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[HANOI] Scientists of Vietnamese origin living in other countries are being asked to contribute to Vietnam's development through an organisation launched last week (28 December).

The Overseas Vietnamese Club for Science and Technology, set up by the Ho Chi Minh City Municipal People's Committee, is the first initiative of its kind in Vietnam.

It will link scientists in the Vietnamese diaspora with officials, businesses and individuals who need their expertise back in Vietnam.

Within a week of its launch, more than 130 overseas Vietnamese in several countries had joined.

The organisation is assessing each new member's skills and ability to contribute to different sectors. It will also survey the needs of local authorities and companies across Vietnam, then seek to match supply to demand.

"There is much potential for applying the knowledge and experience of overseas Vietnamese to Vietnam's development," says acting chair Tran Ha Anh. For instance, expatriates could provide training and education as visiting lecturers.

Authorities in Tien Giang province recently asked the organisation to meet to discuss cooperation in the agriculture, fisheries, and health sectors.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the chain, Vo Van Thanh is a chemist and deputy director of the Japan-based Kubin Corporation who says he wants to help train the youth of Vietnam.

The Ho Chi Minh City Municipal People's Committee has promised to fund the organisation, which is non-profit, for its first year of operation.

"The intellect of overseas Vietnamese is a big asset for the nation for the modernisation and industrialisation of Vietnam," the committee's vice-chair, Nguyen Thien Nhan, told SciDev.Net.

Of the three million overseas Vietnamese, half of whom are in the United States, about 200,000 are active in scientific and technological fields, according to the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

To build the network further, the club will work with the Vietnamese National Union of Associations for Technological and Scientific Development and other related organisations.