Turkey 2014 | ICT | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Fikri Işık, Minister of Science, Industry, and Technology, on encouraging more R&D.

Fikri Işık
Fikri Işık was born in 1965. He received his Bachelor’s degree from the Department of Mathematics Education at the Middle East Technical University and went on to work as a Mathematics and English teacher at various private schools in Izmit and Istanbul. He also has experience in the private sector, working as a manager in the food industry. He became a Member of the Executive Board and Deputy-Chairman responsible for R&D issues at the provincial organization of the AK Party in Kocaeli on October 20, 2001. In 2003, he became Head of the Provincial Organization of the AK Party and served in the post for four years. He was elected to parliament as the Kocaeli Deputy in the 23rd and 24th terms. Between 2007 and 2013 he served as Regional Coordinator and Deputy-Chairman of the AK Party Central Organization, and was then elected Head of the Commission for National Education, Culture Youth, and Sports of the Turkish Grand National Assembly and served for one year at this post. He is currently the Minister of Science, Industry, and Technology.

What programs or initiatives from the Ministry to increase the country's technological capacity have seen the most success?

Our Ministry is determined to support and improve R&D and innovation activities as its duty and prime field of activity in order to develop the technological capacity of the country. These activities are being supported by the many programs we have implemented. In this context, our Ministry is actively carrying out support programs such as technology development zones (TGB), an industrial thesis program (SAN-TEZ), R&D centers, a techno-entrepreneurship capital support program, and other support programs aimed at increasing visibility and encouraging marketing. Our Ministry not only provides infrastructure support for TGBs, which are established within or nearby universities as a platform-hosting collaboration between the university and industry, but also provides support and exemptions for the companies, entrepreneurs, and academics operating within the TGBs. A project contract is signed between the Ministry and the companies that carry out projects within the scope of the SAN-TEZ, which is implemented with the aim of institutionalizing public sector-industry-university collaboration and increasing R&D performance in the country in case the project is considered eligible for support by the Evaluation Committee. While projects are supported within the scope of the program at a rate of 75%, the cost of the remainder is covered by the enterprises themselves. Enterprises that perform R&D activities within the country carry out their innovation programs with a defined subject, duration, budget, and personnel requirements and employ at least 50 R&D personnel, becoming certified as R&D centers by the Evaluation Committee. These enterprises also benefit from the incentives and exemptions stated in law. We have launched the techno-entrepreneurship capital support program in order to transform the business-related and technology- and innovation-oriented ideas of qualified young people into enterprises that create value-added and have the potential to create qualified employment, thus stimulating the culture of entrepreneurship. We grant a maximum TL100,000 a year to entrepreneurs considered worthy of gaining support within the scope of Law No. 5746. We also provide support for local enterprises in our country within the Technological Product Advertisement and Marketing Program in order to introduce and market the technological products that are developed as the result of R&D activities.

How would you assess your current position in the country's ongoing e-transformation process?

An e-transformation generally enables information and communication technologies to be used more intensively in the exchange of information, services, and goods between public institutions and organizations and individuals and enterprises, while providing faster, more productive, and cost-efficient works and transactions. For a successful implementation of the e-transformation process, it is important to collect all public data at a single center.

How would you characterize the level of foreign interest in Turkey as an R&D base?

Economic growth and a positive environment have triggered an increase in foreign investment. Many of these investments have been made in the field of R&D. Within the scope of Law No. 5746, companies that carry out R&D activities in the country, employ at least 50 full-time equivalent personnel, and fulfill several other requirements, are certified as R&D centers. These enterprises also merit other incentives and exemptions. This law also directly aims to attract foreign investment to the country.