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Swiss Ambassador encourages collaborations between Vietnamese and Swiss universities and innovation parks

In March, Ambassador of Switzerland to Vietnam Thomas Gass and the embassy delegation paid a visit to Ho Chi Minh City’s Information Technology Park to explore the Vietnamese startup ecosystem within the university campus.

In March, Ambassador of Switzerland to Vietnam Thomas Gass and the embassy delegation paid a visit to Ho Chi Minh City’s Information Technology Park to explore the Vietnamese startup ecosystem within the university campus.

Situated at Vietnam National University Ho Chi Minh City (VNU-HCM) on an area of more than eight hectares, Information Technology Park (ITP) positions itself as a center for startups and innovations in the Information and Communications Technology field, especially through the involvement of the workforce and resources from the academia.

It’s a 15- to 30-minute drive from ITP to nearby innovation hotspots of the “interactive city” Thu Duc, including Saigon Hi-tech Park, Truong Tho Future Hub, Thu Thiem Fintech Hub, Rach Chiec Sports and Wellness Hub, and Tam Da Ecotech Hub.

Receiving Swiss Ambassador Thomas Gass, Doan Anh Dao, program manager at VNU-HCM Innovative Entrepreneurship Center (IEC), introduced ITP’s “open dynamic system”, in which startups was placed at the central stage and surrounded by supporting stakeholders such as universities and research organizations, service providers, corporates’ R&D centers, and funding sources.

Nguyen Ho Hoai Nam, representative of Saigon Hi-tech Park’s Incubation Center (SHTP-IC), added that his team has collaborated with ITP to host various startup contests, boot camps and mentoring sessions, forming a connected startup ecosystem both inside and outside the school campus.

The close proximity between the two organizations has also linked the substantial talent pool from the national university to multinational corporations based at the hi-tech park. Meanwhile, undergraduates have also earned various opportunities to intern at innovative technology startups incubated by SHTP-IC.

Thomas Gass highly valued this holistic approach and expressed excitement when witnessing the wide range of educational, competition and startup services that ITP and SHTP-IC provide for their young entrepreneurs.

“Experience in Switzerland shows that innovation success is ultimately driven by a mix of large international companies, small innovative companies, startups and also active universities, universities of applied sciences and public research centers,” Gass noted.

“I believe that the relationship between Vietnamese and Swiss universities and innovation parks has significant potential that will benefit both the ecosystem in Vietnam and that in Switzerland.”

To further strengthen the startup supporting network, the Swiss government has backed the Swiss Entrepreneurship Program (Swiss EP) since 2015, turning it into an active ecosystem builder for local startup communities across seven countries in the world. Its mission is to connect international experts to partner organizations (POs), including IEC and SHTP-IC, reinforcing the latter’s internal capacity and ecosystem understanding.

“Close, ongoing connections within the ecosystem among POs and other players result in the POs providing more mutual support, and even working together to support some startups. These collaborations, both formal and informal, create a healthier and more dynamic ecosystem,” said Hub Langstaff, Swiss EP Vietnam country manager.

Particularly, Langstaff highlighted the deep involvement of corporates in the Vietnamese startup ecosystem in the recent period, which was accelerated by the promotion of innovation and open innovation in both national and municipal-level policies.

“It is an area where Switzerland leads the world, so innovation opens up doors for Swiss EP Vietnam to drive more connections between our Vietnamese partners and Switzerland,” he said.

“It will also open up more opportunities and dialogue to get large corporates, the government and universities working together and with startups."

In 2021, Imex Pan Pacific Group, Vietnam’s leading multi-industry corporations with businesses in fashion, F&B, aviation services and shopping malls, partnered with Vietnam National University to establish a 32 billion dong ($1.36 million) AI-Robotics Center within the technology park.

It aims to provide extensive training programs in artificial intelligence for more than 42,000 K-12 students and undergraduates annually, creating a foundation for the research and application of AI to solve industry problems.

Visiting the center, Thomas Grass said that he was impressed by Vietnamese startups’ products exhibited there, including solutions for controlling the energy efficiency of air conditioners (Benkon), efficient use of public transport (Phenikaa MaaS), and low-cost antenna-based data transmission via satellite (Rfthings).

“The start-ups in Vietnam are no less than the startups in Switzerland or other countries,” Gass said. “I encourage them to seek international contacts, which are critical to fostering innovation, increasing competitiveness and facilitating entry into markets.”

To have a closer look at the infrastructure and innovative startups at the Information Technology Park, please watch this video recapping the visit of the Swiss embassy delegation on March 15.