A two-year study between Cambodia and the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has come up with a set of recommendations in a report that marks an important step for science, technology and innovation (STI).
Using UNESCO’s Global Observatory of Science, Technology and Innovation Policy Instruments (GO-SPIN) methodology, the report, ‘Mapping Research and Innovation in the Kingdom of Cambodia’ assesses the crucial time the study was conducted.
According to UNESCO, the study comes at a time when Cambodia is aspiring to become an upper middle-income country by 2030 and a high-income nation by 2050. Quoting World Bank data, foreign direct investment accounted for 12.9 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2021, which was one of the “highest ratios among the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations”.
“Cambodia plans to harness science, technology and innovation to achieve its ambition of becoming a high-income nation by 2050. The aim is to use science and engineering to affect a rapid shift from traditional to more inclusive and sustainable growth.
“To this end, the country created the Ministry of Industry, Science, Technology and Innovation [MISTI) and the National Council of Science, Technology and Innovation in 2020. The same year, it adopted a National Science, Technology and Innovation Policy and accompanying roadmap to guide implementation of the policy until 2030,” it said.
The development of Mapping Research and Innovation in the Kingdom of Cambodia was supported by the formation of a National GO-SPIN Steering Committee, and an inclusive approach, which saw contributions from various ministries through surveys, interviews, and consultations.
The report suggests key steps to reinforce science governance, empower existing institutions and enhance related coordination and funding mechanisms.
Thanking UNESCO, Kitti Settha Pandita Cham Prasidh, Minister of MISTI, said the collaboration, which saw the production of the country's profile, served as a platform to develop adaptive and responsive science, technology and innovation policies in Cambodia’s context.
He urged all ministries, academia, private sectors, development partners, and relevant stakeholders to make the best use of the GO-SPIN country profile for Cambodia to materialise science, technology and innovation to further enhance socio-economic development and reach our vision for 2030 and 2050’.
UNESCO Deputy Director-General and interim Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences Xing Qu expressed confidence that the report would be beneficial for monitoring and benchmarking Cambodia’s progress in the future.
“At a time when the world is not on track to reach its sustainable development goals, we need science, technology and innovation more than ever to get us back on track,” Xing Qu said.
Some key suggestions
The report suggested more regular data collection on research expenditure and personnel to gauge and understand the amount spent in this discipline.
“For instance, the most recent statistics for gross domestic research expenditure date from 2015 when Cambodia was devoting just 0.12 percent of GDP to research and expenditure. The same year, there were 30 researchers per million inhabitants, well below the global average of 1 368 per million (2018),” the report said.
Ways to remove the remaining barriers to gender equality in science and engineering were also recommended in the report.
According to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, women made up 24 percent of researchers in 2015, up from 20 percent in 2011, demonstrating notable progress, it said.
Moreover, the outlook for the future is promising, since 43 percent of tertiary graduates were women in 2015, up from 38 percent seven years earlier.
“At this stage, it will be indispensable for Cambodia to rigorously implement and carefully coordinate policies with the active involvement of all stakeholders, including government institutions, academia, the private sector and international development partners.
“For instance, technology transfer centres would be an important mechanism to empower innovation in the private sector,” it observed.
The report also noted that science governance needs to be strengthened, suggesting that the National Council of Science, Technology and Innovation be made an oversight body for the formulation and implementation of policies.
It can also establish multi stakeholder dialogues, design a coherent policy mix and for integrating science, technology and innovation into other policy areas.
The report recommended that MISTI coordinate the implementation of the new policy and its roadmap.
The development of policy instruments, such as the establishment of innovation funds for high-impact projects, research grants, and a supportive intellectual policy framework should be developed.
“Such instruments would drive innovation and the transformation of research results into socio-economic value,” it said.