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Speeches & Transcripts July 27, 2018

Vision for Innovation District

Speech by Mr. Ousmane Dione, the World Bank Country Director for Vietnam

International Conference on “Vision for Innovation District” in Ho Chi Minh City

July 28, 2018

Mr. Nguyễn Thiện Nhân,  Secretary, Ho Chi Minh City Party Committee

Mr. Trần Vĩnh Tuyến, Vice Chairman, Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen

Very good morning – xin chào!

It is my great pleasure to join you at this important conference on “Vision for Innovation District in Ho Chi Minh City”. Two weeks ago, I had a privilege to speak at the Industry 4.0 Forum chaired by the Prime Minister in Ha Noi. Needless to say, innovation was a key word in every single speech and presentation. Clearly, Vietnam cannot embrace the Industry 4.0 megatrend without innovation.

But the importance of innovation does not only stay at the national level. In fact, innovation must take place within and be driven by our communities, private sector companies, R&D institutions, as well as cities. The transformative changes in technology is making the world flatter, which is in turn changing the global landscape, the ways we work and the ways we live. Competition and partnership among cities at global level is the “new norm” and cities will need to innovate to survive in the global marketplace. However, this requires vision and leadership to produce an eco-system that nurtures higher value-added production and growth which would naturally lead to sustainable and inclusive urban development for the benefit of every single citizen.  I am very pleased to see that HCMC is starting to engage in this important visioning exercise of innovation district. I would like to take this opportunity to share three key points with you: visioning, planning, and human resources and competitiveness.

First, from global experiences, in order to have a successful outcome of innovation district, a city needs to have a clear vision from the outset. Among various examples globally, the city of Barcelona in Spain is a successful one. The city started with a clear vision for an Innovation District to revitalize city’s economy, attract investment and create jobs. Barcelona is credited for the creation of the first innovation district with its “22@Barcelona Project” that began in 2000. It started out as a simple question “What measures can be taken to improve and increase the interactions between the international community and the local firms and institutions in Barcelona?”[1]. This led to the transformation of a 200 hectares of abandoned industrial land/historic cotton district in the El Poblenou neighborhood into an innovation district, with the goal of concentrating and building knowledge-intensive activities and companies. 22@ District is perceived as a success and has become the pioneering model for other innovation districts, including Boston’s Innovation District. Today, 70% of the industrial land in El Poblenou has been refurbished, led by 141 individual plans for this redevelopment. 85 of the 141 plans approved are led by the private sector, which has built 700,000 square meters of renewed facilities and almost 2,000 new housing units in the area. We see these trends emerging in cities like Seoul, Pittsburgh, Silicon Valley amongst others.

Second, sound urban planning, policies and management of not only the Innovation District itself, but also the integration between the Innovation District with the rest of the city is crucial. It is important to know that as we are “planning” for Innovation Districts, we need to “think” beyond Innovation Districts and consider regional and global factors, trends and incentives which influence outcome of these initiatives. Innovation Districts are not stand-alone entities or pilots that live in laboratories. Instead, they are supposed to be an integral part of a city fabric and organization which operates in a regional context. They are inter-connected within the city and with other cities through value chain, provision of human capital as result of migration, relocation of firms and enterprises, and sharing of natural and public resources. Therefore, when cities adopt urban plans and management policies, harmonization between Innovation Districts and rest part of the city’s economy and development needs to be considered.

Third, innovation districts, if developed successfully, contribute to job creation and inclusive economic development of a city. Take New York City as an example, the employment growth rate of the “high-tech ecosystem” from 2003-2013 of nearly 18% is faster than overall employment growth rate in New York City, and is much faster than average employment growth rate of the U.S. for the same period at around 4%. This is where “investing in people” matters! I see great potential for Vietnamese youth, reflected through  strong results in international assessments such as PISA and Young Lives, to contribute to the innovation agenda. However, what is missing is the smart skills to stay ahead and embrace shifts in innovation including digital literacy. This extends further to the existing public-sector workforce so it can respond to emerging digital demands. This is where the role of the higher education institutions becomes important. Experience across the world indicates that research and development in higher education and world class universities are key for fostering innovation.

Ladies and gentlemen,

A clear vision, good planning and well-skilled workforce are keys to a successful innovation district. Following the meeting between Party Secretary Nhan with the World Bank Regional Vice President Victoria Kwakwa in Washington DC in December 2017 and subsequent discussions among Chairman Phong, Vice Chairman Tuyen and myself, we stand ready to support HCM City to bring in global experiences, expertise, knowledge and financing on this important agenda. I am very much looking forward to the discussion and innovative ideas presented in this conference to support HCMC’s vision to become a leading city in South East Asia.

I wish you all the best of health, success and happiness.

Thank you – xin cảm ơn.