Remarks at the U.S.-Kazakhstan Convention

Kerri-Ann Jones
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs
Hyatt Regency Hotel
Washington, DC
December 11, 2013

Thank you, Ambassador Umarov (Oo-ma-ruhv), for inviting me to this convention to say a few words today. I also want to thank Frederick Starr for moderating this session, and Congressman Aderholt for his introductory remarks. It is a pleasure to be here and be able to discuss the role of science and technology in the United States - Kazakhstan relationship

I would just like to address two questions today: Why is science and technology important to our relationship? And, what are we doing to expand this relationship?

As we just saw in the video about Kazakhstan, we see Science and Technology everywhere. We see it in the highly technical industries, in the students working at the bench, and in the very sophisticated video itself. Science and technology are important for both of our countries. Our relationship in science, technology and innovation goes far beyond the pursuit of knowledge – it is a key component to strengthening our overall bilateral relationship. It brings our scientific communities together and it links our businesses. Science is based on disciplines and values that transcend politics, languages, cultures, and borders. The commitment to quality research, open sharing of data, and reproducibility define the scientific community.

The science relationship we build together provides an important platform to address common challenges and meet shared goals. These include goals for better health, a cleaner environment and improved quality of living. And as President Obama has stated, never has science been more essential to our economic well-being. For both of our nations our economic prospects are closely tied to our ability to look to the future, to invest in our citizens, and create an environment that encourages innovation and growth.

Given the importance of science, what are we doing to enhance our relationship? I am extremely heartened by the way our science relationship has blossomed. The amount of activity has just been tremendous!

From just an idea a few years ago, your Center for Energy Research at Nazarbayev University now has collaborations with several of our labs at the U.S. Department of Energy. Nazarbayev University has also spawned partnerships with top U.S. universities, including Duke, Carnegie Mellon, University of Pennsylvania, University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Wisconsin. We are building a network of scientists and institutions that are getting to know each other and learning how to work together.

Working together, we have made important scientific advances as a result of Kazakh-U.S. collaboration. Kazakh scientists and researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture worked together to develop an experimental Hepatitis C vaccine. Your scientists, working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency researchers, developed a method to purify mercury-contaminated water.

This past June, I led a U.S. delegation to Astana to participate in the inaugural Joint Committee Meeting under our 2010 U.S.-Kazakhstan Science and Technology Agreement. At the JCM meeting, we identified shared priorities and we established three working groups in the areas of biomedical research, green chemistry, and natural resources and mineral management. The working groups have developed an action plan to clearly define next steps.

The JCM went exceedingly well, with a first of its kind Green Chemistry Working Group supporting President Nazarbayev’s decree to create a green economy by 2050. Under this working group, we will share experiences on using green chemistry to reduce hazardous waste and decrease water and energy usage, resulting in economic and ecological benefits.

In the Natural Resources and Mineral Management Working group, the U.S. Geological Survey is working in collaboration with KazGeology to discuss how to share data for managing natural resources and to explore cost effective ways to reduce greenhouse gasses as part of the national climate change strategies for both our countries.

As a highlight of the meeting, at the conclusion of the JCM, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed on Low-Emissions Development Strategies, allowing our countries to cooperate on sustainable smart growth. A win-win for both countries!

The Joint Committee Meeting also generated some new ideas for mutual cooperation. Our National Institutes of Health has been working with your scientists for many years in biodiversity and natural products. Kazakhstan has unique plant species with potential as anti-cancer drug candidates. As a result of discussions at the JCM, NIH is interested in working with Kazakhstan to help preserve the areas where they grow as “bio-repositories.” A bio-repository would put Kazakhstan at the forefront of drug discovery and preservation of unique ecosystems.

We want to continue the momentum for collaboration that was started at the JCM. The U.S. has established a funding opportunity to enable up to ten Kazakh scientists to travel to the U.S. and work on research topics that were identified by the working groups at the JCM. This will allow work on JCM goals to continue without disruption.

During my trip in June, I also had the opportunity to tour the Alatau (ah-lah-towel) Technopark. I was truly impressed by Kazakhstan’s determination to foster innovation by establishing this special economic zone. It is great to see that the Park has been able to attract major American companies such as Microsoft, Cisco and HP.

We want to encourage your efforts to create an environment conducive to the development of technology entrepreneurship and innovation. We can connect Kazakh innovators with programs such as the State Department’s Global Innovation through Science and Technology initiative and encourage U.S. innovation experts and entrepreneurs to travel to the region and share knowledge and experience with Kazakh counterparts.

It is clear that the examples I have mentioned are just the beginning of our expanding partnership.

I am proud about what we have achieved and optimistic about what lies before us. I am honored to address you today and see that as a signal of the importance Kazakhstan places on science itself and the important role it can play in our relationship and the continued development of our countries. I also extend to you my best wishes for a Kazakhstan’s Independence Day on Monday. Thank you.