The following interview with the Head of Innovation and Technology Center at IT Park, D.Batkhuyag, covers innovation opportunities in Mongolia.
Many experts mentioned that there are many innovation opportunities in Mongolia during the Mongolia Economic Forum. Does Mongolia really have these opportunities?
Absolutely. The Mongolia Economic Forum covered various business opportunities that are innovative and beneficial. I don’t know if it’s because there were many urgent issues that needed solutions in the 1990s, but in any case, the Mongolian public wasn’t able to innovate by combining traditional and modern things together. This was a big lesson for us, so now we can learn from our mistakes and succeed.
The whole world is innovating new intellectual and technological resources. It’s been 10 years since the Mongolian state initiated the policy to create new intellectual resources and promote innovations for services and production. The science and technology sector is working hard in hopes to introduce their new creative ideas into the market.
The support from the government and aspirations of scientists and academics are a huge opportunity. Businessmen should snatch this opportunity and put it to better use. They should first put these wasted opportunities into work.
Can you clarify on these wasted opportunities?
Mongolian businessmen know very well that new technological achievements, in other words intellectual property and innovation, are an important resource for improving a company’s competitiveness. Simply put, intellectual property is a crucial resource and asset of a company. Let me give you an example.
Mineral deposit amount might be an important resource of a coal mining company, but innovation, particularly intellectual property, is one of the most important resources for a technology company. As innovation is closely linked to intellectual property, new opportunities will open for Mongolian businessmen if they register and certify their intellectual property. Mongolians have been neglecting or even discarding their intellectual properties lately. I’m sure that intellectual properties can be used as an innovation in various ways if registered, organized and launched into the market.
Over 18,000 intellectual properties potentially good for services and production were registered in Mongolia within 10 years, from 1981 to 1991, and around 60 percent of them have been introduced. Since then, merely some 8,000 new patents were registered within the past 25 years and less than 10 percent of them were launched into the market.
It can be said that quite a number of valuable intellectual properties haven’t been registered or that they weren’t used even after being registered. That’s the reason why I urged businessmen to snatch and make better use of intellectual properties so that they can open huge deals. Moreover, we register patents but don’t use them even though the law specifies inclusion of intellectual properties in the balance sheets of financial statements.
support from the government and aspirations of scientists and academics are a huge opportunity. Businessmen should snatch this opportunity and put it to better use.
Aren’t businesses leaving out some of their innovations because they can’t use them?
Of course, there are those kinds of situations. Some innovations might not be able to bring profit. Creators, engineers, scientists and researchers aren’t conducting surveys on what consumers need and want. This could be the reason they aren’t able to produce things consistent to demands. On the other hand, there’s the possibility that technologies are outdated. Even so, it’s still possible that we’re slipping away ideas that could potentially become extremely good innovations because they aren’t being registered. Most importantly, companies should register and organize ideas or initiatives that could be innovative.
Mongolia had a system in which new creations and accurate ideas were registered before 1990. Every union and national industry had a person in charge of registering and sending new creations and ideas to the central office, passing from a soum to province, from a khoroo to district, and ultimately to the central office in Ulaanbaatar. All new ideas and creations used to be centralized to the state. Overall, Mongolia had a system that was able to collect all new ideas and creations at one spot.
Nowadays, nobody knows where innovative ideas are being created. We have to establish a technology exchange center or an intellectual property exchange where new ideas are collected. Only this way will Mongolia be able to determine whether an idea can become an innovative business or not. It will show how many good ideas and creations have been discarded, create an evaluation history of intellectual property, and set a price rate in the market. It will contribute in getting a objective assessment.
You said there are good innovative ideas. Then why aren’t they being carried out?
I think that immediately making all production and service sectors in the nation operate under free competition system was a mistake. In my opinion, Mongolia is required to protect and keep sectors that it can handle on its own. Actually, a new idea has to overcome many challenges among strong competitors until it can be carried out. Only few of countless ideas are carried out.
Competition of power imbalance can be observed in the Mongolian society. Take the USA for example. Studies show that despite the USA’s good environment, merely one out of 200 good ideas is carried out. This is probably the first reason. Secondly, creators, engineers, scientists and researchers have to either create a new market or export their creations because there aren’t suitable opportunities or market in Mongolia. In most cases, people aren’t able to sell their innovative creations abroad. Only few people are able to do so.
Most businesses expressed their distrust in researchers. What’s the main reason for this? Do you agree that businessmen don’t value researchers’ abilities?
I’ll have to disagree because there are more good examples than bad ones. I personally think that Mongolia doesn’t have an environment that allows profit to be made through sales of new knowledge produced through state budget funds.
Institutions haven’t learned to treat innovations as their asset. They aren’t interest in responding to requests from the private sector and accepting responsibilities to make something new to resolve an issue because it isn’t beneficial. Scientists and researchers lost interest in this for some time, causing them to take on additional work.
nobody knows where innovative ideas are being created. We have to establish a technology exchange center or an intellectual property exchange where new ideas are collected
As for businesses, the only option they’ve got is to address individuals. These have caused mutual faith to collapse. Besides that, there have been several examples proving to Mongolia, as well as the world, that Mongolian engineers and researchers are capable and that Mongolian businesses are able to value people.
Is it bad to do additional work?
There’s nothing wrong with working extra hours if they can manage them. However, some additional works that are sloppy are causing distrust. For example, an entrepreneur gives an automation engineer a task exclusively planned for his or her company. The engineer invents automation equipment, creates software for it, and hands it over to the entrepreneur, but doesn’t hand over essential documents. In other words, the engineer receives full payment although he or she did a sloppy, apathetic job. Afterwards, when there’s a problem with the equipment, no one other than that engineer can fix it, and often, it’s hard to find the same engineer again. The engineer can change jobs, phone number or move to another country. The equipment becomes useless, making the entrepreneur lose confidence in engineers in general.
Had the engineer provided equipment-related documents in the beginning, another engineer could have easily fixed the equipment. Other engineers can’t fix the equipment without knowing how it was made, how it should be used and how to fix problems. Trying to fix would cost more than making new equipment. All engineers should provide this type of document along with new equipment.
What should be done to improve cooperation and mutual trust between entrepreneurs and engineers?
It’s only right for the side that broke their trust first to take the initiative. The issue should be fixed systematically. Mongolian creators, engineers, scientists and researchers should reach out to entrepreneurs first and share their new ideas. This way, both sides will definitely benefit and build mutual trust.
Businessmen will want to invest in more studies and researches if they profit or see positive impact in their competitiveness from new ideas. I’d like to ask everyone to efficiently use their intellectual properties.
We need to define a more specific objective. Finding solutions for common difficulties around the globe is essential. We don’t need everyone to try to resolve local or provincial issues
Should the Mongolian public strive towards new advanced creations or support new initiatives?
We need to strive towards technological advancements that we can manage and gradually develop. The most important thing to do is to define an objective. Innovations aren’t completely new things. It isn’t a concept aimed to something bigger. Mongolians tend to think of the extremes when striving towards a better future. An innovative creation doesn’t have to be made after detailed laboratory tests and trials. Fundamentally, something should be completely new.
Traditional things can be used in a different way to expand the market. Every Mongolian has a common shortcoming. We try to resolve domestic and local issues that only Mongolians experience through innovation. This needs to be changed. We should try to find solutions for pressing issues concerning the whole population of the world. This will make the market clearer. We don’t have to do everything. Innovative nations advance forward by thinking big and starting from little things and quickly expand.
People are looking at IT development. There isn’t a general target as to exactly which part of IT to develop. Mongolians are quite good at mathematics and physics but this doesn’t prove that Mongolia can compete at all levels like producing smartphones similar to iPhone or Samsung Galaxy. It’s important to define a basic target and move forward.
Let’s say that Mongolia will mainly work to provide information systems security. We will have to train 10,000 engineers in this field. This would mean that Mongolia will have to compete with companies from countries leading in information systems security, including the USA, Israel and Japan. In this case, our competitors and market will become clear. We need to define a more specific objective. Finding solutions for common difficulties around the globe is essential. We don’t need everyone to try to resolve local or provincial issues unless it is absolutely necessary because once the small local issue is resolved, the market closes.