Turkey, Mideast to overcome weakness through innovation

Turkey, Mideast to overcome weakness through innovation

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Turkey, Mideast to overcome weakness through innovation

President Gül addresses attendees during the Turkish Innovation Conference in Istanbul that started yesterday as pictures of other speakers are seen in the background. AA photo

Turkey aims to become an innovation hub in its region by sparing a larger portion for research and development from the budget, according to President Abdullah Gül, who urges both private and public institutions for increased efforts to overcome the country’s negligence in the field.

“Turkey can overcome its current account deficit and some other economic weaknesses through the focus in science and innovation,” said Gül at the opening ceremony of the Turkish Innovation Conference organized by the Turkish Exporters’ Assembly (TİM) in Istanbul.

“Income disparity between richest and poorest countries increased dramatically in recent years,” Gül said. “I believe that we need to speed up our efforts to overcome the losses incurred for long years.” The president said the time for Turkey to “walk” has already passed and the country should “run to achieve better in innovation and science.”

“Due to industrialization and innovation since the beginning of the 19th century, income disparity between the richest and the poorest countries widened at a great extent,” the president said. He said the “survivability of all countries’ economies including Turkey depends on their success in science and innovation.” Gül said in order to eradicate regional imbalances and facilitate justice in income distribution Turkey needed to pay close attention to research, development and innovation.

Turkey has spent approximately $9 billion in research and development facilities this year, according to official records. Total public and private spending on research and development in the country rose to 0.84 percent of gross domestic product this year from 0.48 percent in 2000.

“We would like to cooperate more with Turkey through our universities and scientific institutions,” said Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa al-Thani addressing conference participants. “We have developed many things by ourselves at our own factories.”

Qatar, an oil rich country, has recently invested nearly $350 million in research and development facilities. The Qatari emir said if Muslim states aim to reach the goal of becoming a welfare nation, investment in innovation and science is the only way to reach that goal.

“The most prized possession that I have is my education as it is something that could never leave me,” said Mike Lazaridis, the chief executive and founder of Research In Motion (RIM), which created and manufactures BlackBerry phones, placing importance on education for a country to become an innovation hub. “I am pleased to see Turkey’s investments in research and development.”

“We will support 500 techno-entrepreneurs in Turkey each year starting from 2012,”said Science, Industry and Technology Minister Nihat Ergün. He said nearly 100,000 Turkish Liras would be allocated for each entrepreneur, which could be increased to 500,000 liras later on.