Innovation – or the systematic experimentation with new ideas – is essential for the sustained economic growth and enhanced competitiveness of the seven countries of the United Nations Special Programme for the Economies of Central Asia (SPECA), i.e., Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, to achieve sustainable development in line with the UN 2030 Agenda.
In recent decades, the SPECA countries have increasingly prioritised innovation to drive their transition to a knowledge-based economy and as a tool to meet national economic and societal challenges, including poverty alleviation and access to basic infrastructure and services, as well as the transition to circular economy principles. There is also a growing awareness of the need to tackle the triple planetary crisis in order to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Policymakers of the SPECA countries have worked to develop and strengthen their respective national innovation ecosystems, reforming policies, institutions and processes in the areas of research, education and entrepreneurship while more generally strengthening public sector governance and the framework conditions within which innovation takes place.
New innovation policy for transition economies refers to a set of policies and strategies aimed at promoting innovation and technological advancement in countries with economies in transition. These transition economies typically face a number of challenges, including outdated technologies, limited access to finance, and weak institutional capacity, which can make it difficult for them to compete in global markets.
Scant resources available for “pure” innovation policy means that policymakers need to leverage complementary policies in other domains, including through effective public-private dialogue and horizontal coordination across policy areas based on a broad view of what innovation entails. Policy approaches include, but are not limited to:
- Encouraging private sector investment in research and development (R&D) through tax incentives and other financial incentives.
- Building innovation networks and clusters to facilitate collaboration between businesses, universities, and research institutions.
- Strengthening technology transfer mechanisms to encourage innovation and investment.
- Supporting entrepreneurship and a start-up culture by providing training, mentorship, and access to funding.
- Investing in soft infrastructure, education and workforce development to ensure that workers have the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in the global economy.
This Handbook aims to support policymakers in the SPECA countries to get the right policy mix as they move towards a new innovation policy approach to drive economic transition. The Handbook draws upon evidence of existing best practices in the SPECA countries, and highlights areas requiring further policy attention.
The Handbook forms part of the support of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) to the SPECA countries to improve their innovation policies and achieve sustainable development in the framework of the United Nations Development Account project “Strengthening innovation policies for SPECA countries in support of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”, carried out jointly with the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).