Smart Specialisation in Türkiye 

Europe-Türkiye relations date back to the application of Türkiye to the European Economic Community in 1959. First agreement was signed in Ankara in 1963 and EU-Türkiye relations were built up on the legal basis. Close communication and interactions have continued in following years with several agreements; namely, joined the Custom Union (1996), acceptance of application to EU membership (1999), issuing the accession partnership document (2001), national programme and harmonization package (2003-2008) and finally EU negotiations started (2005).

Starting from FP6 programming period, Türkiye is an associated country to Framework Programmes including H2020, which means that legal entities of Türkiye can participate in H2020 under the same conditions of the entities of EU MSs. Also, Türkiye will participate in Horizon Europe programme starting from 2021.

Türkiye was associated to the FP7 and its entities obtained about €208.9m during the programming period of 2007-13. Compared to the 6th framework programme, this corresponds to 2.5 times increase. For Horizon 2020, Türkiye contributes to the programme with €83.7m (aligned with €23.4m EU grants). By the end of 2015, 197 projects were funded and Türkiye partners received €71,3m (RIO, 2016). Additionally, EU allocated €4454m to Türkiye from 2014 to 2020 under the IPA II financial assistance.

There is a formal collaboration between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Scientific and Technological Research Council of Türkiye and JRC since 2011. In addition, several organisations undertake joint activities with JRC, namely, the Türkiye Atomic Energy Authority, Mediterranean Coastal Foundation, Türkiye State Railways, as well as universities and business enterprises.

The R&I activities in Türkiye are under the responsibility of the central government. The government established 26 regional development agencies at NUTS II level in 2002 and assigned them as responsible agencies to design and implement regional R&I programmes. In the ongoing process, the agencies take initiatives to develop and implement regional innovation strategies including S3 and prioritisation activities. Therefore, 12 agencies/regions have already developed their regional innovation strategies. Moreover, the cooperation with the Smart Specialisation Platform (S3P) of JRC Seville was built up and four regions registered in the Platform.

Institutional Capacity Building

The Supreme Council of Science and Technology (BTYK) is the highest level science and R&I policy making body in Türkiye at the political level. The BTYK meetings take place twice a year. Most decisions target to strengthen the R&I capacity for several years consecutively. The conclusion documents particularly focus on the qualification of human capital especially in the fields of health, energy, ICT, e-government and manufacturing, as well as public-private-partnership. Consequently, there are several calls launched by the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Türkiye  (TUBITAK) centred on the R&I capacity building activities, at both institutional and human resources levels.

In 2011 Türkiye launched a central document, the National Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy, identifying the national R&I strategy with emphasis on developing innovative technologies and enhancing R&I capacity. Following the national strategy, various strategic documents have been prepared in different thematic R&I fields (e.g. energy, water and food). All these strategies include the capacity building activities. In addition, TUBITAK launched two support programmes in 2013 entitled the "Support Program aimed at developing the Research Potential of Universities" in order to promote universities for high quality research projects and the "Capacity Building for Innovation and Entrepreneurship Grant Programme" to enhance the national innovation ecosystem with strengthened public organisations. Following these institutional capacity building programmes, in 2015, the "Support Programme for Increasing the Capacity to use International Research Funds and to Join International R&D Cooperation" was launched. The purpose of this programme is to increase the capacity of researchers in Türkiye on their applications to international support programmes and to boost the admission performance of national researchers on international bilateral and multilateral R&D opportunities. Moreover, several support programs aim also to contribute to capacity building in business firms, especially SMEs and improve the access of start-ups to finance. However, better involvement of business into the R&I activities has still remained as one of the major challenges (RIO, 2016).

Diagnosis – Quantitative and Qualitative Mapping Exercise

Türkiye has reached a comprehensive and systematic innovation strategy polices and documents and also has put specific efforts to map and monitor these policies and their results. However, "these activities are preceded by any ex-ante policy appraisal. Moreover, the strategies include the elements of smart specialisation at some extent though not completely" (RIO, 2016).

Following the National Science, Technology, and Innovation Strategy 2011-2016, Türkiye has applied a systemic monitoring in the areas of social science and humanities, including the mapping of prioritisations in the areas of Education, Economic Development, Urbanisation, Family Issues, Culture and History. The results, however, have not been published yet (RIO, 2016).

Prioritisation and Stakeholder Dialogue

There is no formal EDP process in Türkiye; however, it is given that the STI policy making has been taken place in a participatory way with a broad-based participation of high-level institutions, which is entitled "Supreme Council of Science and Technology" (BTYK). BTYK draws a framework for all science and R&I policy making with participation of governmental bodies, HEIs, PROs and business.
At the regional level, the development agencies are obliged to organise participatory meetings; however, there is no specific content identified for these exercises. Starting from the S3P registered regions, some regions organise events aiming at the involvement of key actors in the RIS3 design and implementation. The systematic approach for the stakeholder involvement has still missed in Türkiye.

Institutional Capacity for the S3 Implementation

The regions that registered in the S3P have also capacity for the S3 implementation. In addition, the central government and related ministries support these regions for the implementation process. Furthermore, these regions have received continuous support from the S3P in terms of guidelines and technical assistance, as well as participating in the Platform events and trainings.

Status on Drafting and Consultation of the RIS3, and Implementation Process

There is an ongoing cooperation between Türkiye and the Smart Specialisation Platform (S3P) of JRC Seville/Spain as S3P supports the alignment and integration of R&I priorities of the Enlargement and Neighbourhood (E&N) countries with the S3 principles and more coordinated and structured cooperation with EU MSs and regions. Four regions (of 26) registered the S3P via responsible regional development agencies; namely, Izmir Region (IZKA), Kocaeli region (MARKA), Konya region (MEVLANA) and Manisa region (ZAFER). Izmir and Kocaeli regions significantly contribute to the national economy with 4.28m and 3.5m populations and 6.23% and 5.9% of national GDP, respectively. Meanwhile, Konya and Manisa regions achieve 2.4M population with 2.4% of GDP and 3M population with 3.2% of GDP respectively.

In terms of the state of play for S3 activities, Izmir, Kocaeli and Konya regions have already completed their regional-level analyses and identified a limited number of research and innovation priorities activities while other regions have been invited to complete this activity by the related ministries. Accordingly, innovation strategies in the fields of S&T, energy, water and food were put into the action; furthermore, these strategies include the elements of S3 methodology (RIO, 2016).

Remaining Challenges

Türkiye has demonstrated its willingness to apply S3 at national and regional levels via related national authorities. However, there is a need to enhance stakeholder engagement and carry out the implementation into the coherent and structured methodology.

Despite ongoing monitoring activities, the first and the most urgent step in relation to smart specialisation is still mapping exercises, impact assessment and evaluation studies for the existing mechanisms.

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