[Technode] Vietnamese billionaire launches VinFuture Prize to support R&D and tech innovations, pledges $4.5M annual funding

* The original article is available on Technode here.

VinFuture Foundation, a charitable trust associated with one of the biggest conglomerates in Southeast Asia, Vingroup, has officially launched The VinFuture Prize on December 20, 2020 coinciding with the celebration of the International Solidarity Day.

This marks the founding of the first global science and technology prize from Vietnam. The prize is also notable for being one of the largest annual science and technology grant-giving bodies worldwide.

The VinFuture Prize is the brainchild of Vietnam’s first dollar billionaire and richest man Pham Nhat Vuong and his wife, Pham Thu Huong. Pham Nhat Vuong, who is worth $6.6 billion according to Forbes magazine, owns Vingroup, the largest conglomerate in Vietnam. He pledged to provide an initial $100 million prize fund and $4.5 every year thereafter.

“The events of 2020 show that now more than ever, we need to bring together extraordinary individuals with good hearts and great minds, who can strive towards realising the power of science and technology in overcoming our toughest global challenges, and improving people’s lives,” Pham Nhat Vuong said in a statement.

The VinFuture Prize aims to “create meaningful change in the everyday lives of millions of people by promoting breakthrough scientific research and technological innovations.” It seeks to acknowledge and support outstanding mines in the field of research and technological innovations to advance new products and services that improve quality of life and promote sustainable living for future generations.

The mission of the VinFuture Prize is in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Even though it is based in Vietnam, it is the intention of the founders of the prize to ensure fair and equal access for all scientists and innovators from different countries, especially those who are being constrained by limited resources.

A total of four prizes are awarded by the VinFuture Prize every year, consisting of the Grand Prize and three special prizes. The Grand Prize awards $3 million worth of funding to breakthrough research or innovative tech developments that advance the quality of human life and foster equitability and sustainability for future generations. Anyone from anywhere, regardless of nationality, gender, age, or economic background, may apply for the prize.

The three special prizes are for the following, with the awardees receiving $500,000 in funding.

  • Special Prize for an exceptional researcher or innovator from an institute in a developing country
  • Special Prize for an outstanding woman researcher or innovator.
  • Special Prize for breakthrough research or innovation in an emerging field of science and technology that has significant future potential to create positive change for humanity.

Nominations for the prize are sourced from a diverse pool of renowned personalities from various fields. These include distinguished academic institutions, tech corporations, incubators, and noted scientists and innovators from different parts of the world.

The selection of the finalists and winners is undertaken by an independent Prize Council, which has representatives from the fields of academics, research, and industry. They are expected to make fair decisions according to diverse viewpoints and with regard to all professional disciplines, scientific fields, and cultures.

Some of the notable members of the Prize Council are 2018 Nobel Prize winner Prof. Gérard Albert Mourou, 2010 Millennium Technology Prize winner Prof. Sir Richard Henry Friend, 2010 A.M.Turing Award winner Prof. Leslie Gabriel Valiant, the founder of modern competitive strategy Prof. Michael Eugene Porter, and Prof. Jennifer Tour Chayes of UC-Berkeley who founded three Microsoft Research laboratories.

VinFuture Foundation is tasked with the management and administration of the VinFuture Prize Fund. The nonprofit foundation operates independently even though it is identified with VinGroup Corporation and the Pham family. An Advisory Council within the foundation provides management support through strategic advice.

The first round of prizes will be announced in December 2021. Nominations will be accepted within a six-month period, from January through June 2021. The announcement of winners will be made at an event in Vietnam in January 2022.