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Swiss EP

Building the Future of Innovation in Ho Chi Minh City

The Saigon Hi-Tech Park Incubation Center (SHTP-IC) aims to turn Ho Chi Minh City into a leading tech and innovation center.

The Saigon Hi-Tech Park Incubation Center provides resources for startups in Vietnam's most dynamic city.

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam’s commercial hub and largest metropolis, is slated to become a regional tech and innovation powerhouse, at least according to the ambitions of local leaders.

The fast-growing city has certainly attracted attention both at home and abroad, and its tech sector has drawn domestic and international entrepreneurs into an exciting startup and innovation ecosystem.

Over the last 15 years, the Saigon Hi-Tech Park Incubation Center (SHTP-IC), located in the city’s new Thu Duc City administrative area, has played a vital role in getting this ecosystem to where it is today, while also positioning startups to take a leap forward.

“With an incubation period of one-to-three years, SHTP-IC has designed an incubator program suitable for each startup to support them from prototype to commercialization of a product,” shared Thuy Ly Phan, the incubator’s deputy director.

SHTP-IC’s programs, designed with the help of both local and international experts and partners, including Swiss EP, have been highly effective, with over 40 of 73 incubated startups reaching the product commercialization stage. Several of these startups have reached markets such as the United States, Malaysia and South Korea.

More successes like this from startups in Ho Chi Minh City will be needed if the city is to truly become a world-class, dynamic innovation hub, and that is precisely what SHTP-IC strives for.

“We are located inside Vietnam’s biggest hi-tech park near more than 10 large international companies and many Vietnamese tech companies, an area that is a place to practice creative ideas and that will become a smart technology and innovation park,” Ly said. “Our vision moving forward is to become an innovation hub within the Saigon Hi-tech Park and the future innovation district with a focus on the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, and robotics and mechatronics.”

To be sure, there will be challenges along the way.

“For example, SHTP-IC has not created a fund to invest in technology startups,” Ly shared. “Meanwhile, there aren’t many investors in the angel stage in Vietnam, therefore it is quite difficult for startups to approach and raise capital in their early stages.”

But with well over a decade of experience and support from organizations such as Swiss EP, SHTP-IC has guided a number of startups towards major awards and recognition.

“Thanks to the companionship and support of Swiss EP in our work, we have improved our position in the startup ecosystem,” Ly said. “Through connecting with experts, we have developed a viable development strategy to become an innovation center.”

Le Thanh Nguyen, SHTP-IC’s director, shared an example of how Swiss EP support facilitated concrete improvements that will last into the future.

“Last year we organized an artificial intelligence event with a focus on supporting startups for six weeks, from when they didn’t know anything about how to apply AI until they had an understanding of it,” he said.

Swiss EP linked the center with an Australia AI expert, and the incubating startups took it from there.

“They received not only his advice, but he also had solutions software, and our incubators learned,” Nguyen shared. “So in six weeks they were able to apply and build AI models. Thanks to this support, we now have solutions that we can use for other startups in the future.”

Amid the pandemic, SHTP-IC has also displayed a knack for agility, a skill that will serve it well as Ho Chi Minh City continues to grow.

“Both SHTP-IC and startups faced many difficulties due to COVID-19, but also many opportunities,” Ly said. “We have quickly changed direction, implementing many solutions to maintain product and business activities by promoting e-commerce, converting key products and services, minimizing costs and streamlining operations.”

Gannha, a startup being incubated at SHTP-IC, took this opportunity to cooperate with Saigon Co.op, the city’s largest supermarket chain, to launch their Offline to Online platform in stores citywide, connecting with millions of shoppers in the process.

Such a demonstration of quick thinking and successful rollout gives a sense of the great potential of startups supported by SHTP-IC, and a possible glimpse of Ho Chi Minh City’s innovative future.

The AI hack competition at SHTP-IC with mentoring support from Swiss EP’s EiR, Nghia Nguyen.