Illustrative photo. Photo: VNA
In face of strong development of science and technology in the twenty-first century, science and technology together with renovation and creation become the most important inputs of modern productive forces, the key to speed up each country’s development and competitiveness. For Viet Nam, a country in the process promoting industrialization and modernization, raising the potential of science and technology is of enormous significance to socio-economic development, amid globalization and deeper international integration.
Current status of science and technology in Viet Nam
Science and technology development has always been attached importance to by the Party and State of Viet Nam in the cause of building and defending the Fatherland. Resolution No. 20-NQ/TW dated 31 October 2012 of the 6th Plenum of Central Committee, 11th Tenure on “Development of science and technology to serve the cause of industrialization and modernization in conditions of socialist-oriented market economy and international integration” affirms that development and application of science and technology is the primary national policy, one of the most important driving force for socio-economic development and national defense, a content which must be given priority and investment one step ahead in all branches and at all levels. Science and technology are the most important driving force for the development of modern productive forces, knowledge economy, improve productivity, quality, efficiency and competitiveness of the economy, protect environmental and ensure national defense and security.
Therefore, development of science and technology and high-quality human resources are identified as one of three strategic breakthroughs in implementing the Strategy on socio-economic development in the period of 2011-2020. The 5-year Report on socio-economic development in the period of 2011-2015 and orientations and tasks of socio-economic development in the period of 2016-2020 approved by the 12th Party Congress also identified one of the tasks and key measures for fulfilling the objectives of socio-economic development in the period of 2016-2020 is to improve the quality of human resources and the potential to strengthen scientific and technology.
While the country is still meeting with difficulties, given the Party and State’s attention, efforts of the scientific and technology forces, over the past years, science and technology of Viet Nam have made positive strides and practical contribution to socio-economic development. Potential and level of science and technology in Viet Nam have been gradually improved; though the number of articles, and scientific works and inventions published internationally are still modest, they have been increasing every year. The State management over science and technology have gradually been renewed. The legal system in science and technology have been completing. Science and technology market has been set up and initially proved to be effective. International cooperation is promoted and Viet Nam is more active in a number of areas, contributing to capacity building, education and science and technology in the country. The speed of technology renovation and technology capacity of the country and businesses have been strengthened; the gap between Viet Nam and other countries in the region are shortened significantly in terms of competitiveness ranking, global innovative capacity and in some science and technology fields of strength. According to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the World Economic Forum (WEF), the global innovation index of Viet Nam jumped up 19 places, ranking 52 out of 141 countries, the global competitiveness index rose 12 ranks to 56 out of 140 countries.
Over the past time, science and technology have contributed to raising agricultural productivity, build new rural areas, making Viet Nam the world's leading exporter of rice and some key agricultural and aquatic products. In industry and services, science and technology forces in the country have the ability to design and construct large hydropower plants; manufacture hydro mechanical equipment and super-sized, super-heavy lift, elevating rigs at water depths of 90 meters and 120 meters. Viet Nam ranks third out of ten leading Asian countries having rock basement oil exploitation technology, produces high-yield crop varieties, launches telecommunications satellite and remote sensing satellite, masters shipbuilding technology, constructs underground works, high buildings, cable-stayed bridge, and highways of international standards. It has been successful with multi-organ transplant and production of vaccines. The increased application of science and technology has also contributed to development of key socio-economic regions and economic regions, promoting local advantages and potential, improving infrastructure systems for people in remote, isolated and ethnic minority regions.
Besides, Viet Nam has made progress in basic research, creating premise for a number of new science and multi-sector technology, namely space, biomedical, nano, nuclear, some areas of natural science like mathematics, and theoretical physics to achieve high ranking in the ASEAN region. Social sciences and humanities have provided foundation for planning guidelines and policies for national development, completion of law, paving the way for renovating economic thinking, confirming the history of the establishment and development of the nation, national sovereignty and territorial integrity, and preserving the values and cultural identity of Viet Nam.
It can be said that while Viet Nam’s economic scale and potential remain low (in 2015, Viet Nam's GDP reached US$ 193.4 billion, and per capita income reached US$ 2,109), it has made encouraging progress as compared with countries with similar economic scale in terms of level of environment for science and technology development.
However, beside achievements, science and technology still face many weaknesses and shortcomings.
Though science and technology potential, and staff have developed in number, they fail to meet quality requirements. Viet Nam lacks strong scientific collectives, research institutions, universities of regional and international levels, leading experts who can guide new research directions or implementation of national tasks in regional and international levels and technical facilities and synchronized research equipment. Viet Nam’s science and technology level in general lags far behind other countries in the world in comparison with the leading group of countries in the ASEAN region. Science and technology as well as high-quality human resources have not yet become the major driving force for growth and economy restructuring. This is also a major challenge for science and technology while Viet Nam is in the process of comprehensive integration into the region and the world.
In science and technology management, despite remarkable efforts in renovating management mechanism of science and technology, Viet Nam lacks appropriate priorities, policies, powerful solutions to create breakthroughs in the areas that Viet Nam has advantages, therefore, scientific and technology spearheads of advanced level which are able to compete equally with regional and international levels have not yet been formed. The program structuring, tasks identification, development of screening criteria and implementation of science and technology tasks are still confused. Viet Nam lacks reliable, synchronized, renovated and creative national database and statistics, is slow in establishing independent evaluation system and indicators for scientific activities and technology assessment, and has not been able to mobilize social resources as well as business investment in science and technology. Linkage between research and training, between research and market, and between scientists and businesses are weak.
Entering the period of 2016-2020, when Viet Nam has been integrating deeper into the world economy, given multidimensional impact of globalization, trade liberalization and strong development of the world science and technology will bring both opportunities and enormous challenges for late comers like Viet Nam. Negotiations for Viet Nam’s accession into multilateral free trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the EU-Viet Nam Free Trade Agreement, and the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) have opened vast market but also created fierce competition for the economy, the economic sectors and enterprises of Viet Nam. The growth model based on increased investment capital, cheap labor and non-renewable natural resources is no longer appropriate. Without breakthrough solutions, especially based on science, technology, renovation and creation, Viet Nam can neither develop, nor get over the low middle income status in the near future. This also poses a huge challenge for Viet Nam’s science and technology sector.
Solutions to improve national science and technology potential
To make science and technology really become a lever of restructuring the economy in association with the growth model renovation, improvement of productivity, quality, efficiency and competitiveness of the economy, economic sector and businesses in the future, there is a need to take key solutions on developing science and technology potential as follows:
First, correctly identify the level and position of science and technology prompted by practice and address urgent demands of national, each sector, and business sector development. Businesses must be in the forefront of commercializing research results, applications and technology renovation.
Continue to focus on applied research or basic research to serve the needs of businesses and key economic sectors, the process of economic restructuring on the basis of development of sectors using high technology, create high added value and gradually replacing low-tech, and low value-added technology.
Implement effectively national programs on technology renovation, high-tech development, and national product development to quickly improve technological potential of the country and businesses, reduce dependence on imported technology, and create famous industrial brands of Viet Nam. Establish special investment mechanism for some large-scale scientific and technology projects for national defense and security or which have strong impact on productivity, quality and competitiveness of Vietnamese products and goods.
Develop science and technology to serve agriculture and rural development, promote and exploit advantages of tropical agriculture, develop industries of high scientific and technological content and high proportion of domestic value, and service of strength. Continue to strengthen the application of advanced science and technology for development of socio-economic areas, key economic areas, and deep-lying, remote and ethnic minority regions.
Second, build and develop scientific staff in combination with motivation, encouragement and requirements for scientists and train, and use talents while demanding for their righteousness and ethics in research.
Develop and implement effectively training plans to turn out graduate and post-graduate talented scientific and technology resources. Concretize policies on using scientific and technological staff, especially with the three groups who are leading scientists, and researchers, who are assigned to lead especially important projects and talented young scientists.
Effectively tap and use of the contingent of students, post-graduates, interns, scientific and technological experts who are learning and working abroad. Support and send officials, and groups of science and technology groups to work and practice for a certain period of time at foreign research institutions, universities and businesses.
Set up practical and effective mechanisms and policies to attract Vietnamese scientists abroad, and foreign experts to engage in science and technology in Viet Nam. Design and apply ethical standards in scientific research in accordance with international practice.
Third, ensure facilities and favorable working environment for scientific staff; effectively invest in infrastructure for science and technology, research facilities, laboratories, information and financial resource, and create an advanced and healthy academic environment,
Invest or upgrade some research institutes and universities following world advanced models. Bring into play efficiency of high-tech zones, high-tech agricultural zones and concentrated information technology zones.
Review status quo to selectively invest, and upgrade infrastructure, key laboratories, facilities for research, modern science and technology infrastructure and statistical information.
Support potential young research teams, and startup businesses with high growth potential and creative renovation. Develop healthy ecosystems of renovation and startup.
Fourth, continue to renovate the management mechanism of science and technology activities remove barriers, liberate creative potential to the maximum, and expand autonomy in parallel with the transparency on results of research activities.
Assign autonomy and self-responsibility to the maximum to public science and technology institutions in operations, organizational apparatus and personnel, financial-property management and international cooperation. At the same time, apply independent, open, transparent auditing to access results of implementation of tasks.
Strengthen linkages between research institutions, universities and businesses. Strongly develop financial channels to support businesses, especially small and medium enterprises to renovate and invest in technology, improve or replace outdated equipment and technology through science and technology national funds. Set up fund for development of science and technology in each businesses.
Strengthen technology market in the direction of developing networks of technical services, brokerage, transfer, consulting, assessment and technology evaluation. Establish and effectively connect national technology transaction floors in big cities with centers of scientific application of advanced science and technology in provinces. Develop national database on technology, technology experts, and connect the supply and demand for new science and technology products...
Fifth, promote cooperation and international integration, and joint research to take advantage of the resources and knowledge of advanced countries, while gradually raising national research capacity and level to be able to participate in equal partnership and mutual benefit in the long run.
Strengthen joint research with strategic partners, expand science and technology cooperation at national level with advanced countries. Strongly support exchanges, academic exchanges in science and technology at international and regional levels. Develop and heighten the efficiency of science and technology representative offices of Viet Nam abroad, especially in the key areas.
The country is facing new opportunities and challenges in the context of comprehensive international integration and global competition based on science and technology and renovation. More than ever before, science and technology force must exert efforts for renovation and breakthrough to generate stronger impact on labor productivity, national and business competitiveness, economic growth rate and quality, to early turn Viet Nam into a basically modern industrial country as set out by the 12th National Party Congress.
This article was published in Communist Review No 883 (May 2016)