lent as soft loans.

Viet Nam has some 500,000 businesses and it is small effort by government to help businesses grow by renewing their production technologies and their management. The fund is aimed at the super small, small, medium and large businesses where the research and development section is either not present or very weak. The foundation gives direct investment to businesses from the fund so that they can have a technological renovation. Since the foundation’s capital is very small when compared to the total number of businesses in Vietnam, it is really competitive to secure funding from NATIF.

The long term goal of foundation is to increase capital from government to small businesses and well as contributions from private organizations. The capital will be used to renovate technologies of Vietnamese businesses so that they can compete with global businesses. The NATIF is also planning a strategy for the use of use of annual work plans of the Fund; issued specific regulations for the Fund operations.

The Finland-Vietnam Innovation Partnership Program (IPP) is a venture capital co-funded by the Vietnam’s Ministry of Science and Technology (MoST ) and Finland’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs in 2009. It is a first grant-based bilateral development cooperation program between the government of Finland and a lower middle-income Vietnam in the science and technology sector. The role of Innovation Partnership Program (IPP) is to promote innovation, develop entrepreneurs and facilitate new startups and initiatives to create sustainable development of Vietnamese ecosystem on the national and international level.

The program is running into its second phase (2013-2018) after achieving its goal set in the first Phase. The Phase II of program is aim to build an ‘innovation ecosystem’ by strengthening the institutional capacity and cooperation between stakeholders to create innovative products and services. The second phase of programme is also being implemented by Vietnam’s Ministry of Science and Technology (MoST) in which 12 Vietnamese “Innovation Champions” are selected for startup training. IPP is also funding 22 projects in Ha Noi, Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang, and Can Tho.

mLab East Asia
In September 2012, mLab (mobile application laboratory) East Asia was launched in Ho Chi Minh City by funding from Finland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Nokia Corporation and support of World Bank. It was fourth mLab followed by three mLabs in Armenia, Kenya, and South Africa. The mLab provides incubation, mentoring, technical assistance and financing to mobile entrepreneurs and innovators. The mission of mlab is to improve the productive capacity of enterprises in Vietnam (and region) and build a co-working space for mobile developers and entrepreneurs. The mLab partners with UNICEF and infodev (Private Sector Development Network of the World Bank Group) to organize hackathons and competitions which generates impressive ideas and applications.
The mLab East Asia is located in Saigon Hi-Tech Park, Ho Chi Minh City.

Vietnam Silicon Valley
Silicon Valley Ecosystem in Vietnam was launched in June 2013. It is an initiative of Vietnamese government and its Ministry of Science and Technology to foster knowledge based economy and technology commercialization in Vietnam. The Vietnam Silicon Valley offers incubation, mentoring, and granting funds to innovators and entrepreneurs. The Vietnam Silicon Valley Accelerator collaborates with experts from all over the world for rich experience in building the ecosystem. It also invests US$10,000-20,000 in startups for 5-10 per cent equity stake.
The VSV organizes events which provides convenient channel for investors and startup can communicate with each other. It also gives the mentorship and helps startup to connect with global digital network.

Fostering Innovation through Research, Science and Technology (FIRST) project.

The Fostering Innovation through Research Science and Technology (FIRST) is a project of World Bank which started in October 23, 2013. The objective of FIRST projects is to create a scientific and innovation community by designing and piloting of Science, Technology and Innovation policies. The FIRST project encourages and funds research and development (R&D) institutions in Vietnam for growth of knowledge based economy. The project bridges between Innovation Enterprises and Research and Development Institutes. The project also provides financing to newly established technology enterprises, R&D institutes and Science Technology Innovation (STI) consortia of enterprises.
The First Project is lead by Suhas D. Parandekar and implemented by Ministry of Science and Technology (MoST) via a Central Project Management Unit. The estimated cost of project is US$ 110 M and it will be closed in June, 2019.

Hoalac HiTech Service Center (HHSC – HoaLacTOT)

Hoa Lac Hi-Tech Service Center (HHSC)is section of Hoa Lac Hi-tech Park (HHTP) which is aimed at promoting Research and developments activities, business incubation and training the entrepreneurs in hi-tech areas. The centre provides services from product design, to commercialization and production through latest technologies. HHSC also gives entrepreneurship education to startups and opportunities to get investment and using the funds. The Centre has also built database of S&T information which is collected from Ministry of Science and Technology and other departments under it such as: Department of Intellectual Property and Department of Information,

Mekong Business Initiative
Mekong Business Initiative (MBI) is project funded by Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Government of Australia for fostering private sector development in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Vietnam (Greater Mekong Sub-region). MBI provides expert advisory and help in Enterprise Development, Financing, Incubation and Acceleration to entrepreneurs. The MBI project was approved in December 2014 and the execution of project started in May 2015 with cooperation of MBI team leaders, Private sector development experts and coordinators from each country. The Project is being funded by Technical Assistance Special Fund (US$ 500,000.00) and ATF – Australian TA Grant (US$ 10.00 million).