In the period under review here, the Turkish government spent only between 0.7% and 0.8% of GDP for research and development. As comparison, this share was 1.9% in the European Union, 2.7% in the United States and 3% in Japan. Multinational holdings and industry sectors in developed countries reserve between 2.5% and 5% of their turnover for R&D. Due to the high share of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), Turkish industry is in this regard not in a position to compete.
The main objectives of science and technology policy are to increase the private sector’s innovation capacity, to develop competency in science and technology, and to transform this competency into a social benefit. Turkey realizes that science, technology and innovation capacities are among of the most prominent factors of competitiveness. Raising productivity and innovation in Turkey’s main economic sectors such as agriculture, textiles and clothing, machinery, steel, lumber, paper, and transport equipment will be crucial for maintaining competitiveness and attracting the foreign direct investment needed to continue the modernization process.
The National Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy has set two major targets for 2013: to increase research intensity to 2% and the number of full-time equivalent researchers to 150,000. As of 2008, the share of R&D expenditures in GDP is 0.73%, and the number of full-time equivalent researchers is 53,000.
Since the private sector plays an important role in making R&D activities productive and translating them into an aspect of national competitiveness, Turkey has sought to increase the share of total R&D activities performed by the private sector. As a result of these efforts, the business enterprise sector for the first time in 2008 outperformed the higher education sector in R&D, responsible for 44.2% of the country’s total. Furthermore, the share of funding by the business enterprise sector reached 47.3% of total R&D expenditures in 2008, with self-funding by the business enterprise sector representing 38.8% of total R&D expenditures. In addition, the number of technology development zones (TDZ) and research centers has recently increased considerably. As of August 2009, 36 TDZ’s had been established, and 20 are by now operational. In addition, Law No. 5746 on Supporting Research and Development Activities, aimed at regulating tax incentives provided for R&D, entered into effect in March 2008.
In 2007, the private sector employed 38.2% of the country’s full-time equivalent R&D personnel. The country ranks 14th in the world in terms of its absolute number of well-trained engineers. The country has a young population interested in and open to technical developments. Although primary and secondary performance is below average, the country has a history of producing a small but high-quality population of science and engineering graduates and researchers, most of whom work in the higher education sector. Turkey’s universities employ some 45% of the country’s research personnel and carry out almost 50% of its research activities. Turkey notes that it has developed its research personnel in number as well as in skills.
Thus, R&D in Turkey is a mixed picture. This explains why Turkey ranks only 31st in a list of European counties when it comes to innovation, but nonetheless shows very fast progress. Thus, growth in innovation performance averaged 1.8% for the 33 European countries ranked in the European Innovation Scoreboard, while Turkey showed 5.5% growth in 2009. In this context, the strong suits of Turkey include human resources, particularly the training of scientists and engineers; the considerable growth in private sector R&D spending; a growth of 15% in the number of EU-registered patents; the continuing development of trademarks; and growth in high-tech employment.
Euraxes Turkey “R&D Statistics in Turkey,” available at http://euraxess.tubitak.gov.tr/rd-statistics-in-turkey
State Planning Organization (2009)“Pre-Accession Economic Programme 2009,” Ankara