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Turkish commitment to innovation through university-business cooperation

On the 12th and 13th of March I attended the Workshop on Innovation Union organised by TAIEX in collaboration with the Turkish Ministry of Science, Industry and Technology in Ankara as an invited expert. It was interesting to see the different activities that are occurring in respect to technology transfer from within Turkey and also in Europe. Key messages of the forum include: (i) that Europe needs to focus more on R&D and university-business collaboration as a way of staying competitive and developing the knowledge society with a target of 3% of GDP to be spent, (ii) that Europe is lagging behind in a number of areas related to the conversion of research into benefit for society and cooperation between universities and business, (iii) that the European Commission through the Horizon 2020 program (specifically ‘Innovative Union’) has specifically funding addressing these areas, (iv) that there exists a number of barriers to this including the cultural differences between universities and business, bureaucracy, funding and fragmented IP management, and (v) that relationships between academics / researchers and business are a key driver for collaboration and need to be fostered,


More detailed notes of the forum are as follows:

  • The need for European countries to embrace innovation and research as more important sources of development in society are closely tied with the concept of the knowledge society and more advanced societies
  • The presence of the European funding programmes present within Horizon 2020 to support European innovation and the recognition of the importance of innovation in Europe’s future development by the European Commission. Mr. Javier Menendez Bonilla stated that the goal of the Commission is that 3% of the EU’s GDP should be invested in R&D and that Turkey is currently at 0,87% (of 2011 GDP ). He aligned spend on R&D with the increased status of development (as measured in GDP per capita)
  • A European Paradox exists: “Good R&D, poor exploitation of results” European scientist produce world class science but this is not reflected in European economic performance. Top-50 global companies are American or Japanese and among the 12 most efficient companies, only 2 are from the EU. One of the reasons for this is the lower rate of investment in R&D as compared to the US and now China
  • A core part of Europe2020 is the Innovation Union and European Research Area is responding to the economic crisis to invest in future jobs and growth. Furthermore, This involves a strengthening of the EU’s global position in research, innovation and technology including a proposal for a 80 billion euro research and innovation funding programme (2014-2020). The need to close the Innovation Divide” in Europe through a systematic interaction between Regional Innovation Strategies for Smart Specialisation and the Thematic Priorities (under Excellence, Industrial Leadership and Societal Challenges) was proposed
  • Research is a prominent source of innovation and needs to be better managed and commercialized. In a Turkish context this requires greater focus and support.
  • That only 1/5 of the university budget is coming through third party funding within Austrian HEIs, in total (€525 million of €2,702 million), and only around only 10-20% of that coming from companies. An exception was Montanuniversität, Leoben which gets 70% of its third-party funds through companies with a focus on mining. Currently third-party finance being received by universities is a small contribution at most European universities.
  • The smart specialization strategydefined by the ‘Knowledge for Growth’ expert group (DG RTD), which launched concept in the framework of ERA;
    • Problem: fragmentation/imitation/duplication of public R&D investments;
    • Stresses role for all regions in the knowledge economy, if they can identify comparative advantages in specific RD&I domains/clusters (not just winning sectors);
    • Challenges: Smart specialisation has to embrace the concept of open innovation, not only investment in (basic) research.
  • During the conference, an article appeared in a local paper (Published 11.03.13) announcing a major initiative from the Turkish Government supporting collaboration between HEIs and business. Turkey‘s Technology Minister, Mr. Nihat Ergün, recoginised the importance of universities in developing a Turkish knowledge society stating that the government will provide funds (up to 75% of the cost) to support the process of universities collaborating with business (especially SMEs) to solve industry problems in Turkey. An interesting, and very positive, step for university-business collaboration in Europe
  • Some key benefits from commercialisation of research exist for multiple stakeholders including: (i) Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) benefitting from greater business funding (third party funding) and more market aligned research; (ii) researchers benefiting from more regular and higher quality publications as well as funding; (iii) business benefitting from new products and services as well as entrepreneurial employees and (iv) society benefitting from a higher living standard through economic development
  • Cooperation between industry and HEIs in Europe, as well as in Turkey, is still at an early stage of development. In comparison with Europe Turkey rates slightly below the European average in the development of university-business collaboration. The rate of firms collaborating in innovation with higher education institutions is around 10% in large firms and 2% in small ones. There are eight forms of cooperation between industry and HEIs including cooperative research and development, student mobility, academic mobility, commercialisation of research and development, curriculum development and delivery, entrepreneurship, lifelong learning and governance
  • Funding and bureaucracy are primary barriers to cooperation between industry and HEIs whilst relationships and incentives are drivers of cooperation. Especially in Turkey, the difference in culture between HEIs and business was seen as a high barrier as was the limited absorption capacity of SMEs, the primary form of business in Turkey. The cost of IP in Europe with a fragmented patenting system are considerably higher than in other parts of the world
  • Turkey has a low development of implementation strategies (such as dedication of resources and incentives for researchers) for supporting university-business collaboration which provides an area of focus.
  • Intellectual property remains a focus for transfer of technology and requires early alignment with market needs, good management techniques and tools for improved transfer


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By: Todd Davey – UIIN Director for Strategy and Performance

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