Turkish technology minister announces program to reverse brain drain

Turkey's Industry and Technology Minister Mustafa Varank on Wednesday announced a new incentives program aimed at bringing Turkish scientists who have left for abroad home, pro-government CNN Türk reported.

The program called ‘’International Leading Research Program,’’ is a joint project with the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBİTAK) featuring eight different incentive programs, including monthly bursary payments to researchers and institutions and will be launched on Dec. 15.

The announcement arrives as migration flows from Turkey continue to soar following a government crackdown on numerous groups, including academics, in the aftermath of the July 2016 coup attempt. 

Young researchers will be awarded 20,000 liras ($ 3600) a month while experienced researchers will be given 24,000 ($ 4700), Varank said, adding that host institutions will be given research grants up to 720,000 liras ($ 131,000), in addition to 3750 ($ 685) liras for administrative fees.

The Turkish minister stressed that officials have identified 29 critical products in 8 technology categories to be pursued as part of a digital transformation.

"We hope that through this program, the information we need to develop national and international technologies will be brought to our country, while our highly dynamic research and development will merge with international experience,’’ the minister noted.

The number of Turks with a university degree or higher who have moved abroad has increased threefold in the last 30 years due to concerns over the country’s ailing economy and government crackdown on dissent, particularly following the July 2016 coup attempt. 

In January 2016, 1128 Turkish academics signed a peace petition demanding a peaceful solution and criticised the Turkish security forces for a heavy-handed response that saw citizens confined under longstanding curfews and urban areas in predominantly Kurdish cities. Many of have been sentenced to jail or removed from their roles at universities.

According to the Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey, the brain drain could cost the economy some $230 billion.