BETAM: Quantity in innovation but no quality

BETAM: Quantity in innovation but no quality

Innovation and technological development are the biggest driving forces today for long term economic growth in developed countries. Even though Turkey has been left behind in the innovation race, it has been trying to catch up in recent years. Expenditure on Research and Development (R&D) has been increasing continuously since 2003. 

While in 2003, our R&D spending was 0.48 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP), in 2012 this figure went up to 0.92 percent. Again in 2003, the figure was 657 for patent applications; in 2011, it went up to 5,283. 

The Justice and Development Party (AKP) government has exerted effort in the last 10 years to increase the rate of schooling to raise the level of human capital. However…

Despite the increase in patents

According to the results of research Barış Soybilgen conducted at Bahçeşehir University’s Center for Economic and Social Research (BETAM), despite the fact that innovation is increasing quantitatively, it does not show the same increase qualitatively. It is seen that the high rate of increase in the applications for patents are in the low technology sectors, instead of the sectors that require high technology.

It is quite clear anyway: Turkey’s high-tech product exports have been standing still for years. The situation is the same as it was 10 years ago.

From the BETAM research, I learned that according to World Bank calculations, the share of Turkey’s high tech exports in the total manufacturing industry did not increase between 2003 and 2011. It recorded a stagnant course between the corridor of 1.8 and 1.9 percent. In developed countries, the rate of high tech product exports is around 16 percent and 20 percent.

According to the OECD’s definition of “high tech industries,” in 2012 out of Turkey’s total manufacturing industry exports, only 3.7 percent were high technology products.

Low technology

The most significant area in patent applications is electric engineering. While this area is over 30 percent in middle-high and high income group countries, in Turkey it is only 13 percent. Over 25 percent of our applications are in these industries, which require only low technology. This shows why Turkey’s high tech products exports do not increase.

Meanwhile, while the rate of schooling has seriously increased over the past 10 years, according to the recently released PISA data, the quality of our education is unfortunately still maintaining its mediocre level.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) is asking several questions to company executives within the framework of the competitiveness index that it prepares every year. According to this survey, the quality of math and science education in Turkey in 2006, according to company executives, was in 52nd place among 119 countries. In 2013, Turkey had regressed to 83rd place.

EU average of 2.07 percent

According to Eurostat estimates, the average of R&D expenditures last year in European Union countries was 2.07 percent of GDP. In Germany, this figure was 2.92 percent.

Both Industry Minister Nihat Ergün and Transportation Minister Binali Yıldırım said they aimed to increase the share of R&D expenditure to GDP to 3 percent by 2023. However, it can only be a dream for investments in R&D, which have only increased from 0.48 percent to 0.92 percent in the past 10 years, despite all the efforts, to match Germany’s level in the next 10 years.

Meral Tamer is a columnist for daily Milliyet in which this piece was published on Dec 11. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.