Important role of Universities in new "Innovation District"


Universities with an entrepreneurial mindset will play an important role in the development of Innovation Districts in HCM City, experts said at an international conference held on Wednesday at Vietnam National University Ho Chi Minh City’s (VNU HCM) Information Technology Park.


Research products exhibited at an international conference in HCM City on Wednesday show how universities will play an important role in the development of the city’s Innovation Districts.


Dr Nguyen Anh Thi, director of the IT park, said that “entrepreneurial universities carry out activities to support lecturers and students start businesses based on their innovative ideas”.


“Entrepreneurial universities quickly adapt to the outside environment, such as the Fourth industrial revolution,” Thi added.


Besides the traditional roles of teaching and research, these universities set up an ecosystem that allows their lecturers and students to connect with industries that can transfer their technology to them and help commercialise their research findings and products. 


This kind of mindset will support the city’s Innovation Districts, which will focus on innovation and entrepreneurship activities, and foster socio-economic development, Thi said.  


Natcha Thawesaengskuthai of Chulalongkorn University from Thailand said that such universities help “develop human and intellectual capital” and build partnerships with industry.


Dr Thoai Nam, who is on the faculty of computer science and engineering at the HCM City University of Technology-VNUHCM, said the university’s large number of faculty and students with highly creative ideas would contribute to Innovation District development.  


The university, which has many labs, collaborates with managers, city departments, neighbouring provinces such as Binh Duong, international universities, companies, and Saigon Hi-Tech Park, Nam said.


VNUHCM is one of three key anchors mentioned by HCM City Party Committee Secretary Nguyen Thien Nhan for the city’s eastern Innovation Districts.


By 2020, the Information Technology Park is expected to become a dynamic startup ecosystem in the region with 100 entrepreneurs providing 2,000 jobs and 2,000 student internships each year, according to Dr Huynh Thanh Dat, president of VNUHCM.


Deren Temel, program manager for maker innovation and applied projects at Arizona State University, said that industry partners should engage in an applied projects-based curricula at Vietnamese universities. These projects develop specific skills that industry partners need from graduates, he noted.


Universities should set up maker spaces (a collaborative work space inside schools, libraries or public or private facility that uses high tech to no tech tools) to promote a culture of multi-disciplinary collaboration, innovation and entrepreneurship and to incubate students’ ideas and early-stage startups on campus, he said.


“Maker spaces build students’design thinking, problem-solving skills, critical thinking and soft skills,” Temel said.