Government on the right path but needs help
Since the first day the Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power, it has been well aware that it cannot enhance welfare in this country without advancing its scientific and technological infrastructure. In this regard, it exerts serious efforts but has not yet received the desired productivity from these efforts.
Why is it not able to pick the fruits of its efforts? In my opinion, they are not approaching the issue with an integrated vision and they are not focusing on certain topics.
The government announced a new incentive package last week. There are many new and good practices but the same deficiency remains: The government does not approach the issue with a wide strategic plan. It seems to be focusing on just the problematic fields.
The government, for a pretty long time, is aiming to increase the share of money spent for R&D from the national income. Back in 2004, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan asked for R&D expenditures to be raised to 2 percent of the gross domestic product. It did not happen.
Frankly, the 7 percent target mentioned nowadays will not happen either. It will not because this figure cannot be reached by only supporting private companies directly or indirectly. The state has to pour money into large-scale research infrastructure for scientific fields through universities. One way to do this is to join international cooperation activities. Another way is for Turkey to form its large-scale research infrastructure for scientific fields it will select and prioritize.
The most significant matter that has to be done simultaneously is scientific focus. In other words, which scientific fields Turkey sees as priorities for 21st century and which field it will choose to focus on. Let us work on every field of science, of course, but let’s say we should decide to focus on certain fields and support them, such as biotechnology, energy sciences, neutrino physics, mobile communications and material sciences. Unfortunately, there is no such focus in Turkey.
For instance, the Health Ministry wants to develop medicine in Turkey, take their patents and produce them. This is a good focus. If we are to focus on that, then we have to allocate at least $300 to $500 million for this field.
We should also focus on technology, not only science. For instance, we want to produce locally-made electric cars and locally-made planes. If we are not to enter the world auto market and compete with the giants in that market, then it is not very meaningful to produce the car itself.
As you can understand, without the state being the main participator and the main money source in the formation of major scientific infrastructures, it is not easy to elevate R&D expenditures to a certain level of the national income.
However, on the other hand, R&D incentives for companies should definitely continue; our companies and international companies in Turkey should be further encouraged to create their own technologies and own designs. The package the government publicized last week addresses this exact field.
Going back to the first sentence, the ruling party knows which way is the right way for Turkey but faces difficulties in making this dream come true.
In my opinion, society, particularly universities, should contribute to this field, submit a series of constructive suggestions to the government and, if possible, assist in strategic planning.