It was the affirmation of Esko Aho, the Finland’s Former Prime Minister, at the meeting presentation which took place at the Ministry of Science and Technology (S&T), Vietnam on September 18, 2017. The meeting was the following event of Professor Goran Roos’s presentation at the Ministry of Science and Technology at the end of August 2017. It belonged to a series of activities held to train and improve policymakers’ ability in S&T and the innovation of the Vietnam - Finland Innovation Partnership Programme, the second phrase (IPP2).

Bringing word-leading specialists to Vietnam for innovation will provide knowledge and new thinking for managerial staffs from the Ministry of Science and Technology, the Department of Science and Technology, and relevant Ministries and Agencies in terms of the international context and trends, effective practical lessons and experiences from developed countries in managing innovative activities, innovative startups, and S&T management. Thereby, they would contribute better to the quality and effectiveness of policies on S&T development and innovation, going along with the economic growth and sustainable development in Vietnam.  

During the opening ceremony, the Minister Chu Ngoc Anh emphasized the statement that he had made at the presentation of Professor Goran Roos in the last August: “To catch up with the country’s demands for innovations in the new context, we ourselves - S&T policymakers and managers, innovations need to be changed first.”

Former Prime Minister of Finland - Mr. Esko Aho at the presentation

Minister of Science and Technology Chu Ngoc Anh said that in recent economic forums, the definition of knowledge economy had been being changed into the concept of innovative economy. Startups are trends in many countries across the world to aim at an economy which had an innovation-based leading role. For Vietnam, the growth model based on the cheap labor force and natural resources was no longer suitable, the knowledge capital became a valuable input of production and business activities. S&T  investment, innovation, and high-quality human resources are one of the three breaking strategies on the sustainable economic growth besides two mainstays, that are, institution and infrastructure guided seriously by Vietnamese Communist Party, Government, and National Assembly.

Although the country develops under the condition of limited resources, small economic scale and potential, Vietnam is making great strides compared to average-income countries in innovation index score-board and strong S&T research fields. However, if compared to Finland, we are still left further behind, and maybe decades of development. We need to put more efforts and have the determination to close the gap.

Minister Chu Ngoc Anh spoke at the presentation

At the beginning of the presentation, Prime Minister Esko Aho highly appreciated Vietnam’s changes in the past six years when he had chances to visit Vietnam three times. The country had been changing drastically, especially in economic transformation. It is shown that Vietnam had been seizing very well the opportunities for development. However, to achieve more successes, Vietnam could refer to the story of the beautiful little Finnish country, one of the four countries (together with Sweden, Japan, and Singapore) had a big breakthrough in the socio-economic development of the twentieth century based on innovation. The experience of Finland was reflected in the following factors:

Identifying S&T as the foundation for innovation

According to Esko Aho, the success of innovation must firstly rely on S&T- this is the foundation of the innovation. Depending on the different stages of each country’development to determine the development whether in horizontal or in depth, the core must still be based on S&T. Many countries had tried the innovative operation, but they did not succeed as expected, because of differences in S&T infrastructure and investment.

Building a high-quality education system

One of Finland’s success factors was that the government always invested in education early. Unlike some countries in Europe or the United States, Finland invested in the teaching at the elementary level. At that level, students learned from the best teachers, with the complete knowledge and no difference and distance between city or rural students, or gap between the rich and the poor in society. According to Esko Aho, the Finnish government determined that the elementary education was a high-quality social product, so children were invested in early and schooled well.

Overview of the presentation

 The perfect combination of public sector (the government) and private sector (enterprises

Business was the backbone of any economy; therefore, supporting business development was the mission of every government. Mr. Esko Aho stated his own experience when he was the Prime Minister of Finland and when he was the Vice President of Nokia Corporation. More than anyone else he understood the difference in thinking and work logic between the public and private sectors. Only when these two sectors could take advantage of each other's strengths to work well together, then all directions would be succeeded. And Finland had done a great job of it, becoming a model for many countries.

Research must be linked to production

The close co-operation between the research sector (universities, research institutes) and the production sector (businesses) to release products meeting exactly social requirements was a philosophy that Finland has done for many past decades. This effective combination was also proved by the fact that students spent most of their time gaining practical experience in enterprises, which was a compulsory subject so that they had an objective perspective on the reality before graduated. It helped the two sectors always had a close bond, and the created product always met the requirements of consumers.

Changing the concept, grasping the technology of the future - the case of Nokia's success

According to the Finnish Prime Minister, the crux of all innovative activities was that people could accept the new and the risky because creativity always broke all regular rules. Therefore, at a certain point in time, when facing mortal choices, organizations and individuals needed to change the perspective at the right time, and to take risks to achieve success, and Nokia was a typical lesson for Finland. From a business in the paper and pulp manufacturing sector, Nokia knew how to change its perspective promptly, grasp the right technology orientation of the future, and became one of the world’s largest mobile and telecom service empires. 

 

In recent years, Finland has always been in the top 10 of world-leading countries on the Global Innovation Index (GII) and Global Competitiveness Index (GCI). Indicators which were about the effectiveness of public institutions, the system of higher education, the level of enterprise innovation, international quote and publication, and Finnish public-private partnerships were always at the forefront of the world.

Mr. Esko Aho was a leading expert of Finland and EU in economic development policies based on science, technology, and innovation. He has held many key positions in the Government and the private sector, including Former Prime Minister of Finland (1991-1995), Former President of SITRA (Innovation Development Fund under the Finnish Parliament), Former Vice President of Nokia Corporation. He joined the EU policy-making expert group promoting research and enhancing innovative performance and chaired the Finnish national innovation strategy team in 2008.

News and photos: HH