Finland-Vietnam Innovation Partnership Program Phase II gears up for 2016

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IPP is an Official Development Assistance (ODA) program financed jointly by the governments of Vietnam and Finland. The competent authorities of IPP are the Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST), representing the Government of Vietnam and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs (MFA) representing the Government of Finland. The program is in its second phase running through 2014-2018. IPP is an initiator, facilitator and connector with the aim of strengthening the Vietnamese innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem. It fosters new activities, connections and collaboration regionally, nationally and internationally.

The Finland-Vietnam Innovation Partnership Program Phase II (IPP2) has announced two Requests for Expressions of Interest and a series of events in December to introduce its offering in 2016.  IPP will provide Grants for Start-up Ecosystem Developers as well as Support for Vietnamese Universities and Other Educational Organisations for the development of their innovation and entrepreneurship training and broader offering. Calls for Proposals related to these two offerings will be organised in early 2016.

The first series of events to market the Calls are organised in 4 cities including Hanoi, Da Nang, Ho Chi Minh and Can Tho in early December followed by additional co-creation workshops in Da Nang and Can Tho later in December and in January.

IPP invites interested organisations to the events and to submit an Expression of Interest in order to start collaboration and discussions.

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Grants for Start-up Ecosystem Developers
In an effort to increase and accelerate the creation of better services for young innovative growth companies throughout Vietnam, IPP is soon launching a new Call for Proposals for start-up ecosystem development consortiums projects. These projects aim to strengthen the innovation system and create new services for young innovative growth companies and may concern developing an incubator, accelerator or another type of service or program for start-ups or young small enterprises.

Prior to the Call, the IPP is now inviting Expressions of Interest from consortiums and organisations that are running, or planning to run, these types of support programs and activities in Vietnam.

In order to facilitate collaboration and learn more about different plans and initiatives to support ecosystem building in Vietnam, IPP now requests Expressions of Interest from consortiums and organisations. All Expressions of Interest must be in English.

Support for Innovation and Entrepreneurship Training Development
As part of the co-creation event tour in December, IPP will also be discussing its 2016-2017 collaboration plans with universities and other educational organisations in Vietnam that are developing their innovation and entrepreneurship training, ecosystem networks and related offering. A request for Expressions of Interest for these organisations has been opened and will be followed by a Call for Proposals in April 2016. IPP is now inviting interested parties to send their Expression of Interest and discuss their plans and needs with the IPP in December.

IPP targets long-term benefits for the Vietnamese economy and innovation system. The program has so far tested and showcased mechanisms for supporting high-growth entrepreneurship by providing phased funding and training support for the innovation projects of 18 new innovative growth companies and 4 innovation ecosystem development consortiums. It has also trained 12 innovation coaches in a hands-on Training of Trainers Program. Following a strategy revision, the IPP will not be expanding its current portfolio of company projects, but will focus on working hands-on with programs and organisations that can, in the future, provide training, coaching, funding and other support and services for innovative companies in Vietnam. It will also support Vietnamese educational organisations to develop their innovation and entrepreneurship training, networks and broader offering.

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The program has been supporting the Ministry of Science and Technology MOST with the drafting of key policy documents related to innovation and support for growth companies. The IPP is an innovation program and, by nature, it moves on in a flexible and agile way.

Emphasis on ecosystem building
“In 2015, the IPP2 has been successfully demonstrating and showcasing mechanisms for supporting high-growth entrepreneurship in Vietnam. It has built a transparent and well-functioning process for attracting, screening and evaluating innovation project proposals, as well as providing phased grant support and practical training for the selected innovation projects,” states Mr Marko Saarinen, Finnish Council in Vietnam.

The showcase portfolio of 18 companies is sufficient for the purposes of IPP2, Mr Saarinen continues. “The IPP-supported company projects are advancing well and some of them will potentially prove to be international success stories. There are many more promising companies in Vietnam. What these companies need to prosper is coaching, mentorship and money. IPP can only support a handful of companies, but hopes to catalyse further support from other programs and funding bodies that can make use of the lessons learnt from the support that IPP has been delivering.”

IPP2 will be providing a larger grant for the most potential projects in its current portfolio in early 2016. Another main effort will be put on those providing and developing support services for innovative companies.

“Listening to the needs of the ecosystem and working hands-on with 4 system development consortiums has underlined that in order for the IPP to maximise its impact, the program should focus on working closely with these types of projects – with accelerators, incubators and other programs that will in the future be able to provide grant, training and other support for young innovative companies in Vietnam,” Vice Minister Khanh elaborates.

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Adding efforts to innovation capabilities  
A key tool for innovation system development on all levels is capacity building.

The program has so far been working on a practical innovation and entrepreneurship core curriculum, which has been tested and refined in a Training of Trainers Program and in the Innovation Accelerator Program. The concepts, learning and teaching techniques and practical exercises are much needed in Vietnam to increase the generation of new innovations, successful start-ups and other stakeholders in the Vietnamese national innovation system.

“Many Vietnamese universities that are currently developing their innovation and entrepreneurship training and broader I&E offering are looking for support in the process. We can see clear demand for new types of practical training programs that can increase universities’ output to industry and collaboration with entrepreneurial communities. IPP2 will work to respond to these demands by establishing a close collaboration with selected universities and other educational organisations,” explains Vice Minister Khanh.

“The program’s target is to multiply this type of practical I&E training in Vietnam, which is why it will work with several partners and also provide open-source content for the benefit of wider public,” Mr Saarinen adds. Also on the capacity building side the program will continue to provide training and coaching to its innovation projects and further institutional and capacity building support for MOST.

The Finland-Vietnam Innovation Partnership Program (IPP), with a budget of €11 million was co-funded by the Vietnam’s MOST and Finland’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

National Agency for Technology, Entrepreneurship, and Commercialization Development (NATEC), is a body of Vietnam’s Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST). NATEC is part of a national push to promote the “Start-up Economy” in Vietnam.

The National Technology Innovation Foundation (NATIF) was set up (also within MOST) earlier this year with a budget of approximately $47 million and a mission to advance scientific and technological research in the enterprise and educational sectors.

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