May, 07 2012 09:15:34

Science, technology boost


An engineer works an automatic weilding machine in a laboratory at the Mechanical Research Institute. — VNA/VNS Photo Hoang Hung
HA NOI — Viet Nam plans to spark growth in science and technology by spending more on research and development and offering incentives to all economic sectors, including private bodies, to join the work, said Minister of Science and Technology Nguyen Quan.

Quan became the 11th minister involved in an on-line dialogue with the public, started in March, via the Government's e-portal on Saturday.

Under Decision 418 signed mid last month by the Prime Minister, science and technology (S&T) would make greater contributions to economic growth and restructuring, with the value of hi-tech products reaching 45 per cent of GDP by 2020.

The number of State-funded studies published in international academic publications would rise by 15-20 per cent each year.

By then, the country would have nearly 2,000 S&T organisations owned either by the State or independent sources.

To meet these goals, Quan said a "breakthrough solution" involves greater funding to S&T, with 2 per cent of the State budget per annum plus 3-4 times more from local enterprises.

"Incentive policies will be worked out to call for enterprises, organisations or localities to set aside part of their income for their own S&T development fund," Quan said.

Replying to a query over whether the State would encourage and support non-State bodies to take part in research and development (R&D), the minister said yes, adding that it had been done for years.

He cited private Quang Trung-Ninh Binh Mechanic Enterprise as an example of the many bodies that had expanded thanks to State funded R&D projects.

Regarding the roadmap to bring State-funded S&T organisations into self-financed ones as planned by the Government, Quan described it as a "tough process" as the majority of them were accustomed to subsidy mechanisms for ages.

He also said a new plan was being worked out to complete the task by 2014.

He also noted that even in their self-financed status, S&T bodies could receive State support, which would be made on the assignment basis rather than the current regular capital allocation.

This would ensure equality between State and non-State bodies, Quan said.

To a question on how to raise the quality of scientific studies which are "at a worrying state", Quan traced it back to the procedure that selects and assesses the projects.

Under the current procedure, research projects result from a unit's proposal, which are often impractical. A change has been suggested to the Government in which a study must be done on the priority basis.

Replying to a query over any incentive policies for investors and scientists to work in high-tech zones so as to soon have "Silicon Valleys" in the country, the minister said that apart from the existing tax privileges to investors, special treatment to scientists and managers working in the zones was limited.

Yet, he revealed that the ministry was working hard to ensure that those in management positions in hi-tech zones would enjoy the same incentive policies as those in economic zones.

For the scientists, he said "better treatment and higher power will be handed to them" in the future.

Nuclear power

Another public concern raised was how to ensure the safety of nuclear power plants in the country.

Quan said that with the foreseeable shortage of energy to meet the national economic growth by 2020, nuclear power was an "unavoidable choice" unless there was another alternative technology.

He also said Viet Nam would not be able to afford increasingly expensive imported fossil fuels nor capable in terms of technology to produce renewable energy from solar, wind or tides.

"If we go for nuclear power, we can utilise ODA from developed countries," he said.

He also added that power plants using fossil fuels would emit a huge amount of greenhouse gases that seriously pollute the environment while hydro-power plants and reservoirs also have a lot of environmental consequences.

"Additionally, we have no more resources to build hydro-power plants. The one in Lai Chau Province must be the country's last one," Quan said.

To minimise dangers from nuclear power plants, he said the Government required partners to level up their safety and taken more precautions in surveying the sites to build the plants.

Yet, to another question, he admitted that "I'm very anxious of the human resources for the plant's operation unless breakthrough measures are adopted," adding that a proper incentive policy was vital to lure young labourers for this high-risk job.

He said the Government has had a costly plan to train people for the industry, both overseas and domestic.

The dialogue with the minister also involved various issues including recent vehicle explosions, goods quality control and intellectual property. — VNS

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