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R&D And Innovation In Turkey – OpEd


If we translate all documents of the American NASA Space Agency into Turkish, then we bring all the space equipment to the vast Konya Plain, how long does it take to go to the Moon? Never? No.

What do we need more to accomplish that mission?

Do we have Research & Development (R&D) and Innovation works? How effective? Yes, we have R&D centers in some commercial private companies, in public institutions, and we have university techno centers. As of March 2018, we have 74 Techno-parks. These technoparks are obligatory to work at universities. Therefore they are established at university campuses. Researchers, academicians, students of the universities work there. They use university computer backbone. Most of companies come here to find educated qualified trained staff, to keep them at reasonable prices, to benefit from tax exemptions. Rents are at 10-25 USD per m2 per month.

In the last survey carried out in Ankara METU University Techno park, the advantage of being in Techno park is revealed that it is reversed. Corporations-institutions now come and stay in the Techno park “in order to be able to access and retain qualified human resources”. Advantages of tax exemptions, fall into the second priority. There are scarce number qualified specialists in some areas. Those who go abroad for better financial returns. We can not keep them within the domestic company-organization with existing work conditions.

Moreover nowadays, the work that only one person can do is limited, everything has to be done by an expert team work.

Everybody wants incentives while doing R&D works. However incentives are misguided or misused practice in everywhere. Persons who need to receive incentives can not get proper incentives at the right time. Those close to political will receive incentives. The most of the time incentives are given for wrong projects. Incentives are always abused all over the world.

In our techno parks, 60-70% of works is on new software creation. Because you do not need anything other than a simple desktop PC computer and a person who knows computer technology. You do not need large laboratories or large manufacturing test shops for research. Everything starts from scratch around here. However, you should keep in mind that the innovations are built on the old working software.

The academicians and researchers who are working in techno-centers are in need of key softwares. They do not have to invent an iPhone or an intel chip so-called to rediscover America. You buy iPhone and look at your business. In our environment every researcher is rediscovering America. Moreover, there are local customs duties on foreign software purchases starting from 21%. There are a lot of procedures, approvals, red-tape.

Your writer works to advise on thermal power plant design software. By asking foreign consultant friends, we learn that there are no customs duties in Germany, in Italy, in most European countries for the purchase of design software. Not only for the techno parks, but also no customs tax is imposed for the normal commercial institutions. What happens if we do not take customs tax then? We suppose that we will see it as an opportunity to misuse and abuse the customs tax exemption incentive.

Students of Istanbul KadirHas University have a study for the project of thermal coal power plant design for domestic coal. Your writer commented that “Turkish coal will not work with CFB (circulating fluidized bed) technology”. Because there is very large water content in the Turkish coal. This water is ice in winter and you are dealing with mud in the summer. Our coal is best to burn with “Pulverized coal burning technology with pre-drying upfront” which has proved its design by working continuously in our home plants for 30-40 years.

What equipment does the thermal power plant with this technology have? We do not choose these according to our expertise. The required equipment list is listed in American ASME and German norms. You need to pay to get the last valid standard or to access the website. There is 21% custom duty requirement to buy them.

Then you do not do the design – you can not, and let the strangers do on your behalf, they use the same software. You are dependent on them. You can not buy software that will make your own suitable design. You are always at the bottom step of ladder of your job. Everyone in our research centers are rediscovering the American in every investigation. While others are building colonies in America, we can not pass the first phase of business. We’re wasting our time and resources. Our industry lives in a large-scale copying procedure. Only a few large local automotive companies have the ability to do R&D. The industry wants ready-made projects and ready-made orders, and if they do not receive, they are not interested in R&D studies.

In developed countries, R&D spending has reached to 4% of GDP (Gross Domestic Product), whereas Turkey has only reached to 1% in recent years. Most of the local R&D expenditures go to meaningless projects, non-commercial jobs, duplicate work. We definitely need a serious renewal of R&D works and innovations.

If we put all NASA all the facilities, documents, equipment in Turkey say in vast Konya plains, the travel to Moon can only be possible with “Team of expert research staff working harmoniously”.

Do we have enough number of competent expert staff who are harmoniously working with each other? This is the second important question that needs to be answered in order to go to the Moon.

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Haluk Direskeneli

Haluk Direskeneli, is a graduate of METU Mechanical Engineering department (1973). He worked in public, private enterprises, USA Turkish JV companies (B&W, CSWI, AEP, Entergy), in fabrication, basic and detail design, marketing, sales and project management of thermal power plants. He is currently working as freelance consultant/ energy analyst with thermal power plants basic/ detail design software expertise for private engineering companies, investors, universities and research institutions. He is a member of Chamber of Turkish Mechanical Engineers Energy Working Group.

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