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Tien Giang promotes students’ start-up and innovation

When starting a business, students often face a lot of difficulties in capital, policy-related issues, and especially knowledge and skills. To help them overcome these difficulties, in recent years, Tien Giang's educational institutions have stepped up their implementation of supporting solutions, gradually creating a favorable environment and mechanism for students' start-up; creating breakthrough changes in innovation and start-up movement in schools.

In recent years, the movement of students' start-up has been booming in Viet Nam. It is very easy for us to notice a great number of startup projects and incubators. From cafes, technological applications to companies, trading business, etc. All of them are start-up projects of young people. Among them, there are many university students. Therefore, the school is not only the place to provide knowledge for students but also to produce business ideas, promote creativity and be a premise for start-up projects. There have been many business models arising from students' personal or academic needs or serving the community. Tien Giang University is one of the first institutions to incorporate startup-related subject into its curriculum. This will help students improve their knowledge, be aware of start-up, and shape their ideas and core values when starting a business.

Over the years, Tien Giang University has constantly supported students in their start-ups and innovation in many ways. The University has organized seminars, training courses and start-up contests for students, such as: Collaborating with Tien Giang Entrepreneurs Club in Ho Chi Minh City to organize training courses on entrepreneurship with the theme "Starting a business"; collaborating with Saigon Thuong Tin Commercial Joint Stock Bank (Sacombank) - Tien Giang Branch to organize a training course on "Potential interns - where talents shine" and the program "Journey from the heart - Journey of setting great mindset - Start-up building the nation organized by Trung Nguyen Legend Group. Thereby, the students not only met and interacted with famous people, but also listened to their valuable experience about starting a business.

The University's Youth Union and Students' Union work together to establish the Student's Start-up Club, regularly organize activities to encourage students to form entrepreneurial ideas and work as a linking agent between the school and groups of students whose start-up projects need support or consultation. At the same time, they are also linked with businesses which are asked for their financial support and sharing their experience for students' start-up activities and innovation; strengthen its connection with the Department of Science and Technology, the provincial Youth Union and the provincial Labor Union to timely provide information for, support, guide and encourage students to have creative ideas and entrepreneurial ideas to participate competitions.

Appreciating the role of start-up and innovation, Tien Giang University attaches special importance to investing in facilities, and  appointing staff to support start-up activities in the school, creates a shared space for students; establishes start-up clubs for majors; and compiles a set of documents to provide students with start-up knowledge and skills. Besides, the school also organizes internship activities and corporate field trips so that students can learn about business and production activities. In addition, the University's Youth Union and the Students' Union have many practical activities to promote start-up movement in students by organizing and participating in activities such as the Contest "Innovative ideas for the community", Contest " Innovative ideas for the homeland", Euréka Award, etc.

Dr. Le Huu Hai - Vice Rector of Tien Giang University commented that: "Starting a business for students is not new, but very common nowadays. According to statistics, the startup spirit of young people in Viet Nam is up to 91%, higher than the world average (77%). However, the number of those who are successful and have sustainable development in the constantly-changing economy is not high. In order to inspire that spirit and help students have a solid foundation before embarking on a career, the University has many useful activities for them. In addition to the conventional teaching and learning activities, it also has many useful activities to strengthen start-up spirit among students both theoretical and practical. In order to nurture start-up ideas as well as creating conditions for those who have the intention to start their own business to have the opportunity to learn and accumulate the necessary knowledge, the University has been making great efforts in supporting students through its strategic activities and plans, for example to incorporate knowledge about starting a business into the curriculum, especially in soft skills subjects or establishing clubs, and organizing conferences and seminars.

In order to continue promoting the start-up movement among students, the Ministry of Education and Training has cooperated with the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Industry and Trade to remove schools' difficulties with using budget to create start-up support funds. Accordingly, recently there has been a circular on the mechanism of using budget, especially for public non income-generating agencies to create funds for supporting start-ups. For many years, students of Tien Giang University participated in and won many prizes of the Mekong Start-up Contest organized by the Branch of Viet Nam Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Can Tho city (VCCI Can Tho). The contestants compete  on start-up ideas in three areas: information technology, food technology and business solutions. Specifically, the competing ideas were: Making business plan for instant fluffy rice of Rice Food Co., Ltd.; Selling southern traditional cakes online; Production and sale of dried red flesh dragon fruit jam; Student tutor service; Consulting services for high-tech agriculture models; Producing dried spiny bitter gourd products at My Tho Dried Spiny Bitter Gourd Co., Ltd; Establishing B- Milk enterprises producing milk from brown rice and matcha.

In 2019, Tien Giang University organized the 7th "Students' Start-up" Contest in which Mr. Vo Duc Anh (the Faculty of Agriculture and Food Technology) participated with a unique product - "soft, dried coconut embryo ". From a nearly valueless by-product in the coconut meat business - coconut embryo, he turned it into a more valued product, helping to diversify products from coconut- a strength of Ben Tre province and increase income for those in the coconut supply chain. In the final round of the 2019 Contest, his project of "Producing soft, dried coconut embryo" was awarded a special prize for its contributions to adding value to coconut trees - a key agricultural plant of Ben Tre.

M.Sc. Pham Do Trang Minh - the University lecturer, who directly instructed Duc Anh in his process of finishing the embryo product, said that thanks to their research in food technology, they knew well that coconut embryo contains a lot of nutrients to nurture the growing sprouts. Specifically, lauric acid is very good for the cardiovascular system, and a number of other substances help curb the increase of bad cholesterol, increase the amount of good cholesterol for the body, prevent and limit cardiovascular diseases. Coconut embryo also helps the thyroid and enzymes in the body work better, digest calories as well as the amount of fat in the body, and heal wounds. However, at coconut purchasing agencies, coconut embryos are mostly discarded due to their very short shelf life. Therefore, they tried many times and finally produced the soft, dried coconut embryo. Initially, they used the  regular drying method, but the product was crispy and dull and lost its natural sweetness. Therefore, they chose convection drying, making quite good products.

It can be affirmed that the spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation at training institutions has never been recognized, spread and received special attention by the business community as well as society as it has been recently. As a member of the jury of the "Student's Start-up" contest in 2019, Mr. Duong Van Bon - Director of Tien Giang Department of Science and Technology commented that the innovative start-up models from agricultural products of Tien Giang University students is one of the solutions contributing to achieving a number of sustainable development goals such as: poverty reduction, comprehensive and sustainable economic growth, sustainably using resources on the land surface, preventing biodiversity loss, etc. Moreover, it will also boost the spread of the National Program "One commune one product" associated with restructuring agricultural production, which is implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in the whole country to create a breakthrough in making high-quality products, promoting regional advantages; thereby, motivating the sustainable construction of rural areas of new model.

Along with supporting students to start a business, training institutions in the province also regularly organize job and business connection fairs, attracting many businesses to attend and introducing hundreds of job opportunities to the students. In particular, the schools organize talks on start-up for students with the participation of experts from businesses in the related fields with students' major. Through these activities, they have an opportunity to show their ideas of starting a business to call for investment, and support in administration. Thanks to this connection activity, start-up projects can find their sponsors and get opportunities to succeed.

In addition to the above-mentioned optimistic signals, support for start-up and innovation is still a relatively new field for some school officials, lecturers and students. Currently many schools have not yet included this subject in their training programs; have not created an environment for students to nurture and develop their entrepreneurial and innovative ideas to make a premise for start-up projects and business incubation. Awareness and knowledge of start-up and innovation of some students are still limited, so they aren't enthusiastic to attend the short-term training courses. The number of student groups with projects participating in the start-up contests is still relatively small.

According to M.Sc. Dinh Quoc Cuong, Director of the Business Relations and Admission Consulting Center, Tien Giang University, to promote entrepreneurship among students, universities and colleges need to strengthen their connectivity to organize activities of practical experience in laboratories and production processes at universities for students. Along with that, they also need to focus on investment in fundamental research, applied research and a part of pilot production, focusing on their strong and potential fields. High schools should also actively organize innovative activities toward "creating" scientific and technical applications then "starting a business" to apply them to production, and serve daily life needs.

The reality of start-up countries in the world as well as proposed reports on start-up activities submitted to the Government highlight the role of training institutions in national start-up ecosystem. Universities play an important role in the main stages of start-up. According to Mr. Tran Do Liem (Chairman of Rach Gam Cooperative's Board of Directors), in order for students to confidently start a business, schools must be a place to provide information, create an environment and organize activities to inspire students' entrepreneurial spirit. At the same time, they must also be the place to provide fundamental knowledge, have training programs,  and entrepreneurship programs with the start-up spirit. Students should be well-equipped to face many practical issues in a positive, scientific way, to realize challenges and opportunities, and  have a belief and motivation to solve these difficulties, bringing benefits not only for themselves but also their community and businesses. As a result, schools will provide high quality human resources of graduated students who have entrepreneurship spirit and good knowledge, skills and behaviour. And they will be a great resource to help businesses, including start-ups to have sustainable growth.

Translated by the Department of Foreign Affairs

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