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Hanoi University of Science and Technology joins global AI research network

Naver Corp., the biggest search portal in South Korea, has asked Vietnam’s leading research university, Hanoi University of Science and Technology, to join its “Global Artificial Intelligence R&D Belt”.

South Korean internet giant Naver and Hanoi University of Science and Technology (HUST) said on Wednesday that they would establish an artificial-intelligence (AI) research center to foster the first generation of local AI talent in Vietnam.

Assoc.Prof Hoang Minh Son, President of the university, said at the signing ceremony that “human resources and technology knowledge are the core competencies in any business and every organization”. Increasingly aware of the importance of AI impact on economy and society, governments and businesses across the world are investing heavily in AI industry.

A report by Deloitte, a multinational professional services corporation, says that the global AI market is likely to see phenomenal growth to over $6 trillion by 2025, twice as much as the Southeast Asian region’s total GDP in 2018 and achieve a CAGR of 30% from 2017 to 2025. Market intelligence platform CB Insights reports that last year funding in AI startups around the world surged by 60% to a record $26.6 billion from 2017.

According to 2018 AI Index, an annual report by top researchers, interest in the AI field has exploded in the past decade. Enrollment in introductory AI courses at major U.S. universities in 2018 was 3.4 times higher than in 2012 and five times higher for introductory machine learning courses during the same period of time. In China, enrollment in AI courses at prestigious Tsinghua University was 16 times higher in 2017 than it was in 2010.

Assoc.Prof Hoang Minh Son, President of Hanoi University of Science and Technology, speaks at the MOU signing ceremony with South Korea's Naver Corp. on July 15. Photo by: Nhu Y. 

Tech universities across the globe, including Hanoi University of Science and Technology, are getting prepared to ride the next wave of the digital era. Last year, the Hanoi-based university started to offer courses in big data and artificial intelligence. “The launch of new courses has highlighted the leading role of HUST in fostering local specialists in Industry 4.0 technologies”, said Assoc.Prof Ta Hai Tung, Dean of the School of Information and Communication Technology (SoICT). As one of 16 schools under the university, SoICT has 5 research labs in machine learning, natural language processing, computer vision and blockchain.  

AI talent shortage

“There is a shortage of professionals in AI and big data. Vietnam is not the only country faced with the current talent shortage,” said Assoc.Prof Ta Hai Tung. In 2018, there were around 10,000 people in the entire world with the expertise needed to tackle serious artificial intelligence research, according to Element AI, an independent lab in Montreal.

The South Korean tech company hopes to be ahead in the race for AI talent in Vietnam, said Park Dongjin, head of Naver in Asia Pacific.

Park Dongjin (middle), head of Naver in Asia Pacific, speaks at the MOU signing ceremony with South Korea's Naver Corp. on July 15. Photo by: Nhu Y. 

“The decision to work with Hanoi University of Science and Technology is a step towards fulfilling our dream to take on American and Chinese tech giants,” said Park. The Naver executive mentioned the fact that HUST is the biggest tech university in Vietnam with a total enrollment of 34,000 students including 1,700 masters and doctors.
 

Naver is the most popular search engine in South Korea as it handles 75 percent of all internet searches by about 42 million users. According to Reuters, Naver, which employs 3,500 staff around the world, posted 583 billion won or $483 million in net profit last year. The corporation has a market value of about $40 billion. Naver has also been a leading AI player in South Korea with applications in robotics and automated driving.

In 2019, Naver adopted a new strategy to advance its AI prowess by connecting research centres in South Korea, Japan, France, and Southeast Asia, mainly Vietnam. With the launch of “Global AI Research Belt”, the company will invite scholars and researchers from leading universities, startups and labs across borders "to exchange knowledge and cooperate on the development of AI technologies."

The company hopes to expand its AI research belt to counter similar AI initiatives led by American and Chinese tech giants, such as Google, Amazon, Alibaba, and Baidu, said Seok Sang-ok, head of Naver’s R&D unit, at Naver’s developer conference DEVIEW 2019 in Seoul.

AI in the race towards the digital age

“Artificial intelligence is the core of digital transformation in the age of 4.0 Industry,” said SoICT Dean

From digital assistants to self-driving cars, AI has quietly become part of our daily lives. AI not only enables our email to detect spam and our phones to respond to voice commands, AI also helps us detect skin cancer earlier thanks to its ability to learn from thousands of images of melanoma variations and makes it possible for visually impaired people to use social media the same way as sighted people do.

Assoc.Prof Ta Hai Tung (second from the right), Dean of the School of Information and Communication Technology under Hanoi University of Science and Technology, speaks at the MOU signing ceremony with South Korea's Naver Corp. on July 15. Photo by: Nhu Y. 

We have just only tapped on the surface of AI’s potential. A report by Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence stated the cost of training machines to learn endlessly from data inputs can be millions of dollars.

The huge cost for vast computing resources has hindered academic instituitions from making breakthroughs in AI research. The cooperation between Hanoi University of Science and Technolog and Naver is expected to partly ease the problem.

Naver is committed to set up a joint AI research lab, the first of its kind in Vietnam, at the university. The South Korean corporation will also work with the university on course curriculum so that HUST students can learn from top industry experts. The best students will be sent to research centers in South Korean and Europe on scholarships and internships. It will support HUST scientists, lecturers and students to expand their knowledge through international seminars and exchange programs on AI technologies.

 

Times Higher Education, an annual publication of university rankings, has ranked Hanoi University of Science and Technology the first locally and the fourth in the Southeast Asian region among tech universities. Naver’s executive Park Dongjin confirmed the university as an important partner of the South Korean corporation in Vietnam.  

Assoc.Prof Hoang Minh Son, President of the university, expected the collaborative efforts will foster the first generation of Vietnamese talent in AI field and “help to create a new advance for the Fourth Industrial Revolution in Vietnam.”

Hanh Pham