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Partners’Talk with Azamat Batyrkozha, Vice-Minister of Digital Development of Kazakhstan

Welcome to our new series Partners’ Talk, where we will be sharing news from our partners from across the world.

For this first edition, Batyrkozha Azamat Baykuanyshevich, Vice-Minister of Digital Development, Innovation and Aerospace Industry of the Republic of Kazakhstan, will be sharing his views on the role that innovation policies play in improving the quality of life of Kazakhstanis.

Vice-Minister of Digital Development, Innovation and Aerospace Industry of the Republic of Kazakhstan Batyrkozha Azamat Baykuanyshevich in an interview with the correspondent of Business Kazakhstan spoke about plans to improve the quality of life of Kazakhstanis. After all, the quality of life and comprehensive human development constitute a meaningful characteristic of modern approaches to the problems of economic growth and social development. Kazakhstan has declared a policy of building a social state with high standards of living. This position is reflected in the statements of the First President of the Republic of Kazakhstan - Elbasy Nursultan Nazarbayev.

Azamat Baykuanyshevich, last time you spoke about the need to increase the financing of R & D in Kazakhstan from the current 0.12% of GDP to at least 1%. Tell me, can we expect that the level of scientific and technological development of Kazakhstan will increase by the same number of times?

Of course not. Moreover, an increase in funding alone will not produce results if there are no mechanisms to ensure the efficient and rational use of these funds. It is no accident that the authors of the latest report "Global Innovation Index" point out that in Kazakhstan, the growth of innovation efficiency lags behind economic growth (GDP per capita growth). Moreover, according to the index related to the effectiveness of innovations, our country has a rating below the average for its group, that is, a group of countries with a per capita income above the average. Thus, the entire infrastructure of scientific, technological and innovative development created in recent years (technoparks, incubators, commercialisation offices, venture funds) is largely idle.

Do you have a vision of what needs to be done to change the situation?

In order for the state scientific and technological policy to become a factor of economic growth, technological development and social modernisation, a number of practical steps are required.

First, it is necessary to raise the status of science, technology and innovation policy in the public administration system. It is important that this state policy is uniform, synchronised with other state policies - social, youth, educational. Today it is torn between different ministries. The Ministry of Education and Science is responsible for science, ICRIAP is responsible for innovation, MIIR is responsible for technology. It is not surprising that scientists, entrepreneurs and development institutions cannot agree with each other.

Secondly, at the sectoral level, the strategy of scientific and technological development should be determined not by officials, but by experts, professionals, scientists and practitioners. Technological Competence Centres should become the conductor of the state scientific and technical policy. These centres can be created on the basis of industrial research institutes or specialised universities, or committees of "Atameken". The form can be any, one thing is fundamentally - there should be collected the best national experts uniting.

Their tasks will be:

  • Identification of the most pressing technological problems of the industries.

  • Monitoring, evaluation and recommendations on global technological trends.

  • Assistance in technological expertise and project appraisal.

  • Determination of the optimal international partners from among the companies-world technology leaders.

  • Determination of scenarios for the technological development of industries.

  • Assistance in the development of regulatory and technical documents, training programs and professional standards.

Monitoring the implementation of technology policy should be carried out automatically (automated data collection, data analysis using artificial intelligence) and in real time. Competence centres will ensure the continuity of the implementation of technology policies in line ministries, despite the change of ministers.

What you are saying now seems so obvious that it is hard to believe - do we have different approaches to technology policy? At the same time, I can't help noticing that our country has no problems with strategies, many of them have been adopted, but the effectiveness of their implementation raises questions, including the Accounts Committee.

The fact is that the strategies that officials write are executed by the same officials or by their colleagues from the next doorstep. Often state policy is transformed from a set of measures for analysis, planning, execution, and control into the bureaucratic art of making plans and writing reports. Control over presidential orders is in practice reduced to a demand for timely responses. The task of the state at the level of practical implementation of state policy should be to create favourable conditions for all interested parties - and not to hinder them.

Industry technology platforms can play a key role here. Their task is to coordinate the interests and unite the efforts of all stakeholders - representatives of the state, business, science, education and society around a common vision of innovative development and common approaches to the development of appropriate technologies.

Ultimately, the effectiveness of the national innovation system will largely depend on how effective the interaction between its participants - the state, development institutions, business and science - will be.

Did you find out the opinion of these participants themselves - scientists, businessmen, managers?

We have sent our proposals, our conceptual vision to research institutes, universities, national and private companies. We discussed these approaches with experts, with the leadership of the AIFC and Atameken. In general, they were met with great interest, people have a lot of their own suggestions in addition to and development of what I said.

It is necessary to modernize higher education, taking into account the demands of the real economy, global educational and scientific and technological trends. It is necessary to develop a system of training and professional growth of scientific and engineering personnel, venture entrepreneurs, ensuring the reproduction of highly qualified scientists and engineers.

In general, the technological policy of the state should be inclusive, combining the interests of the state, business, science and society. Scientific, technological and innovative development should become a factor in improving the quality of life of all citizens, creating new "social elevators".

And, finally, scientific and technological development should be aimed not only at improving the competitiveness of the economy, but also at creating an innovative culture, improving the quality of life of all citizens, changing the thinking of young people, and creating "social elevators" for talented people.

You mentioned the conceptual vision, why, in your opinion, was it supported by your colleagues and experts?

Because this vision meets the expectations of the scientific and innovation community. This was achieved thanks to a constant analysis of needs and problems. For more than 10 years, I have been working in areas related to innovation and technology, where, together with my colleagues, we constantly collected scattered data, confirmed our hypotheses and came to certain conclusions. These approaches were mainly developed in the Ministry of Investment and Development, under the leadership of the Minister Asset Issekeshev, to whom I am grateful for the support and mentoring. I would like to note that the Department of Technological and Innovative Development of this Ministry, which I headed 5 years ago, still exists today, only in another ministry. Over the years, there have been about 15 vice-ministers in charge of innovation issues, including me, until recently, along with the development of the space industry, I was in charge of innovation development issues. Now the main "backbone" of that Department remains in the civil service system, and the guys occupy leadership positions in various departments and development institutions in the areas of innovation, technology and industrial policy. But, unfortunately, the model of state planning and management, the budget and legislative process today do not quite allow us to quickly respond to changes and adjust plans, which is extremely necessary for innovation.

That is, it does not always depend only on the authorised state body?

An important role is played by interdepartmental interaction, understanding of colleagues from the Ministry of National Economy, the Ministry of Finance and higher authorities. But now government agencies are more engaged in solving operational tasks, and innovative development is, nevertheless, a long-term strategic task. Therefore, the coordination of government agencies and the involvement of the Government leadership is an important factor – the case with QazVac confirms this. Therefore, the issue of raising the status of the Technology Policy Council is already being worked out, so that it is chaired by the Prime Minister and all interested parties participate in the work. The relevant legislative amendments on the status of the Council are already under consideration in the Parliament. I hope that the distinguished deputies will support the Government's initiative and the work will begin in the near future.

Interview in Kazakh

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