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Kazakhstan focuses on growth sectors
MINT and NATD have released their 2013 plan for development in hopes of invigorating the economy through science and technology.
By Alexandra Babkina
ALMATY – After a two-year foresight evaluation of Kazakhstan's use of science and technologies in industry, the Ministry of Industry and New Technologies (MINT), together with the National Agency for Technological Development (NATD), has announced a development plan in hopes of updating industry methods, increasing production and boosting the overall economy.
Foresight is a form of policy planning that Kazakhstan is embracing in an effort to shape its economy.
"Foresight, as a way of predicting ... technology, is a completely new tool for Kazakhstan," Bektas Mukazhanov, director of the NATD Centre for Investment Projects, told Central Asia Online. Other Asian and European countries have been practicing the strategy for years, he said.
The Korea Institute of Science and Technology Evaluation and Planning helped the NATD determine the direction of the country's development, he said.
"With the aid of expert evaluations, we have outlined in detail the development of the country in regard to science and technology," Mukazhanov explained. Now Kazakhstan can use that outline to implement its first national foresight study.
MINT and NATD have identified sectors that are ripe for development, said Djumatai Salimov, director of the NATD Centre of Analytical and Methodological Support. The sectors include oil and gas, atomic energy, the agro-industrial complex, the mining and metallurgical industry, chemistry, information technology, alternative power sources, light industry and machine building.
Now that Kazakhstan has a roadmap for development, the next step is to introduce "initiatives in modernising the infrastructure, training personnel and carrying out research" needed to improve those areas, Salimov explained.
"We hope that these scientific and technological ideas will not remain only on paper but will be brought to fruition," he said. "If the plan is strictly fulfilled, we shall be able to introduce our own breakthrough technology and projects."
Technology grants to 'incubators'
Kazakhstan is aware that targeted growth and technology development require capital.
"More funding will be available for innovations," MINT Executive Secretary Beybut Atamkulov told Central Asia Online.
Innovation grants doubled in 2011 with 129 projects totalling 7.1 billion KZT (US $47.1m), compared to 2010's 37 projects totalling 1.7 billion KZT (US $11.2m), MINT said. However, in 2012, only 3.5 billion KZT (US $23.2m) was allocated.
But with the start-up of the technology programmes, financing in this field will grow, Atamkulov said, though officials haven't revealed actual budget sums.
Nesipbala Yermekova, director of the NATD Centre of Economic Studies, backed up that assessment.
"Beginning from 2013, we have expanded the number of directions for which grants are available in those industries being 'incubated' to nine, including industrial research, the acquisition of technology and the integration of management and production technologies," Yermekova said.
Apart from paying more attention to financing, the foresight programme will also involve more active service support for enterprises, namely, the development of industrial design bureaus and the incubation of industrial parks, she added.
Better prediction will overcome stagnation, officials hope. Kazakhstan's approach to developing technologies is an "effective method of combining the efforts of scholars, business owners and regional administrations," according to Asan Djumabekov, director of the Department of Analysis and Forecasting of the National Centre of Scientific and Technical Information. who noted that it also comes at an optimal time for the country.
The programmes developed within this framework can raise the previously low rate of technology adoption seen in Kazakhstan, he said.
That feeble rate "resulted from weak investment activity and from business's exclusive interest in quick high profits reaped from natural resources," Djumabekov said, explaining that no re-investment of profit into the economy's production process took place.
Foresight points to the key conditions for ensuring sustainable economic production, innovation and long-term prospects, he said, calling it "just what Kazakhstan has lacked."