Last week we informed you about the first IPP call for proposals for 2 accelerator programmes:
Today we would like to share with you the second part of the interview with Silja Leinonen, Innovation Expert at Finland–Vietnam Innovation Partnership Program (IPP), an Official Development Assistance (ODA) programme financed by the Governments of Vietnam and Finland.
Both IPP Innovation Accelerators include the 6-month training programme Fast Track. It has a world-class curriculum adapted to the Vietnamese context. There will be mandatory, optional and tailored modules led by experienced international and local coaches. Could you describe in more detail the training curriculum? What topics will be mandatory for all participants?
It is a curriculum on innovation and entrepreneurship that is tailored to the characteristics and needs of the Vietnamese market and targeted towards the high growth company generation. The curriculum modules are currently under development. All teams will choose around 6 modules. Some modules like Disruptive Innovation will be mandatory. Others can be chosen freely based on the team’s specific needs and weaker knowledge areas. Say a team wants to brush up its international sales and marketing skills or needs to apply design thinking in its solution. Modules related to these areas will be available for selection. Tailored modules related to, for example, the needs of innovation system developers will be developed together with the teams and international experts.
The broader target of the IPP curriculum development is that after the curriculum has been tested with IPP projects this year, it could be offered as an open-source curriculum to local universities and training institutions. Vietnam is lacking curricula that combine innovation and entrepreneurship and are tailored for local needs, and the IPP is trying to respond to this need.
Could you reveal any names of the experts who will be coaching in Fast Track?
We have not selected these experts quite yet but we are bringing in both Vietnamese and international top-notch mentors, trainers and domain experts. Also, we’ll be using a pool of 10 young professionals who will go through the IPP curriculum before the project starts and will thus be a fresh training resource for the teams.
Graduates of the IPP Innovation Accelerators will be given an opportunity to pitch at the IPP Demo Day at the end of 2015. Could you provide more details about the event?
The Demo Day will be an opportunity for the teams to pitch in front of national and international investors and receive public exposure. Soon after the end of the year, the teams will have a chance to apply for a larger second stage grant, and teams that manage to attract external investment through the Demo Day or other competitions, events and channels will stand a better chance of receiving a larger IPP grant.
The IPP covers 70% of the project costs related to human resources, expert services, travel and training fees. Why is there this 70% limit? Why is there no reimbursement of costs for the technical development of projects? Could applicants expect to receive any kind of assistance from the IPP team in attracting extra funding for their projects?
The 70% level derives from the idea that the project teams should have sufficient financial viability and backing themselves. By securing 30% by themselves, the teams demonstrate that they are serious and committed to the project.
Innovative solutions which the IPP is looking to support require a lot of work and human resources. The teams need money to commit their staff to work full time on their projects, acquire new skilled staff or external world-class expertise, and to travel abroad to research the market and make necessary connections. The development of a product or service requires technology and often the development of technology. The IPP supports human labour needed for the development work. Money is of course needed for equipment and other technology costs. Luckily, there are other sources of potential funding available for that.
Part of the grant from the IPP can be used for efforts related to attracting more growth funding. The IPP will also do its best in connecting the teams with potential Vietnamese and international investors and other supporters, although the teams themselves are running their show and are responsible for their networking efforts.
In 2015, the IPP also runs a training programme for future Innovation Champions in Vietnam. It is 8-month full-time intensive training for 10 talented future innovation coaches, mentors, trainers and consultants from the private and public sector. Could you provide more information about the training?
The Innovation Champion training is a two-part practical training programme. Talking with startup teams in Vietnam, we’ve noticed that the trainer pool for growth companies in Vietnam is very limited and relies on a small number of individuals and companies. We’ll help to grow this pool by training 10 high-calibre young professionals this year and more later. The attendees will go through an intensive two-month course based on the IPP curriculum and then move on to coach IPP projects through this curriculum under the supervision of experienced mentors. Upon graduation from the programme, I’m sure these individuals will be a wanted resource in the innovation system here.
The IPP will be implemented between 2014–2018. At the moment, it is in its second phase. What are the IPP plans for the future?
The IPP will end in 2018 and at the same time the Finnish direct development assistance comes to a close. By that time, we hope to have created some long lasting impacts as already mentioned before: deeper business and innovation partnerships between Finland and Vietnam, increased innovation capabilities in Vietnam through better I&E education and training resources as well as positive socio-economic impacts through successful, next-generation Vietnamese startups that will hopefully conquer the world.
We also hope some of our funding and support instruments will be transferred to Vietnamese innovation funding agencies such as the newly established National Technology Innovation Foundation (NATIF). In that way, IPP work would not end in 2018 but would continue in a sustainable way through local agencies.
We are also focusing a lot on organising many events. These will hopefully create new and long-lasting connections within Vietnam and help to connect Vietnam to the world.
Is there anything else you would like to add about the IPP Innovation Accelerators or any other IPP projects?
I’d like to encourage all readers of this article to connect with the IPP for further talks and collaboration. Please visit our website, write us an email or come visit our office when in Hanoi.
Thank you for the conversation.
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