RUSSIA CAN?T GO ON WITHOUT HIGH TECHNOLOGIES. PUTIN?S SPEECH
A joint meeting of the Russian Security Council and the Russian State Council on Science and High Technologies under the President of the Russian Federation was held in the Kremlin fifteen minutes after Vladimir Putin had fired Kasyanov?s government. The meeting focused on issues relating to the national innovation system.
Vladimir Putin repeatedly spoke about the importance of switching the national economy from the production of natural resources to an economic model based on high technologies. The president stressed again the vital importance of the issue for Russia. What?s the role of innovational technologies in the modern world? Those who think that the role is simply important had better have think twice. Technical progress and innovation lie behind 80% of all economic growth of the developed countries. Russia?s share at the world high-tech market is disgracefully insignificant, a mere 0.5 percent while the USA produces 60% of all high-tech goods and technologies; Singapore controls 6% of the world high-tech market. It?s especially frustrating since Russia has excellent scientific schools and every tenth scientist in the world is a scientist working in Russia. However, only 10% of all Russian companies are engaged in high-tech production whereas the percentage of U.S. high-tech companies ranges from 65 to 70 percent. What shall be done to improve the situation so that Russia will be able to join the club of the developed countries?
President Putin began his address by severely criticizing the present situation in the national economy. He said that Russia was doomed to remain a producer of raw materials unless a national system of innovations was set up. Boris Aleshin, a former Vice Prime Minister, read a list of measures to be taken for securing Russia?s slot among the world?s top players. A recommendation to change the legal position of the Russian Academy of Sciences was put forth. The academy should be given the title of a ?nonprofit partnership? like the majority of U.S. universities. The new title is thought to remove the legal restraints impeding innovational activities of the academy. At long last it will be able to make profits and spend them on major research programs instead of financing commercialization.
The government should actively take part in the establishment of the innovational activities infrastructure, such as centers for advanced technologies, innovation centers, institutions for promotion of technologies, transfer technologies centers. The international experience shows that similar activities are backed financially by the state at the beginning, and the funds spent normally pay back over and over again at a later period. The U.S. National Academy of Sciences recovered the costs of infrastructure by 2 times in 10 years; it also made $10 billion worth of revenues.
The budget structure of a science and research center based in Dubna has changed too over the last 10 years. Spending on innovation increased from 2 to 50 percent. The Russian federal budget allocates 46 billion roubles for science and technologies. The expenditure on innovation should be also taken into account in a national budget. The Russian Ministry of Industry and Science has already taken first steps by opening first 6 centers for transfer technologies. But the changes still have to gain momentum partly due to a lack of trust between the businessmen and the state, the former suspect that the latter will grab a company once it becomes big and profitable.
Laws should be changed accordingly. A package of motions aimed at making innovational activities more attractive and removing many legal setbacks has been submitted to the State Duma (Russian parliament). The government should support the scientific community and help it draw up a strategy and set out the priorities. That?s the way things done in the developed world, it has nothing to do with the dictates of economy.
The following high-level officials delivered reports at the meeting: Yuri Osipov, President of the Russian Academy of Sciences; Boris Gromov, Governor of the Moscow region hosting 4 out of 7 national science and research centers; Andrei Fursenko, acting Minister of Industry, Science and Technologies; Vladimir Filippov, acting Minister of Education; Konstantin Scriabin, member of the Russian Academy of Agriculture; Alexander Volkov, President of Udmurtia. Speaking to Izvestia prior to the meeting, Academician Nikolai Lavrov said that the natural resources sector is the toughest miser when it comes to innovation and introduction of new technologies which is a truly amazing situation since the above sector of economy is just loaded with money. Still, only 2 to 3 percent of the sector?s companies are active in the field of innovations. The food industry has 34% and the telecommunications has 30% of their companies actively engaged in innovational operations. Speaking of the top players of the sector, only Norilski Nikel and Russki Aluminy can be listed as companies having a keen interest in innovations; the amounts spent on innovations and technologies by such state-run companies as United Energy Systems of Russia (Russian grid), Gazprom and the Russian Railways total 30% of the national expenditures on science.
What about those optimistic figures showing economic growth? The macroeconomic situation in Russia has begun shaping up for the better since 1998. But the growth was mostly attributed to the revival of capital assets that had been previously idle. But the trend will be drawing to an end within a few years; the industrial growth indicators have been in decline, from 8.1% in 1999 down to 4.5% in 2002. The Russian Academy of Sciences experts say that further economic progress is impossible without innovation-oriented technologies. Yet a stage of the so-called investment growth can only happen if investors show their interest, and they don?t show much of it due to underdevelopment of the market structure of the sector.
The number of issued patents has been shrinking in Russia year after year. Only 322 out of 3 million Russian organizations take part in the creation of technologies. There was a 7.4% drop in the number of advanced technologies developed in Russia in 2001.
And here?s one more rather upsetting figure: only 0.09 percent of all Russian industrial enterprises used advanced technologies. The regional leaders in the field of technical innovation are as follows: The Nizny Novgorod region, the Voronezh region, and Tatarstan.
The Russian Academy of Sciences experts produced a forecast for high-tech sector up to 2010. Average annual growth rates in high technologies are estimated to reach 7% to 9% even if an overall economic situation remains healthy. The innovation-based production output should reach 11 to 13 percent in 2010, a pretty good increase even by international standards.
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