NRA sets ball rolling for transition to knowledge based economy


Source : Prakash Jha / Khmer Times


These ambitious Vision 2030 and 2050 mean that the country has to embolden its structural transformation, specifically the transition from low productivity and labour-intensive economic activities to higher productivity and skill-intensive activities, says Prime Minister Hun Sen.

As Cambodia aims to become an upper-middle-income economy by 2030 and a high-income economy by 2050, it needs to focus on encouraging research and development (R&D) and become a knowledge-driven economy.

To make the transition, the government has formulated a National Research Agenda (NRA) 2025.

The agenda, prepared by the Ministry of Industry, Science, Technology and Innovation (MISTI) and endorsed by the National Council of Science, Technology and Innovation, sets the guideline for the country to take the leap forward and achieve the next level of growth.

“These ambitious Vision 2030 and 2050 mean that the country has to embolden its structural transformation, specifically the transition from low productivity and labour-intensive economic activities to higher productivity and skill-intensive activities which are the core characteristics of a knowledge-based society. Such a society rests upon research and development (R&D) to build human capital, identify societal problems and tackle them, and develop innovative methods and products, among many others all leading to robust, inclusive, and sustainable socio-economic development,” said Prime Minister Hun Sen in the Forward of the National Research Agenda 2025.

The aspiration to become a high-income economy by 2050 demands an unyielding commitment to nurture the country’s research potential and direct it towards the achievement of national development goals, says the NRA document released recently.

One of the essential tools to enforce the implementation of Cambodia’s Science, Technology & Innovation Roadmap 2030, which was launched in 2021, the NRA is set to serve as the national strategic document and guide the efforts of line ministries and other key stakeholders toward creating a research ecosystem suitable for the ambitions of Cambodia’s Vision 2030 and 2050.

The NRA, prepared with active support from the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), encapsulates and operationalizes such commitment, enshrining the needs and hopes of Cambodian researchers at its core. It provides strategic mechanisms to empower current and upcoming researchers to explore solutions for pressing societal challenges and national ambitions.

The NRA defines the priority themes to be explored by Cambodian researchers and the necessary policy instruments to support them in the next decade.

As promoting research is a long-term strategic investment in the future of any country, the eight research missions and supporting policy instruments described in the NRA provide the focus necessary to direct investments toward such long-term strategic research interests.

The eight research missions, identified by the NRA, that will be at the centre of research investments and activities are the domestic production of 70 percent of food consumed by Cambodians, the generation of more power to meet 90 percent of the local energy demand and ensure reliable energy supply, upgrade the education system to meet the international quality standard, export of 70 percent of the electronic and mechanical spare parts produced in the country, make cloud-based services in the country on par with the Association of Southeast Nations (ASEAN) member states, make available reliable electricity and safe potable water to all Cambodians, become a carbon neutral country, and to ensure that all Cambodians have access to digitally-enhanced health services.

These missions were co-created through a multi-stakeholder process and focused on research activities and resources for the achievement of national developmental goals, including those stated in the Rectangular Strategy Phase IV, the National Strategic Development Plan (NSDP) 2019-23, and the Cambodia Sustainable Development Goals (CSDG) Framework for 2016- 30, according to the document.

The development of national research capabilities can benefit virtually all sectors of the Cambodian economy and society. This requires a self-reliant national research ecosystem, with solid institutional support and that encourages dynamic collaborations between the public and the private sectors, universities and research institutes, civil society and development partners.

At present, says the research agenda document, the country’s research system is facing five major challenges, which are an inadequate investment in research and development (R&D), a weak research infrastructure, limited academia-industry linkages, insubstantial research capacity in the public and the private sectors, and deficient alignment between research activities and national challenges, the private sector activities and policymaking needs.

In an attempt to resolve these challenges and achieve the eight research missions, the National Research Agenda 2025 has mooted four complementary ways.

The first is to invest in research to support the eight research missions. This will include establishing a national research foundation and a national research fund to support investments in research and guide such investments toward the eight research missions.

The second is to strengthen the role and capacities of public research institutions through the establishment of a national research system, national research fund, centres of excellence in research, and a national research publication platform.

The third is to support research as a career. It will require recognising the research profession, introducing a research career framework and establishing an attractive system of incentives for researchers to support research careers in the public and private sectors.

The fourth requirement, the document says, is to incentivize research activities and collaboration. This will require enhancing coordination among research-promoting institutions, setting up an adequate research management system, incentivizing industry-academia-government and international collaborative research, building the absorptive capacity of firms and their ability to conduct R&D and innovation activities, establishing key infrastructure to support technology transfer and adoption, exploring means to incentivize R&D investments through tax incentives, and supporting greater enforcement of intellectual property rights.

“Promoting research is a long-term strategic investment in the future of the country and requires the participation of a wide range of national stakeholders, including line ministries, public research institutions, universities, the private sector, and international development partners, in the design, financing, and implementation of the envisaged instruments,” reads the document.

To ensure that the National Research Agenda delivers its promise, a monitoring and evaluation system will be established by the MISTI to monitor and evaluate the implementation of the NRA, and NRF will review and assess the impact of the measures implemented. This will enable the identification of shortcomings, the introduction of actions to address these, and the fine-tuning of the NRA as needed, according to the document.