Ann Måwe, Swedish Ambassador to Vietnam
Entering the 2020s, Sweden was known as one of the world’s leading innovative nations, as we have been positioned among the top performers in various rankings. We are in first place in the readiness for frontier technology, second in the Global innovation Index and European innovation scoreboard, and third in global digital competitiveness.
Innovation and entrepreneurship go hand in hand. The vibrant Swedish startup scene has attracted international attention. While Stockholm is second only to Silicon Valley in terms of unicorns per capita, the country has minted 35 unicorns as of 2021 and considered as the fifth-largest pool for potential future unicorns.
Swedish companies evolve and adapt to meet societal needs and sustainable development. For centuries, they have experienced a gradual shift from heavy industry to being high-tech and climate-focused.
Sweden places sustainability, and safeguarding the future while conserving the past, on top of its agenda. By fostering innovation, the country comes closer to its goal of creating a sustainable future by finding solutions for complex societal and environmental issues.
Once primarily known as the home of IKEA, Volvo, and Ericsson, the nation has transformed itself into one of the most valued European tech ecosystems in the last decades. This was not an overnight success, but rather a result of several factors combined.
First and foremost is collaboration, which is one of the driving forces of the Swedish ecosystem. This can be seen through the synergy between government, academia, industry, and civil society coming together to foster innovation.
The second aspect is investment for research. Our country is one of the world’s most research-intensive nations. Several of our universities place high in the European rankings, and their research has contributed to the global success of the country’s many high-tech companies.
Last but not least, innovation comes from trial and error, and one must be willing to take risks. Sweden’s safety net of free education and healthcare, together with a significant number of funding schemes, encourages citizens to bring their ideas to life without fear of failure.
There is great potential for Sweden and Vietnam to collaborate. One example is the opening of Bloom, Vietnam’s first-ever global food and beverage (F&B) innovation centre and a joint project between Tetra Pak and DenEast Vietnam. Tetra Pak sees Vietnam’s potential to become a hub for manufacturing for the F&B industry, opening its first factory in the southern province of Binh Duong in 2019.
Marking the 30th anniversary of a transformer factory in the northern province of Bac Ninh, Hitachi Energy’s presence in Vietnam is well-established. As of today, one-third of Vietnam’s wind and solar power is facilitated through Hitachi Energy’s products and solutions.
There is also ABB, a tech pioneer in electrification and automation, which enables a more resource-efficient future with Swedish roots.
Along with green transitioning, Vietnam is also embarking on digital transformation. This summer I had the opportunity to participate in the launch of the AI Lab, an initiative between Ericsson and RMIT University. Ericsson’s contribution to Vietnam’s digital transformation sets a clear example of how Swedish innovation and sustainability enhance Vietnam’s socioeconomic development.
On top of that, the recent establishment of the National Innovation Centre has demonstrated Vietnam’s commitment to leveraging innovation for rapid development.
Trinh Thi Huong, Deputy director general Agency for Enterprises Development, Ministry of Planning and Investment
According to the survey of businesses’ awareness of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) conducted by the Agency for Enterprises Development in 2022, under the technical support from the US Agency for International Development through the Improving Private Sector Competitiveness project, most of the businesses that are pioneering in applying ESG are large ones such as foreign-invested enterprises, listed enterprises, and exporters due to demand from investors, markets, and business partners.
When it comes to SMEs in the midst of growth, the majority of them tend to hold back on taking proactive steps towards implementing ESG practices. However, 83 per cent of surveyed businesses agreed that applying them would enhance the image and reputation of the business, and 57 per cent of them saw the need of ESG adoption beyond a pressure to comply with state regulations. These outcomes partly reflect a fairly high level of awareness and commitment from the business community towards ESG practices.
However, there is a huge gap from awareness and planning to implementation. Therefore, businesses need to proactively start right now. Adopting ESG should not merely follow the requirements of partners, markets, investors, or regulations. It should be leveraged to capture new business investment opportunities, create added value, and enhance competitive advantages for businesses in the near future.
Similar to digital transformation, in the initial stages, businesses are perplexed in answering many questions on the concept, application, and where to start. Therefore, when confronted with new concepts like ESG, Vietnamese firms also grapple with similar uncertainties.
At present, there is a growing emphasis on raising awareness about ESG. Various media outlets and communication channels have been providing further information about ESG and sustainable business trends in general.
To effectively implement and apply ESG, businesses should be supplied with specific knowledge and methods to understand and practice it effectively.