In Kazakhstan: Speeding Scientific Innovations to Market

October 21, 2014


World Bank Group

In Kazakhstan, science, innovation and technology are being fostered by the Technology Commercialization Project. The project introduced a financing model that promotes scientific excellence among researchers and provides support for commercialization of their technologies and penetration into global markets. Scientific groups receive grants on competitive basis to fund their research activities that have high potential for commercialization.

Located just outside Almaty, Kazhymukan Arynov’s research company, AspanTau, boasts a resolutely Kazakh name. In English, AspanTau reads as “sky peak,” referencing the county’s imposing mountain ranges. And the company is squarely Kazakh, dedicated to making super plasticized concrete from locally produced ingredients for the local market. It is the first company in Kazakhstan to do so.

“We knew how to do the process, in general,” explains Kazhymukan Arynov, “but we needed better technology and we came up with the chemical recipe on how to make super plasticized concrete and now we are doing it.”

Super plasticizing reinforces concrete and makes it stronger and more durable. Kazakhstan has been importing about 12,000 tons of the stuff a year, mostly from Russia and China, with some coming from Turkey and Germany.  Thanks to the Technology Commercialization Project, supported by the World Bank, AspanTau is slowly gearing up to serve the Kazakh market.


" Before, during the time of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan was just providing raw materials. Now, since independence, we think we should be processing and refining our own products here at home. "
Saltanat Zhumabekova

Saltanat Zhumabekova

Director General, Dostar Beton Invest, Ltd.

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Kazakhstan is moving to diversify its economy by investing in new ideas and by giving them a local twist.

Photo: World Bank Group

From Raw Materials to Processed Goods

Saltanat Zhumabekova’s office is next door to AspanTau; she is the director general of a company called Dostar Beton Invest, Ltd. -- an investor in the enterprise. She says that the country as a whole is ready to start making, and even exporting, high value products. “Before, during the time of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan was just providing raw materials. Now, since independence, we think we should be processing and refining our own products here at home.”

The Technology Commercialization Project helps scientists come up with new ideas and products for the market, commercial goods with a Kazakh twist to them. At a lab in the country’s capital, Astana, workers are testing DNA so as to provide more accurate dosage information for people with heart disease.   The testing is done locally instead of being sent to Russia, where the turnaround takes days.  And, more importantly, the testing here looks for the specific markers unique to Central Asians that affect the way they metabolize medicines.   “The advantage of our test is that it targets Asian populations, because there are some genetic differences based on ethnicity,” Pavel Tarlykov, a senior research at the lab.


" Out of our portfolio, now we have six projects that are reaching the stage of sales, and, taking into account statistics of successful projects around the world, this is high. Stronger links between the lab and the marketplace will mean a more diversified economy but also, and more importantly, newer and better innovations for the Kazakh people. "
Abdilda Shamenov

Abdilda Shamenov

Technology Commercialization Center

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These lab workers are part of a project supported by the World Bank. They are  using the genetic markers unique to Central Asians to treat heart disease.

Photo: World Bank

To Market, To Market

So far the technology commercialization project has promoted 33 new ideas or infused older ideas with Kazakh refinements in fields ranging from agriculture to oil and gas to robotics.  “Kazakhstan has done a great job of making a lot of money off resource extraction,” says Erik Azulay, who helps manage the project as part of the Civilian Research Development Fund. “But to already concentrate on diversification and, in our case, not only basic science but applied science and innovation and making sure these guys, these scientists are not just sitting in the labs but getting out into the market.”


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Other new projects include a factory outside Almaty that makes super-plasticizing concrete, which is currently imported in bulk from Russia and China.

Photo: World Bank Group

A larger goal is to re-think the way people perceive science, and the way scientists work, and to promote it as a way to improve life and the economy in the country.

“Out of our portfolio,  now we have six projects that are reaching the stage of sales, and, taking into account statistics of successful projects around the world, this is high,”  Abdilda Shamenov, who works for the Technology Commercialization Center, which promotes innovation.  Shamenov says stronger links between the lab and the marketplace will mean a more diversified economy but also, and more importantly, newer and better innovations for the Kazakh people.

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scientific groups received funding for research activities with a high potential for commercialization.