Ph.D. Tran Dac Hien
Ministry of Science and Technology (MoST)
Socialisation of Science and Technology (S&T) services is one of the important measures to improve the national S&T efficiency and potential. Looking back on the ten-year period (2006-2016), there have been positive results in socialisation of S&T services. However, there are many things to be considered in order to further accelerate this activity in the upcoming time.
Socialisation of public services (including S&T services) as a measure to achieve the desired quality of public services aims to enhance the quality of public service supply for the society, individuals and entrepreneurs. Socialisation activities help alter the supply roles of several stakeholders: shifting from State monopoly to the direction of expanding the supply of services beyond the public sector in order to mobilise social forces in realising the objective of improving the quality of public service provided while reducing the burdens for State agencies. Besides, socialisation of public services also serves as a progress of equal participation for people to engage in a healthy competitive environment, to enjoy fair benefits brought forth by public services.
Socialisation of public services is an inevitable trend going hand in hand with the development of market economy and establishment of the Socialist Legitimate State. The idea of public service socialisation was formed based on the Resolutions from the 4th Plenum of the 7th Party Central Committee. Accordingly, services in health, education and training sectors undergo innovation in terms of socialisation of management and implementation, with the State being the key player. Afterwards, this idea was officially stated in the documents of the 8th National Party Congress undertaking that: “Social policy issues are to be resolved in the spirit of socialisation. The State is the key player, encouraging all citizens, domestic enterprises, social organisations, individuals and foreign organisations to participate in tackling social issues.” Resolutions of the Party Central Committee meeting in term IX, X, XI, XII continue to confirm the expansion and promotion of socialization of public services in various social life areas in association with improvement of efficiency and effectiveness of state management to conform to the conditions of a socialist-oriented market economy, attract and utilize social forces in supplying, ensure and enhance the quality of public services.
Achievements so far
Public services in the S&T sector are mainly services that public S&T non-business units and other non-public agencies are providing. There are some S&T public administrative services offered by state-governed units under MoST and other Ministries/Agencies, localities that have not been socialised. One typical example is the issuance of Certificate of S&T operation registration, Certificate of S&T enterprises, Certificate of establishment of new enterprises from investment projects in manufacturing high-tech products, Certificate of high-tech application for institutions, Certificate of high-tech application for individuals, Certificate of high-tech enterprise, Registration of designate institution for conformity assessment, Registration of institution for inspection, standardization, pilot testing of means and standards of measurements... Regarding public utility services, in pursuant to the Decree No. 31/2005/ND-CP on March 11th, 2005 by the Government on the production and supply of public utility products and services, there is no S&T service that meets the requirements, criteria of public utility services to be considered for procurement, orders or being entrusted with implementation plan.
Result of the socialization of S&T services over the last ten years is reflected in almost every sector under MoST management, such as quality measurement standards, intellectual property, technology transfer, S&T market development, S&T information, atomic energy,… Some particular results to be mentioned are:
With regards to the quality measurement standards, the following services are constantly provided: registration, specification of testing activities, standardisation, pilot testing of means and standards of measurement; training, consultation of quality measurement standards; quality award activity... Among these, inspection, standardisation, pilot testing of means and standards of measurement are services that have undergone socialisation, others basically are still supplied by public non-business units. According to statistics, from 2006 till the end of September 2016, along with 68 public non-business units under the quality measurement standards system (including 63 Technical Centre for Quality Measurement Standards under S&T Departments and five agencies belonging to the General Department of Quality Measurement Standards under MoST), there are hundreds of external S&T institutions (MoST first appointed 117 institutions and then 789 institutions were re-appointed and expanded) providing inspection, standardization, pilot testing of means and standards of measurement services for organizations, individuals and enterprises. Up to now, there are about 250 non-public institutions involving in the supply of inspection, standardisation, pilot testing of means and standards of measurement services, over 3,5 times more than the number of public units (160% increase in comparison to the period prior to 2006). This institutional network outside of the public sector is scattered all over the country, making sure that there is at least 01 institution in every province/city for inspection, standardisation, pilot testing. Institutions for inspection, standardisation, pilot testing outside of the public sector play an important part in satisfying the needs for inspection, standardisation, pilot testing of means and standards of measurement of institutions, individuals nationwide, reducing the monopoly status of public non-business units in the previous system of a quality measurement standard.
In the field of intellectual property, some S&T services provided are: Industrial Property (IP) Representation, IP Inspection, Information Inquiry, Training on intellectual property... Among these services, over the past years, only IP Representation service have been promoted and have achieved positive results. Institutions for IP Representation are becoming more and more prosperous in terms of quantity and quality, able to assert their cardinal role in the IP protection system. In 2006, there were just 65 institutions and 237 people with Certificate of IP Representation, yet up to November 2016, there have been 170 institutions and 315 people with Certificate of IP Representation. The number of IP registrations being submitted through institutions for IP Representation service makes a high portion and continues to rise over years. The quality of application form submitted through institutions for IP Representation has been more and more improved, raising confidence for institutions, individuals and enterprises wishing to register for the establishment of IP rights.
IP training service has been initially socialised, but to a very limited extent. Over the period of 2006-2016, 408 IP courses were conducted with over 32.000 participants, among those were some in-depth training courses conducted in form of cooperation with charged fees to compensate for training costs. IP Information inquiry/supply currently is a paid service. This service can surely be socialised once the IP information platform attached to the search engine is upgraded, standardised and becomes intelligent enough to serve the society in form of public utility service. IP search engines such as IPLib, DigiPat, IPSea are currently provided for free, attracting thousands of visitors. Besides, in order to promote socialisation and diversification of IP, IP information exchange mechanism (of state management institutions) uses standardised information database together with a smart search engine (implemented by enterprises) for the purpose of professional work in state management institutions and free offering to the society also requires permission for execution.
In the field of technology transfer, intermediary services for technology transfer, consultation on technology transfer, technology evaluation, technology valuation, technology assessment, promotion of technology transfer have been socialised with initial results over the past 10 years, attracted many economic sectors participating in providing this service.
In the past 10 years, socialisation of supporting services for technology incubation, business incubation and development of S&T market also received continuous attention and promotion. Some institutions for supporting, promotion of technology, business incubation in the private sector came into existence with an initial operational efficiency that leads to a new wave for innovative start-up community on a national scale. In present time, there are 7 institutions for supporting, promotion of technology incubation, start-up business incubation, 6 of which belong to private or foreign investment sectors and the other 1 belongs to public sector (Vietnam Silicon Valley); about 20 co-working space, mainly gather in big cities like Ho Chi Minh Cities (11 zones), Hanoi (6 zones), Da Nang (2 zones), Can Tho (1 zone). These institutions bring about a more comprehensive and concentrated support for innovative start-up activities. Besides, there are 8 technology exchange platforms, 43 public and non-public S&T technology and business incubators, 63 centres for application and development of technology under S&T Departments of 63 provinces/cities. These institutions provide services of supporting, consultation, connecting supply and demand for technology, intermediary transfer of technology. Through the above services, thousands of technological contracts have been signed and implemented that worth thousands of billions. The aggregate amount of technological transaction for the 2011-2015 period exceeded 13.700 billion, increased 3 times in comparison to the previous period of 2006-2010.
In the field of atomic energy, such as: Nondestructive testing; Sterilized Irradiation, quarantine irradiation for export of agricultural products and seafood, application of radiation and radioisotopes for medical services, diagnosis and treatment of diseases using nuclear techniques, transfer of technology in providing radioactive devices, substances, investment consultation, export-import and transfer of technology in the field of atomic energy... have been increasingly promoted in terms of socialization and widely implemented in health, agriculture, industry, natural resources and environment sectors for the purpose of socio-economic development. The nondestructive testing serving transportation, construction and industry has received investment and supply from domestic, foreign companies as well as public S&T institutions. The industrial irradiation service has received investment and support from public institutions and private enterprises for epidemiology control of fruits, agricultural products and seafood to be exported, sterilisation of medical devices, manufacturing of materials by handling radiation in industrial scale... Currently, there are 9 industrial scale irradiation machines in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Binh Duong and Can Tho. Vietnam is considered one of the countries that own a relatively large number of devices in comparison to other countries in Southeast Asia (Thailand has 4 devices (3 Co, 1 EB), Indonesia has 4 devices, Malaysia has 6 devices). Income generated from industrial scale irradiation for export of aquatic products into demanding markets like the USA, Japan, Australia... reaches hundreds of billions every year.
Socialisation of radiation and radioisotopes application services has been relatively well implemented in health care sector for examination and treatment of diseases. Nuclear medicine, radiotherapy, image diagnosis, production and supplying of radioisotopes, radiopharmaceuticals in health care and services of maintenance, repair, assembly, manufacturing of some medical equipment, some nuclear recording devices, laser devices, accelerators, collider machines... are provided by public and non-public institutions. All over the country, there are currently 32 nuclear medicine centres, 43 radio imaging devices (35 SPECT and SPECT/CT, 8 PET/CT satisfying the needs for radio imaging of patients). Investment in these mentioned devices is raised from the State budget and private contributions. In another field of services, such as training on expertise, technical services, ensuring safety, security, supply of technology transfer equipment, standards of measurement that utilise nuclear techniques also receive investment concern from the private sector to provide to the society.
In the field of S&T information, the 4 main service categories are: S&T information for management, administration, strategic planning, policy; S&T information for research and development; S&T information for enterprises; S&T information for raising community awareness of S&T issues, dissemination and application of national and international S&T achievements. S&T information services are offered by a national network of S&T informational institutions including: The National Centre for Scientific and Technological Information; coordinating S&T informational institutions at ministerial and provincial level; other S&T informational institutions established under the State and under non-public organisations, companies. Among the above S&T information services, only a few are socialised, attracting the private sector. Even though the State has been encouraging the participation of economic sectors outside of the State in providing S&T information services, this quest has not been fulfilled. Right now, the State still plays the leading role in the investment of various resources in this activity. Drawing from the practical experience from developed countries, it can be noted that the possibility to socialise this type of service is very difficult because the nature of information service is to serve the public with no profit, investment in information activities usually does not result in high profit.
Restrictions and their causes
Firstly, due to specific characteristics, socialisation of services in the S&T field often faces more difficulties than in other fields. Supplying this type of services requires the providers to possess the high capacity, enormous investment while the economic efficiency is unattractive, thus very few non-public groups are willing to participate. Take an example of S&T services in the field of radiation and nuclear safety like technical assistance service for safety assessment of state management institutions in the course of licensing for irradiation and serving for professional inspection purpose of state management institutions; consultation, technical support in incident response; management of radioactive waste and used radioactive sources; environmental radiation monitoring services; technical support services for institutions, individuals conducting radiation work... are all very challenging and impossible to be socialized given current conditions in Vietnam. Or like the IP inspection service, despite the fact that it has been implemented since 2006, up to now there are only 4 inspectors and 1 public institutions eligible to provide this service. Socialisation of S&T information service also faces extreme difficulty because of the failure in the mobilisation of external sources for investment. Socialisation of S&T information service is possible only when non-public economic sectors play the major roles in the implementation of S&T activities. Other services in the field of intellectual property like information inquiry, inspection, IP information extraction... also face with the identical problem.
Another reason is the mechanism, policy for investment incentives, attraction of social forces for the development of S&T service institutions outside of the public sector are not attractive enough and the lack of uniformity and consistency in the implementation of ministries/sectors, localities makes socialisation even harder. Thus, up to now, these services are all provided by non-business public institutions under Ministry of Science and Technology with the utilisation of the State budget for state management task. However in the upcoming time, in order to meet the development needs of entrepreneurs and institutions, individuals, socialisation of these types of services is essential, yet this quest will stumble upon several difficulties without the State support.
Secondly, in the S&T market, services are mainly focused on activities of technology exchange platform, technology incubator and intermediaries of the S&T market. Since our national S&T market was newly formed, the awareness and capacity of stakeholders are somehow limited, thus the development as well as the degree of socialisation of S&T services still remain low. The transfer of technology service within the market has yet developed, remained in small scale and unsystematic. The present shortcoming is that the Law on Technology Transfer in 2006 and guidance documents on implementation have no provisions on the conditions for establishment, operational registration of institutions of technology transfer services, because of that, these service institutions are operating under the Law on Commerce, Law on Enterprise without submitting the Business Registration on technology transfer services to MoST which makes it difficult for controlling and management. This issue must soon be mitigated in the upcoming time. The intermediaries (brokers, consulting, inspection, evaluation, valuation, evaluation, testing...) have not asserted their roles in the technology market. The policy on the development of innovative start-up ecosystem is nascent, in the process of finalisation. The legal framework for venture capital into start-up businesses is inadequate, unattractive to encourage investment from outside of the public sector for the rapid growth of innovative enterprises.
Thirdly, the greatest shortcoming in the socialisation process of S&T services is the problem on service quality control, especially when it comes to services provided by the private sector. Normally, private institutions, individuals often focus on profits, tend to arbitrarily increase prices, service charges while service quality is inadequate, not to mention their financial mechanisms are not transparent. This has a negative impact on not only the confidence but also the rights of the service users. Thus, strengthening state management for controlling these services in compliance with legal provisions is of the essence. For instance, in terms of quality measurement standards, the participation of several economic sectors within a short period of time has caused a number of difficulties in service quality control for state management institutions. Investment on the development of service providers in this field is of spontaneity, fragmentation, small scale without proper linkage, connection for development, some areas still lack orientation of and regulation from the State, unhealthy competition still exists in some areas, aiming for immediate profits which lead to a reduction in the confidence of service users. Providers of inspection, standardisation, pilot testing services for group 1 means and standards of measurements have yet to complete registration as prescribed by law. The number of institutions in other economic sectors involving in group 2 inspection, standardisation, pilot testing activities remains modest and difficult to socialise, because it requires investment in facilities, personnels with relatively high level of expertise, yet the profits generated is not much, which makes it uneasy to attract investment from external institutions.
Fourthly, the progress and degree of transition of autonomy, self-responsibility mechanism in public S&T institutions to operate in the entrepreneurial, equitized mechanism are very slow. The reliance on State subsidies and the aversion towards transition into the mechanism of autonomy, self-supply of S&T service in the market, entrepreneurial mechanism of many leaders of S&T public institutions remain fixated.
In general, the primary cause of these restrictions lies in the inadequate and incomplete awareness of various levels and branches on the socialisation of public services seeing socialisation simply as a measure to mobilise people’s contributions in times of the State financial and budgetary restrictions. The promulgation of standards, conditions, economic-technical norms, incompatible and unsystematic service quality control mechanism. The mindset on subsidies, expectation and dependence upon the State of a number of cadres, officials and individuals remain rather fixated. These are factors that hinder implementation of the policies set forth by the Party and the State on the socialisation of S&T services.
Solutions to promote socialisation of S&T services
To promote socialisation of S&T services in the upcoming time, some solutions that require close attention are:
The first is creating favourable conditions for the development of socialisation of different types of S&T services, ensuring fair competition between public and non-public sectors. Creating favourable conditions for socialised institutions to enhance capacity, work in compliance with legal provisions. Rectifying and improving healthy competition in supplying S&T services of non-public institutions not only to satisfy the needs of entrepreneurs and the society but also to build enough confidence for utilisation by the State to reduce burdens on the public system and the cost from the State budget.
The second is organising inspection, evaluation of the status on the capacity and conformity of service providers (experimentation, certification, inspection, testing, standardisation) in public and non-public sectors for proper developmental orientation, limitation of duplication or incompatibility between the two sectors that may result in a reduction of efficiency and waste of public resources.
The third is a renewal of contents, forms and modes of evaluation of IP representation profession to ensure specialisation, increase the quantity and improve the quality of IP representation system in terms of both organisations and representatives. Creating favourable conditions for IP representatives to actively participate in consulting, forming a critical judgment and developing policies on intellectual property. Renewal of contents, evaluation method, consideration for issuing IP inspector license to increase the number of people engaging in this work; establishment of additional IP inspecting institutions in the South, with Ho Chi Minh City being the hub to meet social needs.
Besides, the roadmap for implementation and socialisation of supplying new services on intellectual ownership, such as: quick review on IP registration forms and transfer of IP ownership forms; extension, amendment of IP licenses; inquiry for and evaluation of information about IP objects as requested; providing information about IP objects...
The fourth is promoting socialisation of services regarding the atomic energy field, especially irradiation for exporting agricultural, aquatic products... of businesses. Besides, further research on the amendment, supplementation, completion of legal provisions on criteria, standards, economic-technical norms is needed to ensure the quality of service provided in the field of atomic energy, improve capacity in quality and safety control of services applying atomic energy in terms of socialisation.
The fifth is the formation of a market for S&T services while establishing and developing S&T markets. Enterprises in various economic sectors should be encouraged to establish funds for research and development. Promoting commercialization, socialisation of applying S&T results in manufacturing, trading to increase productivity, quality of products, goods and services while contributing to the establishment and development of technology and innovative start-ups trading market.
Encouraging and having a support mechanism for the establishment of institutions for technology evaluation, inspection, valuation, consulting for technology choice brokerage and transfer of technology in close association with the operation of technology and equipment exchange platforms. Mobilization of all forces to develop a national innovative start-up ecosystem with the focus on supporting the establishment and development of new forms of intermediaries such as innovation support centers, business promotion organizations, start-up clubs, technology and business incubator zones, networking events with various investors, partners, personnel and media channels for start-ups on innovation.