Finland–Vietnam Innovation Partnership Program (IPP), an Official Development Assistance (ODA) programme financed by the Governments of Vietnam and Finland, has announced the first call for proposals for 2 accelerator programmes:
The first programme is addressed to new innovative Vietnamese high growth companies which work on their first products or services for international markets. The second programme is meant for consortiums registered in Vietnam which develop services (incubators, accelerators, etc.) to support local high growth startups. Both programmes reflect the main IPP aims: (1) to boost sustainable economic growth in Vietnam, (2) develop a strong local innovation ecosystem and (3) support Vietnamese efforts to become an industrialised middle-income knowledge economy by 2020.
Applicants selected for the accelerator programmes will receive the following support:
All proposals must be written in English and submitted by 4 May 2015.
In order to get more detailed information about the IPP Innovation Accelerators and some other projects, I have asked Silja Leinonen, Innovation Expert at Finland–Vietnam Innovation Partnership Program (IPP), some questions.
Applications for the IPP Innovation Accelerator for New Innovative High Growth Company Projects will be evaluated according to the following criteria:
• project team • collaboration • need for the solution • the solution • benefits of the solution • competition and positioning • business logic • financing of the project and the company • project plan • project budget and finances, including financial feasibility.
To which selection criteria should applicants pay special attention in your opinion and why?
We will be performing a qualitative evaluation of the proposals focusing on those criteria. All aspects are important and what counts is the applicant’s ability to produce the complete package convincingly. It takes a lot of time and many iterations from project teams to tell concisely about market needs, their specific solution, its benefits for the customer as well as competition, and to gather the right team members and adequate financial resources to go through with the project. However, time taken to plan, iterate and make a good proposal will pay off in the end.
The eligibility criteria for IPP support are quite strict. All business proposals which fall into the following categories will be rejected:
• basic improvements to existing products, services, processes and business models • innovations that lower the production costs of existing products • direct copy of something that already exists • exporting something that already exists • ideas in research or a really early stage of the development of product / service • not able to find needed financial resources.
It seems to be quite a difficult task to offer an innovative business idea and at the same time have enough funds to develop it into a valuable business project. Could you give any useful tips for applicants for the IPP Innovation Accelerator on how to become one of the 20 (or less) selected ones?
It is indeed a difficult and challenging task. We expect IPP projects to demonstrate a disruptive approach to innovation and an appetite for fast growth that also attracts other investors besides the IPP quite quickly. Although important, the IPP is not supporting long R&D projects and basic improvements to existing products. We want to challenge project teams to grow into next-generation Vietnamese success stories.
You also mentioned the challenges of finding proper financial resources. That’s a common struggle for all startups and growth companies. The IPP first stage support focuses on a short time frame of 6–9 months and a relatively small project budget. We are asking the applicants to convince us about their liquidity during this project only.
External international independent evaluators will have at least one remote face-to-face interview with each applicant to collect more information about their project proposals for both IPP Innovation Accelerators. During these interviews, the projects will also be evaluated in terms of
Although the IPP does not give priority to any of these areas in the application evaluation process, which area from your personal observations would be of special importance to improve the socio-economic situation in Vietnam?
Being an ODA programme, the IPP focuses on the creation of positive socio-economic impacts. Many of these impacts won’t be visible until the programme ends or long after. We expect the companies we support to generate tax revenue and create new jobs in Vietnam. The innovation system development projects aim at creating better support structures for Vietnamese startups and young high growth companies, and in that way help the economy and make entrepreneurship in Vietnam easier and accessible to more people.
Similarly, we expect that the IPP activities related to innovation and entrepreneurship training and education will in time contribute to increased innovation capabilities in Vietnam and through that increased competitiveness and wellbeing for all.
The IPP, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland – the donor – and the Vietnamese Ministry for Science and Technology – our host organisation – will be following how the Finnish and Vietnamese Governments’ focus themes and cross-cutting objectives are reflected in IPP projects and other activities. Based on the interaction we have had with companies and innovation system development teams this spring, I believe many of the projects that will be submitted in this call will focus on solving a pressing problem or challenge in Vietnam, Southeast Asia and on the global scale. This seems to be a natural part of thinking of many entrepreneurs in Vietnam. The IPP is trying on its part to underline that business can truly have a positive impact and can help in solving wicked problems from climate change to inequality.
The objectives of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, one of the sponsors of the IPP, are clearly indicated (see the previous question). The programme could benefit the Vietnamese society a lot as it targets at new innovative Vietnamese companies and developing a local innovation ecosystem. How about Finland: in what ways could the Finnish society directly benefit from the programme?
Given that the Finnish development aid to Vietnam is coming to an end in 2018, one of the important tasks of the IPP is to help in the creation of sustainable business and innovation partnerships between Finland and Vietnam. The IPP can be seen as a bridge programme between the Official Development Assistance (ODA) and future business, innovation, research and education based co-operation between Finland and Vietnam. We are trying our best to get Finnish companies and organisations involved in our accelerator projects and organisations, either as project and business partners or as sources of expertise for the teams. We will be connecting our projects with Finnish and other international experts and companies whenever relevant. We are also working as part of the local Team Finland network to promote closer business ties between Vietnam and Finland.
In addition, I’d like to highlight that Finnish and other foreign companies that will establish a daughter company, joint company or spin-off in Vietnam are eligible for IPP direct grant support. We hope to see more interest towards Vietnam in the Finnish and other international business communities.
The second part of the interview will be published next week.
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