Nation to become R&D hub

Vietnam’s expanding market and its availability of skilled workers is a perfect fit for multinational firms setting research and development centres in the country.
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Hewlett-Packard (HP), the world’s largest technology firm, two weeks ago obtained a licence to set up a research and development (R&D) centre in Ho Chi Minh City’s Quang Trung Software Park.

HP said the new centre in Vietnam, in line with its R&D centres in China and India, would support the firm’s product and service growth in Asia-Pacific.

The new investment implies an increase of foreign R&D expenditure in Vietnam.

The world’s largest mobile phone manufacturer, Nokia, in early March announced plans to build a manufacturing facility in Bac Ninh province with an R&D arm to be developed in the country.

“In addition to highly developed manufacturing operations, Nokia will be bringing a great deal of high-tech know-how and the related ecosystem to Vietnam,” said Juha Putkiranta, senior vice president of Nokia.

Nokia’s rival, Samsung Electronics – which is building a manufacturing complex in Bac Ninh – also gained approval in principle from the Vietnamese government to build an R&D centre in the complex.

Germany-based Robert Bosch, the world’s leading supplier of automotive technology and services, last year announced it would build an R&D centre in the Saigon Hi-tech Park in Ho Chi Minh City.

“The moves of these giant foreign firms are what the Vietnamese government has been waiting for over a long period. It indicates those firms highly appreciate Vietnam’s market and quality of domestic skilled personnel,” said Nguyen Mai, chairman of the Vietnam Association of Foreign Invested Enterprises.

Mai, also former vice chairman at the State Committee of Cooperation and Investment - now the Ministry of Planning and Investment, said luring more foreign firms’ R&D activities to Vietnam was the start of a new chapter in attracting investment. He said when foreign firms appreciated the important role of Vietnam in the global supply chain, they would increase R&D expenditure in the country as happened with firms moving into China and India.

HP’s executive vice president of emerging markets Francesco Serafini said the company set up an R&D centre in Vietnam because of the market potential, support from local authorities and government and the availability of skilled personnel.

HP announced plans to recruit about 200 staff at the end this year for the centre and to increase staff number to 1,000 people next year. Meanwhile, Robert Bosch said its R&D hub would require at least 500 local software engineers.

Mai said Vietnam would have enough skilled personnel to satisfy foreign firm’s R&D activities.

“R&D activities do not require as many skilled personnel as manufacturing activities. We have seen several firms starting to push R&D activities in Vietnam and I believe our workforce will be sufficient to fulfil the need of tens of global firms who want to increase R&D activities here,” he said.

Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Thien Nhan said Vietnam would send well-trained software labourers abroad to help push R&D activities in the country. “This is part of the government’s master plan till 2020 to make Vietnam a strong country in terms of information and communication technology.

Accordingly, by 2015 Vietnamese enterprises will have enough capacities to design and manufacture equipment to lessen reliance on import, and by 2020, Vietnam will be among the top ten countries in supplying software processing and digital content,” Nhan said.

Ngoc Linh (