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News blog27 June 2024European Innovation Council and SMEs Executive Agency4 min read

Collaborating for Success: Insights from Sept Competence Center on working with the SEA IP SME Helpdesk

The SEPT Competence Center is a research and training center at Leipzig University dedicated to providing theoretical insight and practical experience in the management and promotion of SMEs & Startups. SEPT Competence Center has a long history in Vietnam and has numerous local activities in Vietnam. One of their initiatives, the International Startup Campus has organised various business missions to Vietnam over the past years. In this context, the SEA IP SME Helpdesk initiative (SEA IP SME Helpdesk) collaborated with the International Startup Campus to train German Startups both before and during their expansion into Vietnam. This collaboration bore fruitful results for both parties. To celebrate this successful partnership, we invited Mr Wojciech Muras (Wojtek), Vietnam coordinator at the Sept Competence Center, to share his experience collaborating with the SEA IP SME Helpdesk during his recent visit to Vietnam. 


SEA IP SME Helpdesk: Thank you for joining us today, Wojtek. To begin, how did you first learn about the SEA IP SME Helpdesk?

Wojtek: About two years ago, I attended a workshop organised by the German Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam (AHK) as part of our first mission to Vietnam. The Chamber's Deputy Director introduced me to the SEA IP SME Helpdesk, an initiative of the European Commission designed to support European SMEs, including startups, in protecting and enforcing their Intellectual Property (IP) in South-East Asia. I was pleased to hear that all services offered by the SEA IP SME Helpdesk are free of charge. At the event, I had the opportunity to speak with the IP Business Advisor of the SEA IP SME Helpdesk, and we agreed to collaborate on our upcoming mission to Vietnam. The SEA IP SME Helpdesk Team proposed a dual approach: online training prior to the delegation’s arrival to Vietnam, and a face-to-face meeting with the delegation in Vietnam. 

SEA IP SME Helpdesk: Could you share some benefits of cooperating with the South-East Asia IP SME Helpdesk, and perhaps highlight any success stories from this collaboration?

Wojtek: Partnering with the SEA IP SME Helpdesk has been incredibly beneficial, and our interaction was tailored to our needs. It encourages startups to think ahead and highlights the importance of IP awareness while exploring business plans in Vietnam. The SEA IP SME Helpdesk plays a crucial role in educating companies about the risks of operating in Vietnam without adequate IP protection and provides alternative dispute resolution strategies that are more cost effective than traditional legal proceedings. This is particularly advantageous for small enterprises. Furthermore, after our collaboration in Vietnam, we invited an SEA IP SME Helpdesk expert to our startup festival in Europe, which attracted over 80 participants.

Engaging with the SEA IP SME Helpdesk has led several startups to adopt Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) to safeguard their assets.

SEA IP SME Helpdesk: How do you see the role of academic institutions like Leipzig University in supporting startups with IP protection and internationalisation?

Wojtek: Leipzig University plays a pivotal role in this area. Through programs like our MBA with partner universities in Vietnam, we focus on long-term collaborations. Despite financial limitations, initiatives like the International Startup Campus—supported by the Ministry of Economy and Climate in Germany—are making progress. Leipzig University has specific programs focused on Vietnam, highlighting our commitment to assisting startups with internationalisation.

SEA IP SME Helpdesk: Can you elaborate on how the training sessions organised by the SEA IP SME Helpdesk have helped startups better understand and navigate IP-related issues? 

Wojtek: The two-step approach has been particularly effective. Startups need time to digest information, which is why we divide the training between online pre-departure meetings and in-country sessions in Vietnam. This format allows deeper understanding and tailored solutions based on the challenges faced by each startup. The initial training serves as an eye-opener for many, and addressing diverse sectors ensures comprehensive coverage of the topic. Some attendees come with questions prepared for the first session, while others develop their enquiries through interactions during the onsite meeting in Vietnam.

SEA IP SME Helpdesk: Looking ahead, how do you see the collaboration evolving between the Sept Competence Center and the SEA IP SME Helpdesk to further support startups with IP protection in South-East Asia?

Wojtek: We plan to customise our approach further, focusing on promoting the project more effectively within the startup community and among young SMEs. A key priority is to offer more training sessions in German, which can be conducted online or on-site. Additionally, we aim to integrate IP training with regional events and collaborate more closely with local chambers of commerce in Saxony. Furthermore, by partnering with local organisations focused on internationalisation—especially those organising missions to markets in India, Vietnam, and China—we hope to integrate IP content in their sessions.

SEA IP SME Helpdesk: Is there anything else you would like to add regarding the role of collaborative initiatives like this project or other aspects of our cooperation?

Wojtek: I am grateful for the ongoing support provided to startups by the SEA IP SME Helpdesk Team. Offering information on trade secrets free of charge has been very valuable. Additionally, holding repeated information sessions emphasised the importance of integrating an IP strategy into startups’ business plans. I plan to follow up with startups to assess how and if they have implemented IP protection measures after our training sessions, and I will also keep the SEA IP SME Helpdesk Team informed about such developments.

Thank you, Wojtek, for your continuous support and for the impactful collaboration between the Sept Competence Center and the SEA IP SME Helpdesk. We look forward to more joint activities in the future. 

We invite other stakeholders interested in similar partnerships to reach out to us at expertatsea-iphelpdesk [dot] eu (expert[at]sea-iphelpdesk[dot]eu), so we can help your European SMEs and startups build a successful IP strategy and grow their business in South-East Asia.


Publication date
27 June 2024
European Innovation Council and SMEs Executive Agency