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Promoting international cooperation to leverage national science and technology

Communist Review - Amid the fast development of the Fourth Industrial Revolution which has profound impacts on all aspects of social life, improving the nation’s position by taking advantage of scientific and technological advances has become one of the top concerns of countries around the world. Promoting international cooperation to leverage the potential of science - technology is one of the solutions to successfully realize this goal.
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Achievements of international cooperation in science and technology

International cooperation in science and technology has been making a significant contribution to strengthening the national potential, raising the research capacity, and especially addressing scientific and technological problems for the socio-economic growth of Vietnam. By expanding scale, and diversifying forms and contents, Vietnam is currently a member of nearly 100 international organizations on science and technology and has established relationships in this sector with more than 90 countries, territories, and international organizations; More than 80 treaties and international agreements on science and technology at government and ministerial levels have been signed and implemented. Scientific and technological cooperation activities are more and more diversified and multilateralized. On the one hand, Vietnam maintains its ties with traditional partners such as Russia, and Eastern European countries...; on the other hand, it develops new partnerships with some South American, African, and Middle Eastern countries...

In terms of scale:

From 2000 up to now, there have been more than 600 science and technology agreements and contracts between Vietnam and partners which are implemented at research institutions at all levels; More than 500 bilateral research projects between science and technology organizations of Vietnam and other countries have been and are being carried out. These activities have contributed to accomplishing science and technology tasks at the international level; increasing scientific and technological information resources for Vietnamese researchers; gradually acquiring foreign technology, improving the technological capacity of Vietnamese enterprises, and thereby, enhancing the quality and competitiveness of Vietnamese products.

In terms of form and content:

In recent years, Vietnam’s international cooperation activities in the science and technology have become more and more diversified and substantial. From the signing of treaties and agreements and expanding its partners' network on a larger scale, Vietnam has gradually progressed to the stage of concretizing commitments stipulated in agreements in depth. From organizing scientific seminars, and technology exhibitions, to exchanging experts, documents, and information, Vietnam has moved forward implementing joint research projects, translating the research outputs into implementable solutions with the collaboration of experts from partner countries.

As research cooperation stems from real-life problems faced by Vietnam, it has contributed to handling several urgent problems, thus accelerating the industrialization and modernization process. Only in 2020, due to the severe impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government must increase budget spending on anti-epidemic activities for socio-economic recovery. Therefore, Government spending on science and technology has been in decline.

In international cooperation in science and technology, the Ministry of Science and Technology is assigned to take the lead role and coordinate with relevant entities to make consultations and propositions to the Government to reinforce cooperation activities. Thereby, many breakthrough technology solutions from the world tech superpowers, such as the US, Japan, France, Germany, and Australia...(1) were transferred to Vietnam. Vietnamese scientists have gradually absorbed innovations and technology solutions to reduce the technology gap for socio-economic growth and safeguarding national defense and security, thus contributing to human resource training, improving research and management skills of the domestic scientific and technological staff, helping approach international standards, upgrading technical infrastructure, ameliorating infrastructure for some domestic research institutions.

In terms of cooperation areas:

Over the past years, sectors of technology cooperation have been diversified, including natural sciences (improvement of scientific standards, rational use of natural resources, environmental preservation, and sustainable development), human and social sciences (providing scientific foundations for Government policy-making and Party’s guidances), science - technology (improvement of growth quality, economic performance, and competitiveness, strengthening national defense and security for public interests).

Regarding natural science: most of the international projects on science and technology between Vietnam and its partners are in natural science. Many projects in this field have achieved success, such as the German industrial amylada technology project used in food processing and agricultural products, the yeast technology used in the chemical industry and medicine, technology for the production of carbon composite materials; technology for producing a-neutral anodes for shrimp farming, assessing environmental losses caused by shrimp farming activities in some coastal areas... The application of remote sensing techniques and geographical information systems has helped establish environmental planning for sustainable development in coastal areas of Vietnam. Added to these projects is the research to identify bacteria causing disease for shrimp in coastal areas, the development of a new carp breed carrying a recombinant growth hormone gene with a rapid growth rate; the improvement of resistance ability and quality of rice varieties by plant biotechnology; the treatment of brackish water into living water for coastal residents; the use of solar energy for remote areas, the manufacturing of microbial products...(2).

It is noticeable that most of the cooperation projects on natural sciences focus on biotechnology, chemistry, and new materials. This is consistent with the national goal of industrialization and modernization, thereby, modernizing the agricultural industry, and increasing productivity and quality for sustainable growth. In addition, international cooperation in quality measurement standards and intellectual property, prevention and mitigation of climate change risks also contributes to meeting the requirements set by international institutions that Vietnam joins, such as the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA), the US - Vietnam Bilateral Trade Agreement (BTA), the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)...

Regarding social sciences - humanities: International cooperation in this field is not up to par. Most of the projects are within multilateral frameworks, such as the project to build a framework for Vietnam's knowledge economy sponsored by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), United Nations Development Program (UNDP), funds, research scholarships of the Government and scientific organizations, research networks in some typical areas of the region and developed countries…

Regarding science and technology: Along with natural science, this is an area that attracts the involvement of many bilateral and multilateral partners. Through international cooperation activities, Vietnam has gradually approached advanced technology in the region, contributing to economic growth, increasing competitiveness, modernizing agriculture and rural areas, maintaining community health, preserving the environment and mitigating natural disasters, effectively exploiting the potential of the marine economy, safeguarding national security and defense.

In terms of partners:

Over the past time, Vietnam has actively promoted cooperation activities at multiple levels with different partners.

At the multilateral level: Vietnam has established ties with international organizations and forums in the field of science and technology, such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), UNESCO, Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)...

Within ASEAN: Vietnam took the position of Chairman of the ASEAN Committee on Science and Technology and Chairman of the ASEAN Sub-Committee on Infrastructure and Resources Development (SCIRD) (2003 - 2005). By experiences learned after years of ASEAN’s membership, the Ministry of Science and Technology successfully hosted the 47th and 48th ASEAN Committee on Science and Technology (COST) Conferences that have been held respectively in Singapore and Thailand and other activities of COST. In particular, based on the initiative of Vietnam and ASEAN countries, the 48th COST meeting (2004) agreed to upgrade the relationship in science and technology of ASEAN countries to a high-level COST+3's ASEAN Senior officials’ meeting that gathered deputy ministers, general secretary or the equivalent of the national management agencies in science and technology, leaders of key science - technology institutes and agencies from ASEAN countries and China, Japan and Korea (3). Within a decade from 2010 to the present, Vietnam has actively contributed to the review and assessment of science and technology activities of ASEAN countries, and also took part in developing overall integration plans for sectors and the ASEAN plan of action on Science and Technology.

With APEC and the Asian and Pacific Centre for Transfer of Technology (APCTT): Vietnam has actively participated in the APEC industrial science and technology Working Group and the APEC Ministerial Meeting of Science and Technology. It has also doubled efforts to discuss policies and directions for science and technology development of APEC’s countries and economies. Moreover, it has played an active role in the Asian and Pacific Centre for Transfer of Technology, especially in four programs: the Asian and Pacific Biotechnology Network, Asia-Pacific Traditional Medicine and Herbal Technology Network, The ASEAN SME Service Centre, National Innovation Systems (4).

With WTO: Within the framework of agreements on science and technology of WTO such as the agreement on intellectual property related to trade, on technical barriers, Vietnam has actively cooperated and implemented regulations with other WTO members; multiple action programs have been conducted to implement commitments on quality measurement standards and intellectual property under the WTO framework.

With the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and cooperation within the Regional Cooperation Agreement (RCA): Vietnam has conducted 14 technical cooperation projects in nuclear analysis, isotope hydrology, nuclear medicine, agricultural and industrial applications, and human resource development support. In addition, Vietnam has also participated in the EBP (Extra Budget Program) and attended international conferences with the support of the IAEA (5).

At the bilateral level: every year, Vietnam spends tens of billions of VND as reciprocal deposits to support domestic technological institutions in implementing research projects with foreign partners. Some projects have been completed and achieved good results, such as projects on the technological process of preserving some fruits (Korea), the breeding technology of some poultry breeds (Hungary), solar PV-based rural electrification coverage for two communes of Bac Giang province, and two communes of the Central Highlands...To a large extent, at present, Vietnam has counselors and secretaries responsible for science and technology at four Vietnamese embassies in France, China, Russia, and India (6).

With tech superpowers (USA, Germany, France, Japan...), Vietnam has actively developed scientific and technological cooperation to raise the level of technological advancement for the cause of national industrialization and modernization. With the US, since the two countries signed the Agreement on Science and Technology Cooperation (November 2000), the cooperation scale has been increasingly expanded with practical solutions. Exceptionally, in the domain of information technology, the two sides have agreed on 10 cooperation areas such as training on e-government; open-source software; technology incubators; supporting IT Connect teams. In marine science, the project on coastal management of Ha Long Bay is well implemented. With Japan, this country has sponsored many projects for Vietnam, such as the project “Modernization of intellectual property management”, the research and development of Hoa Lac Hi-Tech Park... Through ODA capital, Japan's technical and technological assistance has had a great impact on improving quality of life and national growth in major sectors such as energy, water, health care... With France, Vietnam worked with the French High Commission on atomic energy; France provided many important documents for Vietnam to study nuclear power. The two countries have signed a project on the biodiversity of wild and domestic animals with a capital of 1.8 million USD funded by France (7). With Germany: The Federal Republic of Germany continues to commit that Vietnam is its important partner in Asia (currently in Asia, Germany is in the second place in terms of science and technology cooperation in Vietnam, after China). Two countries have cooperated in implementing many research and training programs, such as the Marine Research Cooperation Program with the German Research Foundation (DFG), the total support from the German side is approximately 2 million USD for the biotechnology research program...(8). In addition, technology partnership between localities, states, research institutes, universities, and businesses is also reinforced by the two governments. Furthermore, Vietnam has also actively promoted cooperation with major partners in science and technology, such as Sweden, Belgium, Korea, and Switzerland... and achieved great success.

With traditional partners (Russia, China, India, and Eastern European countries...), Vietnam continues to deepen substantial relationships and expand the scope of cooperation. With Russia, Russian experts have provided many valuable software and procedures to operate SU aircraft. The Center for Microelectronics and Informatics Technology (Institute of Applied Technology) has received valuable software for the simulation and experimental design of electronic devices according to preset purposes. Vietnam is cooperating with Russia to upgrade the control system of the Da Lat nuclear reactor. With China, the 5th session of the Vietnam - China Science and Technology Cooperation Committee was held in Beijing (China) to approve 12 long-term projects; In particular, the two countries are implementing a volunteer program of Chinese scientists in Vietnam (9). Meanwhile, Vietnam seeks to beef up scientific and technological cooperation with Eastern European countries.

With India, cooperation activities focus on remote sensing technology, information technology, and biotechnology (10). In the past years, due consideration has been given to implementing a 2.5 million USD project on software development; recruiting trainees, and other projects on agriculture and biotechnology. Some projects have achieved certain results, such as processing cashew fruit, developing drought-resistant neem trees, preserving litchi for a longer period...

With new partners, Vietnam also pays special attention to expanding cooperation with Africa and Latin America. It has signed agreements with Angola, Sri Lanka, Argentina, Venezuela, Bangladesh, United Arab Emirates... These are the first steps in making milestones and opening up new opportunities in scientific and technological cooperation between Vietnam and these countries.

Some solutions for the future

To make international scientific and technological cooperation more effective, due priority should be given to the following solutions in the coming time:

First and foremost, develop a national strategy for science and technology (especially in the medium and long term); beef up scientific and technological cooperation with technologically advanced countries. Create excellent research centers based on long-term cooperation between Vietnamese and foreign research institutions. Conduct a pilot study to establish some advanced science and technology institutes located in Vietnam and funded by foreign investors (top priority should be given to essential sectors that have advantages in terms of raw materials, human resources, and output markets...).

Secondly, encourage specialized organizations to develop and implement joint research programs and projects within the framework of bilateral and multilateral agreements to address the real-life problems of Vietnam. Promote cooperation in research and technological development between domestic enterprises, universities, research institutes, and individuals and foreign partners. Attract funding from abroad through research projects in Vietnam.

Thirdly, facilitate research institutes, and universities... to organize international conferences and workshops in Vietnam and participate in conferences abroad. Organize exhibitions to introduce new and advanced scientific and technological achievements of other countries and Vietnam.

Fourthly, improve the efficiency of the network of Vietnamese science and technology representatives abroad (embassies, representatives of ministries, and branches abroad). Continue to expand the network of science-technology representatives in key countries and regions to establish and exploit relationships in research and technology transfer. Recruit talented staff so that they could accomplish missions.

Lastly, adopt specific and feasible policies to attract domestic and international experts and scientists to take part in research projects, develop human resources in the science and technology field, form a network of competent researchers in Vietnam, and nurture young researchers.

ASSOC. PROF, DR. LE THANH BINH
Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam

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(1) Government’s website: “International cooperation in science and technology and international integration in science and technology”: http://www2.chinhphu.vn/portal/page/portal /chinhphu/noidungchienluockhoahocconghe?categoryId=844&articleId=3049, accessed December 21, 2021

(2) Government’s website: “International cooperation in science and technology and international integration in science and technology “, ibid

(3), (4), (5) Government’s website: “International cooperation in science - technology and international integration in science and technology”, ibid

(6), (7), (8), (9) Government’s website: “International cooperation in science and technology and international integration in science and technology”, ibid

(10) Government’s website: “International cooperation in science and technology and international integration in science and technology”, ibid

This article was published in the Communist Review No. 980 (December 2021)

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