Professor Ngo Bao Chau, the first Vietnamese mathematician to win the Fields Medal, talked to Lao Dong Cuoi Tuan (Weekend Labour) newspaper about how Viet Nam can draw more researchers.
What is the role of science and technology in the country's socio-economic development?
In recent years, Viet Nam's economy has gained significant progress. However, in order to maintain and develop such achievements, we need to develop our science and technology sector. An economy can't have a breakthrough without the science and technology pillar.
It's the way that all developed countries in the world have chosen to develop their economies. I think the Government needs to have more appropriate policies to attract experts – Vietnamese and foreign scientists as well as investment projects and enterprises with much creativity in science and technology – to invest in Viet Nam.
What do you think are the appropriate policies?
I think many scientists who are working abroad will want to contribute to the country if the Government has open policies that create favourable conditions for them to work in the proper working environment.
Regarding policies to attract human resources, we can start with activities and projects that bring about practical products to the community.
Can you talk a bit about the Fostering Innovation through Research, Science and Technology (FIRST) project?
The FIRST project aims to support science, technology and innovation (STI) in Viet Nam by designing and piloting STI policies, enhancing the effectiveness of project-aided research and development institutions and encouraging the development of innovative technology enterprises.
I believe the project will be successful. Once you've decided that you want to work in science research, you have to take all the difficulties and challenges and you've got to try and try consistently. I started doing science research 10 years ago. What I've learnt is that many Vietnamese living abroad still want to contribute to the country's development with wha t they've learnt abroad.
However, the reality is that they have to come across quite a number of difficulties. The biggest hindrance is the income policies and the working environment. We have a huge number of topnotch Vietnamese scientists working abroad now, but we have wasted quite a lot of time on achievements that could have been done much earlier.
With the FIRST project, we hope that those who wish to contribute to the country's development will have the chance to come back and do so. However, we should focus on specific and leading industries of the country. This can be considered the first hope for the science and technology of our country to develop.
In order to develop, enterprises need to themselves be innovative. What do you think can encourage enterprises to have more innovations and incentives?
FIRST is a big project. We have done surveys with big enterprises which have the tendency to innovate on their operations through science and technology research. But only a few have done this.
I think there is a lack of trust between scientists and enterprises and vice versa. The FIRST project is the first attempt to address this problem. This is a chance to gather devoted scientists and science managers who have the same will to work out a practical solution.
In the implementation process, with initial efforts, the product might have not been made. This will be a big pressure for leaders in science research. This phase will need a lot of encouragement and support from the Government, so that participants can have the motivation to continue with their work to make high-quality practical products.
I believe the project and the Government's support will create such products for society in the future, as well as the motivation for sustainable development for enterprises themselves. — VNS