Creation of a Franco-Vietnamese research laboratory in mathematics


The CNRS, the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology (Vast) and the Vietnam Institute for Advanced Studies in Mathematics (Viasm) have signed an agreement to create an international Franco-Vietnamese research laboratory in mathematics on January 1, 2023: the IRL France-Vietnam in Mathematics and its Applications.

The teaching and research system in Vietnam has always maintained strong links with the French system, despite the vicissitudes. Vietnam has had a very good level of basic training in mathematics for several decades. In the 1980s, the major influence on mathematics in Vietnam was the Soviet school. In the 1990s, researchers from Vietnam and France began to bring together under the banner of PICS "Formath Vietnam" the cooperations that existed between the two countries, and then to expand them. This was done with the help of the CNRS, the Agence universitaire de la francophonie (AUF) and the French Embassy in Vietnam, which has always been very present. In a research landscape under construction, the aim of the Formath Vietnam CHIP was to help attract valuable students to the basic sciences who would form the next generation.  

The first French coordinators of PICS Formath Vietnam were Nguyen Thanh Van (Toulouse) and Frédéric Pham (Nice), then Jean-Pierre Ramis (Toulouse), and finally Lionel Schwartz (Paris). The Vietnamese partners were diverse, but three institutions played a major role. The Vietnam Institute of Mathematics (Viện Toán học, a section of VAST), located in Ha Noi, the Ha Noi National University of Education (Trường Đại học Sư phạm Hà Nội), and the University of Natural Sciences of the Vietnam National University in Ha Noi and later in Ho Chi Minh City. Mathematicians based in these large centers play an important role in training and monitoring colleagues working in smaller universities (Vinh, Thai Nguyen, Hue, Quy Nhon, Dalat, etc.). Soon, the thematic spectrum of mathematical research in Vietnam widened, and strong scientific collaborations developed in the fields of partial differential equations, complex analysis, algebraic topology, singularity theory, commutative algebra, discrete mathematics, and probability theory. 

Activities have included international conferences and intensive schools (at the master and doctoral levels) held in Vietnam with significant participation of French mathematicians, co-supervised doctorates, travel grants and student internships in France. 

Among the students who have come to France from Vietnam in large numbers is Ngo Bao Chau who, after studying at the ENS and holding a position as a CNRS researcher at the laboratoire Analyse, géométrie et applications (Laga)1 , was awarded the Fields Medal in 2010 while he was a professor at the University of Paris-Saclay at the Laboratoire mathématique d'Orsay (LMO)2 . The impact of this award is enormous in Vietnam, and in 2011, the Vietnamese government created the Vietnam Institute of Advanced Studies in Mathematics (VIASM) of which Ngo Bao Chau is scientific director since its creation. VIASM is at the same time a conference center, a leader in the development of mathematical research in Vietnam, and a major provider of funding for theses, post-doctorates, and visiting professorships, both Vietnamese and foreign.

The activities in connection with France are particularly dynamic in Ha Noi with the Ha Noi Institute of Mathematics (VAST) and the universities of the capital. VIASM plays a major and growing role in this cooperation. Other universities in central and southern Vietnam are also involved in this program, through workshops and conferences in Ha Noi. Unlike Hanoi, only a minority of mathematicians in Ho Chi Minh City in the 1990s were trained in France: most of them were trained in the United States or in the Soviet Union (then Russia). Following the pioneering work of Alain Pham, cooperation with the South has really taken off since the 2000s with the work of Michel Zinsmeister and Duong Minh Duc. 

Since 2006 and 2008 respectively, two international masters in mathematics in Vietnam have been linked with France: one in Ho Chi Minh City, the other in Ha Noi. These courses send each year many students to various universities and grandes écoles in France. They constitute an important part of the next generation of university researchers in mathematics in Vietnam. 

The International Associated Laboratory "Formath Vietnam" (LIAFV) was created in 2011 as a continuation and amplification of the work of the former PICS. With its help, we are witnessing:

  • a significant increase in the number of doctoral theses submitted in France by students from Vietnam,
  • a significant number of them returning to Vietnam to work in the university system,
  • a significant number of joint publications, many of which are partially supported by LIAFV,
  • various activities, including workshops and conferences.

LIAFV has been very supportive of VIASM activities. An agreement has been signed between VIASM and LIAFV in this regard.

The intensity of the visits of French researchers in Hanoi, and the place taken by VIASM in this Franco-Vietnamese collaboration led to the creation of an International Research Laboratory (IRL) having for guardianship the CNRS, the VAST and VIASM. Thus, the IRL FVMA (France-Vietnam in Mathematics and its Applications) will be created on January 1, 2023. The director will be Ngo Bao Chau. There will be two deputy directors, Le Minh Ha, and Marc Peigné (current director of the LIA). The IRL will continue to play the fundamental role of animating and grouping collaborations between France and Vietnam. It will also allow French researchers to be based in Hanoi, in order to maintain and reinforce France's place in the Vietnamese research landscape, at a time when international competition is important.

  • 1UMR7539, CNRS & Université Sorbonne Paris Nord
  • 2UMR8628, CNRS & Université Paris-Saclay