HCM CITY — Science and technology have been identified as the key drivers of economic restructure in Viet Nam, but the Government's policies have failed to attract young researchers.
Speaking at a recent conference titled "Young intellectuals develop high-tech industry," Dr Phan Bach Thang of the HCM City's Natural Science University, who obtained a PhD from South Korea several years ago, said he had to choose between returning and staying back to work with capable researchers.
He returned but many other young scientists have chosen to remain abroad, thanks to good working conditions and incomes of US$2,000 – 5,000 a month.
Some Vietnamese universities are offering VND10 million ($500) for people with PhDs, but cannot find anyone because for the scientists there is no chance to study further and can only teach, Thang said.
Dr Nguyen Dung Tai, director of Viet Empire Casting Technology Development Investment Company, said: "If we stay back, we do not need to find funds for our research projects. We just work in a professional environment under leading scientists.
"A PhD is the beginning of the research career, but in Viet Nam young scientists come back and do administrative work."
Around 5,000 people study abroad with public funding and 38,000 others pay their own costs.
Dr Ta Dinh Uyen, who used to work for the US space agency NASA and now works for International University, said: "If the country wants to attract those people to return and work, more detailed and supportive policies must be adopted."
He said in the US a $70,000 grant would be provided to a researcher with a good idea, and a further $500,000 – $700,000 to do the actual research if it has merit. If an invention proves successful, the Government would fund the setting up of a company, he claimed.
"The Sai Gon High-tech Park (SHTP) should be the place to encourage young people to research and study. But even more important is that the SHTP must be the place where ideas bear fruit."
Dr Vu Thi Hanh Thu of HCM City's Natural Science University said the most important requirement if young researchers are not to slip through the net is a favourable working climate.
"With its advantages in infrastructure, the SHTP should form study groups under leading experts," she said, adding that this would be more beneficial than the current system in which an individual comes up with a research project and studies by themselves instead of with a group.
Recently the Government approved a national programme to develop the high-tech industry, under which 30 per cent of industrial production will be from high-tech industries by 2015 and 40 per cent by 2020. To achieve the goal, the Government will identify 500 leaders for high-tech production projects and 10,000 engineers and researchers.
Besides, 500 foreign and 1,000 overseas Vietnamese experts will be hired to work in high-tech training, research, and production facilities in Viet Nam. — VNS