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An Interview with Dr. Phan Tien Dzung, Director, Department of Technology Application and Development, Viet Nam Academy of Science and Technology

Inventive Ways to Take Innovations From Lab to Market in Viet Nam

May 2023

By Catherine Saez, WIPO

Dr. Phan Tien Dzung is the Director of the Department of Technology Application and Development at the Viet Nam Academy of Science and Technology, the country's largest institution on Science and technology. His work is to help researchers at the academy manage intellectual property and take innovations from the lab to the market. He explains how VAST manages intellectual property, and how the academy, with the help of IP Viet Nam and WIPO, went from 40 patents in 35 years to 63 in just one year.

Dr. Phan Tien Dzung (Photo: VAST)

Can you introduce yourself, your career, and your personal path?

I am the Director of the Department of Technology Application and Development. From a young age, I always was interested in physics and I went on to study physics at Hanoi University. I then studied for a master’s degree in physics from the Viet Nam Institute of Science and Technology, followed by a doctorate in natural sciences at Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz, Germany in 2001.  In 2010 I became an associate professor of physics and since then I have been working at the Department of Technology Application and Development.

Could you please describe the function and work of your unit in the Viet Nam Academy of Science and Technology (VAST)?

My main function at the Department of Technology Application and Development is to manage intellectual property, as well as support the application and commercialization of scientific and technological research results.

What is the main mission of VAST?

The main mission of VAST is to conduct basic research in natural sciences, technology development, science and technology, policy consulting, and training of high-quality human resources for the country.

How many researchers work at VAST?

VAST currently has 3183 employees, including 2156 permanent staff, 206 professors, associate professors, and 870 PhDs.

What is VAST's intellectual property policy for research and research results?

VAST encourages scientists to publish scientific articles in journals and register intellectual property. Scientists are entitled to receive a portion of profits from the commercialization of research results in accordance with the law.

The number of granted patents is steadily increasing, notably thanks to the support of TISC, IP Viet Nam, and WIPO, who participated in raising awareness of the importance of IP protection. VAST was founded in 1975. For the next 35 years, until 2010, VAST was granted 40 patents, but in 2021, 63 patents have been granted to VAST.

The patents remain in the ownership of the VAST research units, while the inventor is the researcher.

For the moment VAST only files patent applications in Viet Nam, and although we are thinking of applying internationally, we need to choose wisely because of the cost.

In your opinion, what is the role of basic research in economic growth?

The role of basic research is very important because it creates new knowledge, which then spreads to society. Based on that knowledge, new inventions, and new ideas can come up, leading to new technologies, which will promote socio-economic development.

How is VAST funded?

The Vietnamese government funds basic research, while both the government and companies fund technology developments.

How is VAST-based research commercialized?

Because the legal system in Viet Nam is not yet fully developed, licensing of technology is not yet available. VAST found inventive ways to work with enterprises and transfer some core technologies and materials through contracts. Those enterprises can further develop products and commercialize them.

VAST uses technology transfer contracts, service contracts, cooperation contracts, or consulting contracts with companies. In 2022, VAST had 1680 service contracts signed with companies, for a total amount of 12 million USD.

How many scientific articles were published by VAST?

The number of articles in the ISI system increases every year, and VAST has been ranking first in Vietnam for many years. In 2022 VAST has 1600 international articles.

How does VAST participate in international cooperation in science and technology?

The institute pays a lot of attention to international cooperation. Many of the researchers working in the institute cooperate and work with international organizations. VAST collaborates with 80 countries and international organizations.

In your opinion, which research area of the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology is the most active?

The most active research areas of VAST are mathematics, theoretical physics, biology and biotechnology, chemistry of natural compounds, and materials science.

How do you assess the medium-term future of VAST?

We wish to continue to be the leading organization in science and technology in Viet Nam, and Southeast Asia, and promote innovation activities.