Cablegate: Science Envoy Finds Strong Programs, Opportunities In


DE RUEHAK #0175/01 0341232
P 031232Z FEB 10



STATE FOR OES/STC: William Lawrence
STATE please pass to OSTP: Jason Rao

E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Science Envoy Finds Strong Programs, Opportunities in

REFERENCE: Ankara 22

1. (U) SUMMARY: On a January 13-15 visit to Ankara and Istanbul,
Science Envoy Dr. Ahmed Zewail met with academics, government
officials, and PM Erdogan. He was impressed by the GOT's strong
commitment to S&T development and the programs being implemented in
academia and the private sector, all of which made clear Turkey's
potential role as both a partner to the U.S. and a regional leader
in supporting other countries in developing their S&T sectors.
Several interlocutors noted the U.S. presence in S&T in Turkey has
declined as that of the EU has grown, and all--including
Erdogan--said they would welcome increased U.S.-Turkey
collaboration. The meeting with Erdogan will be reported septel.
End summary.

2. (U) U.S. Science Envoy Dr. Ahmend Zewail, Senior Policy Advisor
Dr. Jason Rao of the White House Office of Science and Technology
Policy, ESTH Hub Officer Manu Bhalla, and mission staff met with
representatives of government and academia in Ankara and Istanbul
January 13-15 to identify possible areas for strengthened
U.S.-Turkey collaboration in science and technology. The delegation
was received warmly to quite enthusiastically by the various


3. (U) The delegation visited Middle East Technical University
(METU) and Bilkent University in Ankara. METU, a public university
with more than 20,000 students (6,500 grad students) enrolled in 13
departments, is proud of its science faculty. Faculty are provided
extensive funding and time for research while supporting their
teaching responsibilities. An impressive science park on the campus
houses 240 companies -- some started through the university and some
that chose the venue for the R&D tax incentives provided.

4. (SBU) METU was established based on a U.S. university credit and
program structure and maintains ties with several U.S. schools.
METU staff told the delegation, however, that interest in student
exchanges with European countries is growing while interest in U.S.
exchanges is falling, largely due to the significantly better
funding offered to foreign students by European universities and
through EU programs. Commenting on this shift, one METU official
remarked, "Before, the EU was just a connecting flight." METU
President Dr. Ahmet Acar said METU receives very little research
funding from U.S. sources--nothing in comparison with funds from the
EU. Acar commended the GOT's commitment to S&T and to increasing
access to education throughout the country. He worried, however,
that the government might spread its efforts too thin and
recommended even further funding increases and a strategy more
focused on "networks of excellence." In the region, Acar ranked
Turkey second only to Israel in S&T and saw great potential for
deepened U.S.-Turkey collaboration. He suggested one avenue could
be establishing networks of universities and/or technology parks
generally to promote the exchange of best practices and to engage in
increased advocacy, joint marketing, and joint projects.

5. (U) At Bilkent University, Turkey's first private university,
Zewail met with 14 professors with U.S. PhDs and discussed their key
areas of research, ranging from lasers to bio-genetics. According
to Provost Abdullah Atalar, Bilkent's endowment is over USD 2
billion, including 40 private companies that the university owns.
Funds from these operations allow Bilkent to "reverse the brain
drain" by hiring top professors, both foreign and Turkish.

6. (SBU)Zewail also discussed the need for a change in Turkish law
to enable universities to work with professors to commercialize the
product of research. The Bilkent professors noted that under
current Turkish law, universities are barred from any ownership in
the intellectual property resulting from the work of their
professors. Bilkent's attorneys have advised that this law also
bars the university from buying out a professor's interest or going
into a joint venture with a professor. While this appears positive
for Turkish professors, in fact, given the almost total lack of
venture capital or scientific understanding in the financial
community, it results in most Turkish research products being sold
at low prices to foreign companies to develop.


7. (U) The Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey
(TUBITAK) administers most of the GOT's R&D funding. It is an
independent body under the Prime Ministry and State Minister for
Science, Technology and Information Mehmet Aydin. TUBITAK also
serves as the secretariat of the GOT's advisory Supreme Council for
Science and Technology Policy. TUBITAK President Nuket Yetis,
representatives of the Supreme Council, and members of the TUBITAK

staff met with the delegation on January 14.

8. (U) In an overview presentation, TUBITAK Vice President Omer
Anlagan said the GOT has set a target of raising R&D funding levels
to 2 percent of GDP by 2013 and has made remarkable progress in
increasing its funding to the current allocation of 0.7 percent of
GDP, with almost USD 500 million in research funding available
through competitive grants. Turkey currently ranks 17th in R&D
budget allocations as a percentage of GDP, and 18th globally in
number of scientific publications. Spurred by increased GOT
funding, R&D expenditures in Turkey rose fourfold from 2002 to 2008.
Anlagan noted that although government funding of academia had not
decreased, R&D expenditures by the private sector surpassed those of
academia in 2008. As a result of private sector R&D, Turkish
companies lay claim to the world's fastest washing machine and
Europe's most energy efficient refrigerator. Anlagan summarized
the various funding and incentives offered by the GOT for R&D,
explaining that generally, the nationality of the researcher does
not matter if the work is being done in Turkey. He said if a
company uses all the available incentives, it is cheaper to employ
R&D staff in Turkey than in India. He also highlighted the "Young
PhD" career program, through which the GOT provides USD 500 million
per year to support academics who have received their PhD within the
last five years. When Zewail asked why the government provides more
funding for industry research than basic research, Yetis cited a
need to stimulate private sector demand for R&D, which in turn
should stimulate demand for basic research. She added that without
tangible results, it is hard to convince politicians to increase

9. (U) Yetis commented that she hopes we will soon have a
U.S.-Turkey S&T Agreement, but simply to have one means nothing.
She stressed the need for an action plan, with specific mechanisms
and unique and meaningful programs to strengthen our S&T
relationship. Dr. Zewail responded that his vision for any
collaboration that grows from this initiative is that it be
sustained, be in an area of importance to both the U.S. and Turkey,
and yield tangible outcomes that enhance development, preferably,
with regional benefits as well. He suggested forming a center of
excellence as one possibility, noting he defines "center" more
broadly than just a building and considers the people involved to be
the key factor. Yetis recommended identifying up front the desired
end products for any collaboration.


10. (U) Minister of Industry and Commerce Nihat Ergun welcomed the
delegation and the CDA to his office, saying he hoped this U.S.
initiative would succeed and he would be happy to help with the
undertaking. He outlined the GOT programs that have significantly
strengthened R&D in recent years, noting that 37 technoparks have
been established in the last 7 years and 60 new public universities
have been opened, such that each of Turkey's 81 provinces now has at
least one university. Asked to identify Turkey's particular areas
of strength in S&T, Ergun observed that Turkey has a very young
population with lots of good ideas. He said the top sector for them
is informatics, and they are very successful at software
development. Other areas where they excel are those especially open
to new technologies, including space research, defense, medical
research and nanotechnology.

11. (U) In separate meetings, Minister of State for Science and
Technology Mehmet Aydin and Justice and Development Party (AKP) R&D
Representative Reha Denemec both highlighted for the delegation the
AKP's strong push for science and technology over past eight years
and affirmed that it will continue. Denemec particularly noted the
wiring of all schools for internet and expansion of internet-based
learning and software. Both Aydin and Denemec also welcomed the
idea of broader engagement between the U.S. and Turkey on science
and technology. Aydin commented that President Obama's speeches in
Ankara and Cairo were "very enlightening." Denemec identified
aviation, avionics, space and defense as areas of strength in R&D.

12. (U) Manu Bhalla and Jason Rao cleared this cable.


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