Azerbaijan’s economy grew by 24% on average between 2000 and 2007, with gross national income progressing by 31% over the same period to 6570 dollars per capita in purchasing power parity, according to the UNESCO Science Report 2010. High-tech exports declined over the same period, however, from 5.37% to just 3.94% of manufactured exports. Internet access also remains low, even if it progressed rapidly between 2000 and 2007 from 0.15% to 10.83% of the population.
Research and development (R&D) have been a comparatively low priority for Azerbaijan in recent years, even falling from 0.34% of GDP in 2000 to just 0.17% in 2007. About one-fifth of R&D is performed by the private sector. However, the country has a fairly strong scientific base on which to build: 1339 of every million inhabitants are researchers, a higher proportion than the world average of 1081. Moreover, just under half (45%) of researchers are women. In terms of scientific publications refereed in international journals, Azerbaijan has also increased its visibility in the Science Citation Index from 160 papers in 2000 to 292 in 2008.
In talks between UNESCO’s Director-General and President Aliyev in Baku on 19 March 2009, the Director-General pledged UNESCO’s assistance in reviewing Azerbaijan’s science and technology strategy. Up until then, co-operation between the Republic of Azerbaijan and UNESCO had been largely confined to the fields of culture and education.
UNESCO’s Division for Science Policy and Sustainable Development subsequently sent a fact-finding mission to Baku in July 2009, in which UNESCO consultants Eduardo Martinez, Vefa Moustafaev and Peter Tindemans visited key institutions and met with the country’s main stakeholders to review Azerbaijan’s strategies and policies for science, technology and innovation (STI). This resulted in the preparation of a report by the UNESCO team entitled Formulation of an STI Strategy and STI Institutional Capacity Building in Azerbaijan.
Eduardo Martinez and Vefa Moustafaev subsequently prepared a project document which was approved by UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences, Gretchen Kalonji, and M. Kerimov, President of the Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences, for Japanese Funds-in-Trust of US$100,000 on 24 November 2010. This heralded the start of an eleven-month project to develop an Azerbaijan Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy and Policy, with another mission to Azerbaijan by Messers Martinez and Moustafaev on 30 January – 8 February 2011.
The main goal of the project is to assist the Government of Azerbaijan and the Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences (ANAS) to design a ‘road map’ for the formulation a new Azerbaijan Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy and Policy, with a focus on capacity-building over the period 2011–2015.
This has entailed studying:
- the role of research institutes that come under the umbrella of the National Academy of Sciences, as well as university research, research institutes within government ministries, institutes for applied research;
- funding mechanisms and instruments for scientific research, technological development and innovation;
- the organizational set-up for funding, such as the funding agency for academic research and a second agency focusing on innovation);
- demand articulation and priority-setting both by the public and private sectors (in environment, health, energy, transport, etc.);
- international co-operation, be it regional, European or global.
The six main components of the future Azerbaijan Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy and Policy, as described in the project document, are:
- Priority-setting for R&D
- Reform of Azerbaijan R&D and innovation system
- Strengthening the Science Development Foundation
- Developing an information and communication technology park
- STI statistics and indicators
- Popularizing science and technology
For details, contact Vefa Moustafaev