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Turkey plans technology upgrade, says Guven Sak

Government plans focus on biotech, information technology, nanotechnology as key areas to boost productivity

Turkey plans technology upgrade, says Guven Sak


By Andrew Jay Rosenbaum


Turkey is planning a technology upgrade to give it a competitive edge in global markets.

"The challenge for Turkey is increasing productivity and the plan is to focus on cutting-edge areas of high technology," Guven Sak, managing director of the Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey (TEPAV, part of TOBB University) told Anadolu Agency.

He added: "There is a real political consensus behind this upgrade."

A period of rapid urbanization -- 73 percent of Turkey’s population live in towns and cities compared with 45 percent in 1981, according to the World Bank -- that has been driving productivity is close to a plateau, and Turkey increasingly needs to take steps to avoid the "middle-income trap" -- when exports cannot finance a country's wage bill.

"What is needed is the creation of technology platforms that are competitive across the world," Sak said.

"The most important areas to concentrate on are biotechnology, nanotechnology and information and communication technology. I’m talking about a full-scale transformation of our production."

As part of the race to boost Turkey’s hi-tech capacity, the government has set up 32 nanotechnology research centers such as the National Nanotechnology Research Center, established in 2006 at Ankara’s Bilkent University, and the Nanotechnology Center at Sabanci University, launched in 2011.

Referring to the need to find new ways of boosting productivity, Sak said: "We are working to create new platforms for the most cutting-edge technology. One step in this direction is to use existing government programs to increase the capability of our engineering and technology firms.

"Involving them in this type of program would allow them to prove themselves, to give them the kind of experience that would raise the quality level."

 Hi-tech impact on other industries

Furthermore, high-tech platforms can produce technology to be used in a wide variety of production types.

"Biotechnology is not just a sector, it is a new world, one that is changing every kind of industry," Sak said.

"It involves the use of living organisms to manufacture products that were once made by mixing chemicals. The biotechnology processes can be used in pharmaceuticals, plastics, agriculture and food production, just to name a few of the sectors in which they are critical today."

He added: "If we train an engineer in making a living organism produce these materials, the engineer can then work in any number of different industries. It is just a matter of changing the material that the organism produces."

Insulin production is now done in this way but the same process can be used in areas such as seed manufacture, animal fertilization, bioplastics and bioenergy.

Around Izmir, Turkey’s third city, a cluster of biotech enterprises have sprung up around its suburbs.

At Ege and Dokuz Eylul universities -- where around 120,000 study -- the focus is on health and life science industries.

Each university has a complementary technopark as well as hospitals and laboratories, including the only accredited phase 1 clinical trial environment in Turkey.

Biotechnology also has the advantage of involving more environment-friendly processes than chemical production.

The government is helping companies put this kind of technology to work by training biotech engineers and scientists.

There is similar state support in nanotechnology and information and communications, Sak said.

"The upgrade will help Turkey break out of the middle-income trap," he added. "There is a government plan -- they are trying to do it, we are trying to help. There is a real political consensus around this focus and once political uncertainty has ended in Turkey the work will begin."

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