Can Turkey transform into an innovative economy?

Can Turkey transform into an innovative economy?

Yes, there is war in the country. Yes, there is still no government in the country. Yes, we cannot predict what will happen tomorrow in this country; for this reason, we cannot even make the most simple and basic decisions.

I don’t know. Maybe readers expect or want me to write on these subjects but I don’t want to add to my and your pessimism; so I am trying to focus on the outside world from time to time. Today is such a day. 

Regardless of whether we have a government tomorrow or not, whether the “peace process” with the PKK continues or not, there are certain topics that both for us as individuals and for our country that must absolutely be handled and solved. 

One of them is to make our country’s economic transformation, increase our welfare and prepare our country for a 21st century economy. 

I had a conversation the other day with world-famous IBM’s Silicon Valley research laboratory researcher C. Mohan for almost three hours. Of Indian-origin, Mohan is an IT scientist who has worked as a researcher at IBM for 33 years, his specialty being “bid data.” 

He is not only a researcher; he focuses on the business side of what he is doing. He is profit-oriented and benefit-generating. For this reason, he attends conferences all over the world as a speaker and has a busy itinerary. This is both because of his knowledge and experience in his field, and because of his “business” approach. 

He treats the word “innovation” as if it were a magical word. I think that when we say innovation in Turkey, we understand it as both science and technological while at the same time as innovative things in the business processes, whereas, in reality, these are three different topics.  

If you do not have your own science or your own technology, then your innovation is for developing technology or business processes of others. 

The ideal is for universities and companies to be venues that generate both science and technology simultaneously. For instance, IBM in the U.S. is like this; Samsung in Korea is another example of this. 

We are very far away from that spot in terms of companies and it is very questionable how near we are to that place in terms of universities. However, we do have entrepreneur universities. 

Mohan is an active witness of India’s transfer into an innovative economy; he has contributed to this transformation. At the beginning of our conversation, he mentioned Turkish computer scientists he knew. Even though Turkey for more than 50 years has provided computer education, we have no companies that offer global scale services in IT. Most of the bright names who have received this education work abroad or even own their own companies. 

India, on the other hand, has occupied an important place, somehow, in the world’s computer industry, with its tens of thousands of engineers. Mohan pointed out the advantage of speaking English here but this is not the only advantage. Most importantly, Mohan mentioned, is the business environment, the facilitation of doing business in India and the support provided for entrepreneurs who wish to work in these fields.   

There is a serious support program in Turkey actually, but most of the time, those who have bright ideas or who have developed technological innovations do not understand much from the “business” side of things. They have difficulty promoting themselves and their ideas to capital owners.

There are many techno-cities in Turkey now and there are “incubation centers” in all of them. 

We know that these centers help the “business” side for idea owners but obviously, not enough people have become “activated” in terms of new technologies or innovation. 

As a matter of fact, the future is here; the 21st century is here.

Turkey should do whatever it can to transform its classic production economy know-how into knowledge economy and combine it with innovation. 

When we have a new government, let us hope that this subject is treated as one of the most important subjects for the future of all of us.