Work underway to set up high-tech park in Azerbaijan
By Nigar Orujova
Organizational work on creating an IT high technology park is underway in Azerbaijan, Deputy Minister of Communications and Information Technologies Elmir Velizade said on June 13.
According to Velizade, the next step in these efforts is work on formulating a concept of operations and construction of the technology park.
"Total area of 30 hectares in Sumgayit (an industrial city some 30 km north of the capital Baku) has been allocated for the construction of the high-tech park," Velizade said.
Creation of a technology park is a priority trend for the development of the ICT industry in the country. The project envisages providing opportunities for the development of small and medium-sized innovative enterprises, creation of a regional base for production and export of electronic hardware and software, turning the country into an effective transit information center, training and development of human resources for the emerging information society, as well as implementation of ICT in various industries.
One of the important issues in the framework of the project is to cut fiscal, social and customs duties. A positive solution of these issues will create favorable environment for the import of goods into Azerbaijan, as well as encourage exports to regional markets.
In April, the ICT Ministry said that work on the construction of a 20-hectare high-tech park had started in Azerbaijan; it is supposed to be a territory with all the necessary conditions for the preparation of new and high technologies and researches. The high-tech park also envisages local and foreign ICT companies' involvement.
The government also passed a decision on which participants of the high-tech parks will be tax and customs duty-exempt for seven years.
ICT plays one of the leading roles in the non-oil sector of the country's economy and the budget revenues it generates have been increasing year-on-year.
2013 was declared the Year of ICT in Azerbaijan and the ICT University was established under a presidential order on February 2.
Velizade also said that the structure of Azerbaijan's State Fund for ICT Development, which was established to implement the state policy on development and support of small enterprises in the scientific and technical fields, will be formed soon and it will start financing start-up projects in the near future.
The Fund defines three ways of financing - investments, grants and credits. Priority will be given to export-oriented projects. Grants will be awarded primarily for the development of innovative ideas after detailed study.
Each Azerbaijani citizen may avail of the advantages of the ICT Fund's financing. Financial aid to enterprises will be arranged through contests. Businesses can borrow small, medium and large loans.
The amount of small credits ranges from 10,000 to 50,000 manats (up to over $63,000) for a three-year term, while medium-sized credits are worth 50,000 to 500,000 manats and provided for a period of up to five years; large loans are allocated in the amount from 500,000 to 1 million manats for ten years. The annual interest rate should not exceed 5 percent.
The maximum grant available is up to 300,000 manats, provided for a period of 36 months. The amount of small grants is designated at 10,000 to 100,000 manats, while medium grants could be from 100,000 to 200,000 manats and large ones -- from 200,000 to 300,000 manats.
According to the ICT Ministry, primary financing volume of the Fund for 2013 is 15 million manats ($19 million).