6
General Observations, Conclusions, and Recommendations

CONCERNS OF KAZAKHSTANI PUBLIC-SECTOR SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY SPECIALISTS

At a roundtable session in Almaty in July 2006, more than 50 science and technology (S&T) specialists from 20 public-sector education and research institutions emphasized to committee members the problems and solutions set forth below. The committee’s observations are consistent with these views, which should be carefully considered in debates about the future of S&T in the country.

Human Resources

  • Inadequate numbers of young specialists are entering the science and engineering professions because of low salaries, poor laboratory facilities, and housing difficulties that inhibit mobility. The attractions of working abroad or entering private business in Kazakhstan are much more appealing to many young professionals than S&T careers in Kazakhstan.

  • Reliance on short-term appointments for leadership positions in the science and engineering community has introduced considerable instability into some public-sector institutions. Deans, department heads, institute directors, and other senior managers are appointed for only two years, and some of these leaders are searching for more personal security in the private sector or abroad.

  • The quality and breadth of university education could be improved through (1) greater reliance on foreign professors, (2) introduction of courses in technology management, (3) improved accreditation procedures, and (4) guidelines concerning the requirements for master’s and Ph.D. degrees.



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Science and Technology in Kazakhstan: Current Status and Future Prospects 6 General Observations, Conclusions, and Recommendations CONCERNS OF KAZAKHSTANI PUBLIC-SECTOR SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY SPECIALISTS At a roundtable session in Almaty in July 2006, more than 50 science and technology (S&T) specialists from 20 public-sector education and research institutions emphasized to committee members the problems and solutions set forth below. The committee’s observations are consistent with these views, which should be carefully considered in debates about the future of S&T in the country. Human Resources Inadequate numbers of young specialists are entering the science and engineering professions because of low salaries, poor laboratory facilities, and housing difficulties that inhibit mobility. The attractions of working abroad or entering private business in Kazakhstan are much more appealing to many young professionals than S&T careers in Kazakhstan. Reliance on short-term appointments for leadership positions in the science and engineering community has introduced considerable instability into some public-sector institutions. Deans, department heads, institute directors, and other senior managers are appointed for only two years, and some of these leaders are searching for more personal security in the private sector or abroad. The quality and breadth of university education could be improved through (1) greater reliance on foreign professors, (2) introduction of courses in technology management, (3) improved accreditation procedures, and (4) guidelines concerning the requirements for master’s and Ph.D. degrees.

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Science and Technology in Kazakhstan: Current Status and Future Prospects Research and Development Insufficient laboratory equipment and limitations on financial support for research and development (R&D) from the government inhibit realization of the full potential of the existing R&D workforce. In addition, customs duties often inhibit imports of modern laboratory equipment. Limited access to the Internet, limited availability of international journals, and lack of opportunities to participate in international conferences prevent researchers from taking advantage of many international S&T achievements. Improved evaluations of past research results and future plans should serve as the basis for decisions on research grant proposals. Technology Transfer Existing legislation does not provide an adequate basis for transforming research results into commercial products. For example, it does not (1) provide tax exemptions to motivate entrepreneurs to invest in the development of new technologies, (2) limit through taxation imports of technologies even if the same technologies could be developed in Kazakhstan, or (3) provide financial incentives for commercial enterprises to use the results of R&D carried out in the country. The commercial sector has little interest in the activities of research institutions due to poor marketing capabilities on the part of the institutions and lack of information in the commercial sector regarding the institutions’ achievements. Marketing departments and technology transfer centers at the institutions would help. Governmental mechanisms are needed to link public-sector research institutes with public-sector enterprises that are heavily dependent on effective technologies. GENERAL OBSERVATIONS OF THE COMMITTEE As noted throughout this report, Kazakhstan has an unusual opportunity to develop and use S&T for increasing its global economic competitiveness while enhancing the economic and social well-being of its population. The strong commitment of the nation’s leaders to rapid development of S&T capabilities and the increasing availability of financial resources to support the S&T infrastructure are strong pillars for the ambitious programs that have been developed. However, the views of the representatives of the education and research communities noted above and comments by other S&T leaders of the country have underscored many of the impediments to rapid progress. High on the list is the limited interest of local and international companies and service organizations in investing their resources in R&D activities with uncertain payoffs. Most

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Science and Technology in Kazakhstan: Current Status and Future Prospects industrial and service organizations are accustomed to relying on well-tested imported technologies and expertise when they initiate a new program or have a need to upgrade their activities. In addition to this weak “demand” for Kazakhstani technologies and expertise are weaknesses in the infrastructure that “supplies” technologies and nurtures local expertise. In short, greater demand—“market pull”—for local technologies is essential. In order for the demand to increase, however, the S&T establishment needs to demonstrate that it has the wherewithal to supply S&T-based goods and related consulting services that are competitive in quality and cost with comparable goods and services that can be imported. Developing this supply capability is the major interest of the Ministry of Education and Science and therefore the principal focus of this report. The committee is concerned that some officials may become impatient with the slower-than-desired rate of progress in upgrading the S&T infrastructure and with the limited number of examples of homegrown S&T achievements that affect economic development. In an effort to accelerate progress, they may be tempted to make financial investments that are beyond the capacity of the available human resources to use effectively. The determination of the government to have a modern infrastructure that serves as the basis for providing internationally competitive goods and services is admirable. The setting of timelines to achieve specific goals is stimulating important activities in Astana, Almaty, and other cities. But it will take many years to put in place the S&T teams and facilities necessary to achieve the laudable goals that have been established. The competition for international markets will be strong. In particular, competing with Chinese exporters for market share in nearby countries, indeed in Kazakhstan itself, will be challenging. The availability of investment capital is essential, but the capabilities of the S&T workforce will be the critical factor. Thus, the pace of financial investments should be consistent with the pace of human resource development. SIGNIFICANT CONCLUSIONS This section consolidates a number of significant conclusions that have been identified in previous chapters and offers suggestions for addressing relevant issues. 1. The government of Kazakhstan faces a continuing challenge of choosing between investments in existing institutions and using available resources to establish new institutions. Each approach may have certain advantages. For example, the research capabilities of the Kazakh National University are formidable. With greater support they can become more effective in enriching the educational process and in opening new research areas that should be of importance to the country. Many independent research institutes have strong capabilities, and

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Science and Technology in Kazakhstan: Current Status and Future Prospects they too could benefit from new investments. On the other hand, the Kazakh-British Technical University, which has been supported by both the government and the private sector, is an example of how a new institution can quickly become a bridge that links education, research, and commercial interests. Also, the planned advanced-technology university in Astana should offer attractive educational and research opportunities for highly talented students and young faculty members, although success will depend on development and implementation of sound and detailed plans. In the fields of public health and engineering, the near-term advantages of upgrading existing facilities must be weighed against the longer-term payoffs from establishing new scientific or educational complexes. 2. The intense interest of the leadership of the country in economic payoffs from development of “breakthrough” technologies seems to have pushed the importance of more effective use of established technologies into the background. During the next decade, established technologies in their current or upgraded forms will undoubtedly continue to undergird many aspects of the economy, and steps by the S&T community to help ensure that they are used effectively will probably have far greater economic impact than introduction of new technologies. This is not to say that capabilities to develop and use advanced technologies are not important. But the significance of maintaining and modernizing established technologies should be fully recognized. 3. The government has ambitious plans to expand R&D activities so that new products and new processes can be developed, but less attention is being given to the importance of S&T services that have been and should continue to be provided by S&T-oriented institutions. These services can take the form of advice to government agencies on their investments and their regulatory and managerial responsibilities, services to assist the public in selecting goods and services based on S&T achievements that affect daily lives such as pharmaceutical and food products, and reimbursable support for international firms that establish facilities and programs in the country. These and related responsibilities of S&T organizations should be fully recognized in the government’s planning and budgeting processes. 4. While the government’s commitment to taking advantage of international experience and expertise is laudable, the selection of international experts should be made with care to ensure that they are not only experienced in their fields of interest but are also sensitive to the realities of operating in Kazakhstan. Similarly, Kazakhstani specialists who work with international experts should have the capability both to appreciate the importance of the views of the experts and to assess the likely impact of incorporating those views into policies and programs. Also, they should be able to carefully define the tasks that are to be addressed by experts. 5. Procurement offices throughout the government regularly make decisions on whether to import products or equipment with embedded technologies or to purchase such products or equipment that are or could be produced or assembled

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Science and Technology in Kazakhstan: Current Status and Future Prospects in Kazakhstan. Often, when there is a choice between commodities produced abroad and those produced locally, the difference in price or quality is relatively clear. But as Kazakhstan develops its industrial base in the years ahead and becomes more competitive, the choices may not be as clear. The government should have a consistent policy that recognizes the importance of procurements that enable Kazakhstani institutions to develop markets for their S&T products. The key issue is the extent to which Kazakhstani organizations should have an advantage in competing for government contracts. The economic arguments for using government procurement as a mechanism for encouraging development of local advanced-technology capabilities (e.g., the long-term consequences of technological protectionism) are complicated, and the government should be prepared to address these considerations. 6. The government and research institutions should make special efforts to help ensure that researchers are linked to potential users of the results of research early in the R&D cycle since the likelihood of successful transfer of technology is then much higher than when researchers search for users only after they are well along in the cycle. One technique might be programs for researchers to spend “familiarization” time in companies. Another approach is internships for postgraduate students at industrial facilities which include continuing contact with their educational mentors. 7. The government should provide incentives for young entrepreneurs to take risks in setting up small innovative firms, including providing tax incentives and opportunities to lease research equipment when necessary. Incubators may provide an important environment for new entrepreneurs. 8. Kazakhstani officials, in their presentations to government leaders, emphasize the simplicity of a linear model that depicts the movement of an idea from basic research to applied technology to design and development and then leads to a successful process, product, or service. Many deviations from the model, often linked to the importance of feedback and consultations between different participants in the entire cycle, are characteristic of successful endeavors. Furthermore, the process of developing a product does not necessarily lead to a successful business, and the failure rate for businesses, particularly technology-intensive businesses, is substantial. Also of importance is Western experience which shows that successful commercialization of R&D usually leads to small improvements in existing processes and products and that only the exceptions lead to entirely new processes and products. 9. During the next few years, Kazakhstan has no choice but to rely heavily on foreign technologies to operate and modernize its industrial base and to serve the consumer needs of the population. There are a host of near-term challenges in making the transition from this dependence on foreign technologies to greater reliance on local technologies. For example, the government should help ensure that state-controlled organizations choose wisely and use effectively imported goods and services that are laden with modern technologies. If comparable tech-

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Science and Technology in Kazakhstan: Current Status and Future Prospects nologies are available or could become available locally, the costs and benefits of using such technologies should be carefully analyzed. Also, the government should use financial, tax, regulatory, procurement, and other mechanisms to encourage greater interest by private-sector organizations in using products that are developed in Kazakhstan. Related to the foregoing challenges are the government’s goals that call for state-owned and private companies to dramatically increase their investments in R&D during the next few years. It seems likely that much of the increase in funding will be devoted to technology transfer from public-sector institutions to the companies and for adaptation of foreign technologies. To help stimulate technology transfer both to companies and directly to consumers, the government has initiated a broad-ranging program in support of entrepreneurs, including not only financial inducements in the form of venture capital and long-term loans but also techno-parks, incubators, economic free zones, improved patent legislation, and technology advisory services. This “technology push” approach is important, but it must be balanced with greater emphasis on the “market pull” approach. MAJOR COMMITTEE RECOMMENDATIONS This section summarizes the major recommendations of the committee that are set forth in earlier chapters. As the government considers these recommendations along with those of other international and Kazakhstani specialists, it should develop a road map that is regularly updated regarding implementation of the recommendations it intends to pursue. The well-developed strategies of many ministries also encompass S&T programs, and they too should contribute to developing the response to recommendations and the implementation of recommendations that are accepted. S&T Policy Issues Centralization of R&D funding. Before control of all R&D resources is transferred to the Ministry of Education and Science, careful analyses should be carried out of possible negative impacts on the capabilities of other ministries to draw on the technical expertise of the R&D institutes for which they are responsible. Applied technology centers. The government should reconsider its plan to establish 15 applied-technology centers at 15 universities of uneven quality in various regions of the country as components of the five national laboratories being planned. As an alternative, consideration should be given to concentrating available resources at three or four technology centers and then expanding the program to a larger number at a later date if the initial investments are successful

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Science and Technology in Kazakhstan: Current Status and Future Prospects in bridging the gap between research and commercial applications. Also, the location of the centers should be determined on the basis of an open competition that would not be limited to applications from only universities. If geographic distribution is important, a constraint on the competition could be a limit on the number of technology centers that could be located in any one city, such as Almaty. Resource assessment unit. The Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources should establish a strong resource assessment unit within its organizational structure that can help guide the assessment, development, and extraction of hydrocarbon and mineral resources. This unit should carry out surveys of hydrocarbon and mineral reserves, provide advice on negotiations with international companies, and monitor implementation of exploration and production agreements. Employment creation and displacement. The likely impacts of expanded availability of old and new technologies on employment creation and displacement should be carefully analyzed. This issue is particularly important in provincial areas that could benefit from new income-generating S&T complexes or that could receive economic setbacks if existing talent moves to other areas that are the beneficiaries of new industrial or agricultural activities. Local content. The government should encourage foreign companies to satisfy “local content” requirements for their investments by using products based on the results of local R&D activities and services. Human Resources Development Integration of research and education activities. The 25 research institutes that had formerly been components of the Kazakhstani National Academy of Sciences should gradually become affiliated with the universities during the next few years in a manner that avoids further disruption of important research programs. Postdoctoral grants. One or more new grant programs to support postdoctoral scientists at universities, research institutes, and other appropriate institutions should be established, with particular emphasis on encouraging scientists trained abroad to become researchers in Kazakhstan. Model medical complex. The Ministry of Health should establish a modern hospital as a component of one of the medical universities. The hospital should be located adjacent to the university. The complex should give new emphasis to basic research and should serve as a model to significantly improve opportunities for students, researchers, and practitioners to participate routinely in a broad range of education, medical, and health care activities. Doctor of science. Even after the nation makes the transition to the bachelor’s-master’s-Ph.D. degree model, the awarding of the degree of doctor of

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Science and Technology in Kazakhstan: Current Status and Future Prospects science should continue, and the degree should be widely recognized as a significant scientific achievement. Patent legislation. The government should promote programs to educate the S&T community on recently enacted patent legislation concerning government-funded research that provides the researchers’ institutions with ownership of the intellectual property. Management training. Kazakhstani research managers should visit Western laboratories and technology transfer offices that have been successful in transferring technology to industrial clients and that have emphasized the use of their technologies in the public sector. Activities The government should give special emphasis to several types of activities that cut across the entire range of S&T programs. They are: Universal broadband access to the Internet by members of the S&T community. Appropriate modern equipment throughout the nation’s research laboratories. Maintaining a high level of pedagogy in mathematics, physics, biology, chemistry, and the earth and atmospheric sciences while strengthening the associated research activities. Expanded economics training and research. Greater recognition of the importance of professional scientific societies, industrial associations, and academies of science and engineering. Strong support for standards and quality control. Encouragement of publication in English-language journals. New emphasis on ethics for S&T-related activities. S&T Priorities The committee identified the following areas as deserving priority for government support, including financial support for R&D activities and S&T services, with the recommendation that the priorities selected by the government be regularly reviewed and modified as appropriate, perhaps every three years: Nuclear science and technology: assessment of nuclear power facilities, radioecology, and mining of uranium. Biomedical science and technology: disease surveillance and prevention, cancer therapy, natural products chemistry, and orthopedic devices. Agricultural science and technology: cereal grain production, livestock productivity, and nutrition.

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Science and Technology in Kazakhstan: Current Status and Future Prospects Hydrocarbon resources: chemical engineering, catalysis, assessment of reserves, and environmental protection. Minerals: metallurgy, assessment of ore deposits, and environmental protection. Construction: seismic-resistant engineering and construction materials. Water science and technology: irrigation systems, monitoring and assessments of water quantity and quality, and protection and remediation of water quality. Regional Programs Hundreds of S&T-intensive programs are under way that involve Kazakhstani specialists and specialists from neighboring countries. Given this long tradition of regional cooperation, the committee recommends expanding efforts in the following areas: Management of water resources. Most of Kazakhstan’s surface water resources are international sources of water—flowing from or into another country or the Caspian Sea. Disease surveillance. Many human and animal diseases are endemic throughout Central Asia, and Kazakhstan is in a good position to assume regional leadership in this area. Medical education. Kazakhstan can offer high-quality medical education opportunities at several levels for students and practitioners from Central Asian countries. Educational complex at Astana. A strong regional presence at the planned advanced-technology university will help establish educational and professional ties that should be increasingly important as Kazakhstan seeks Central Asian export markets for its technology-intensive products in the years ahead. HUMAN RESOURCES AS THE KEY TO KAZAKHSTAN’S FUTURE The effectiveness of the education system, particularly the higher education institutions, will be a critical determinant of the future of Kazakhstan. The country is fortunate in having a highly literate population that appreciates the value of education and is eager to build on the country’s advanced-technology achievements in the nuclear and space fields. Sound policies are important. Appropriate mechanisms for integrating education, research, and commercial activities are needed. The growth in national income can provide much-needed resources. But only with competent and committed scientists, engineers, and health care professionals operating in organizations that can use the products of research and that can develop competitive products will Kazakhstan be able to reach the ambitious goals that have been set.

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Science and Technology in Kazakhstan: Current Status and Future Prospects Fortunately, in this regard, the government recognizes the importance of higher education, as exemplified by the Bolashak and related programs to support studies by talented Kazakhstani students and researchers abroad. This report is intended to assist the government in capitalizing on its commitment to education and science as it seeks to develop the nation’s S&T infrastructure, which is essential to improve the technological competitiveness of the country while also serving the day-to-day needs of the Kazakhstani population.

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