Welcome to Silicon Vietnam - Creating a technological eco-system (Part 2)
In the last post, I looked at how Vietnam is taking the lead in technology development in SEA and what is required to provide the best environment for technological innovation to flourish. This time, we take each of the components in turn to see what Vietnam is doing.
Intellectual assets/ intellectual property
There was a 22% increase in patents filed in Vietnam from 2016 to 2017, with 4,668 patents granted in 2016. However, the numbers are similar around the region, with Indonesia granting just under 4,000 patents in 2016 which was a significant increase from the previous year. Philippines granted just over 4,000 patents in 2016, up 82% from 2015, and Malaysia granted 3,300 patents in 2016.
Tellingly patent applications from Vietnamese inventors were only 76 (while applications from foreign investors were 1,347). Pharmaceutical patents account for most patents granted in Vietnam, followed by basic chemical materials. Only 46 patents were granted in the computer technology field. However, Vietnam did climb 12 places to rank 47th among 127 economies in the Global Innovation Index 2017.
While it’s encouraging to see real patent growth, the numbers do not show a significant enough growth in the computer tech field to indicate that Vietnam is making much progress. Patent filing is not yet part of the business culture – or part of the culture generally. While Vietnam was one of the first countries in Asia to have a patent filing system (French patent law applied to Indochina), the Vietnam feudal system did not grant rights to authors and there is no record of state protection during this time. The French patent system was abandoned in 1955; and at the end of the civil war in 1975, no IP rights were recognized until 1982 when the system was re-booted. It is therefore a system that is still relatively new and has not yet had the rocket boosters which were applied in China by the government to increase patent filing.
Technology clusters and science parks
Vietnam is developing three high tech parks in Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi and Da Nang – over 200 projects with a total registered capital of US$10 billion. To put this in a regional context, Philippines has three such parks, Thailand has one, and Malaysia has five. While Vietnam is not especially strikingly ahead, it is certainly holding its own. Hoa Lac Hi-Tech Park is being developed into what is touted to be ‘a science city hosting investors in biotechnology, information communications, new material technology and automation’. One of the most significant investments so far, however, is from Korea’s Hanwha Techwin for a manufacturing plant - which is not necessarily moving the needle on tech development.
An attempt at generating a tech ecosystem has seen projects like IT Techmart, a fair featuring technological advances and specialised electronic devices kick off in Hanoi in May 2018. This brings together science and technology institutes, universities and businesses so they can introduce their latest research into the ecosystem. There is also the Vietnam Innovative Startup Accelerator (Viisa) which provides US$30,000 worth of investment, office space and connections to international entrepreneurs and investors.
While it is premature and extremely optimistic to say this shows anything like a Silicon Valley infrastructure, there are certainly some nascent green shoots.
In the next post we tackle the vital components of funding and education and where the opportunities lie.
 WIPO report 2017 - http://www.wipo.int/publications/en/details.jsp?id=4225
 NOIP Vietnam
 Ministry of Science and Technology