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Scientific research or crises – what drives digital technologies? Outcomes of the ‘Impact of the Pandemic on Development of Digital Technologies in Russia’ online breakfast

22 May 2020
Научные исследования или кризисы – что двигает цифровые технологии вперед. Итоги онлайн-завтрака «Влияние пандемии на развитие цифровых технологий в России»

The Roscongress Foundation, the Innovation Space project, and the Data Economy Independent Non-profit Association (INA) held the ‘Impact of the Pandemic on Development of Digital Technologies in Russia’ online breakfast. Meeting over a morning cup of coffee, market experts and leaders discussed the future of digital technologies after the pandemic caused by the new COVID-19 coronavirus infection.

The online breakfast participants included Ivan Bortnik, Advisor to the General Director of the Fund for Assistance to the Development of Small Innovative Enterprises, and Alexander Galitsky, Managing Partner of Almaz Capital Partners Venture Fund. Sergey Nakvasin, Deputy General Director and Digital Technology Director of Data Economy INA, acted as the moderator.

Digital technologies today

Development of digital technologies in 2020 faced new challenges due to the pandemic, when over a half of world’s population became isolated and changed their consumption habits. Under these conditions digital economy is becoming a new driver for economic growth and an essential tool to maintain countries’ income.

According to Sergey Nakvasin, among the priority areas for digital technology development in this time of hardship are maintaining activities under the conditions of social distancing, increasing the effectiveness of remote working, as well as making medical services more accessible through the development of telemedicine. «In 2019, over 300 projects received funds from the ‘Digital Technologies’ federal projects, and more than 200 of them were financed by the Fund for Assistance to the Development of Small Innovative Enterprises. The total amount of support exceeded 10 billion roubles. In 2020, the budget allocated to support digital technologies is over 22 billion roubles,» Sergey told during the breakfast.

Challenges and crises

This year’s crisis is not the first one for our country. In such a difficult economic and epidemiological situation, we need to find answers to the following important questions: what entrepreneurs and government agencies responsible for technological development should do; and what should be the new priorities for the development of digital economy and digital technologies. According to Alexander Galitsky, crises are repetitive, they are different, but do have some similar features. «Business and state need to work on these common features to be able to get ready for new crises,» the expert believes.

Ivan Bortnik shared his view: «Challenges are beneficial for our economy. The previous one, sanctions, helped to clean the market, and, as a result, companies got interested in innovations. We are pleased that a number of companies that the Fund for Assistance to the Development of Small Innovative Enterprises had supported earlier, proved themselves during the coronavirus pandemic.»

Science drives innovation

According to Alexander Galitsky, IT leadership is based on system software and complex algorithms. «Machine learning and artificial intelligence cannot be designed and implemented without academic research,» he said during the discussion. He also emphasized the difference between Russian and foreign education: «American universities are focused on science and research, while Russian ones — on learning. Over 50% of American startups emerge from academic studies».

Ivan Bortnik believes that Russia has two talent factories: Higher School of Economics produces mainly entrepreneurs, while graduates of the Academy of National Economy that focuses on IT studies become government officials.

In IT, there is no need to fuss

Technological development produces a lot of data and capacities, and many problems of the real economy can be solved with IT. «This is the new technological track. You don’t need to fuss, rather monitor where business and fundamental science go,» says Ivan Bortnik.

Invited experts agreed that it is impossible to develop information technologies without fundamental science. But, according to Ivan Bortnik, «we need to support the priorities identified by the scientific community rather than identify priorities for the fundamental science.»

Alexander Galitsky suggests both monitoring the fundamental science trends and listening to futurologists, as their forecasts are working well: «Coronavirus has just accelerated the process which results in most people staying at home and working remotely. The pandemic also gave a new life to the Internet of Things and encouraged producers to shift to the service model,» the expert explained.

Where to source knowledge

Legendary speakers that were invited to the online breakfast organized by the Roscongress Foundation and Data Economy recommended books for those interested in innovation and thinking out of the box. Ivan Bortnik and Alexander Galitsky suggest spending time on The Grand Chessboard by Zbigniew Brzezinski, AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order by Kai-Fu Lee, and Bad Blood by John Carreyrou.

The next online event of the series will be held on 28 May 2020. The theme will be ‘Digits for people: which futurologist forecasts proved real during the pandemic?’

You can watch the full version of the ‘Impact of the Pandemic on Development of Digital Technologies in Russia’ online discussion using the Roscongress Foundation and Data Economy electronic resources: on Roscongress TV YouTube channel and on Data Economy YouTube channel.

On these channels, you can also watch the full version of the first online event of the Breakfasts in the Digital Realm series dedicated to the topic ‘The Internet of Things During the Pandemic’ that was held on 7 May 2020.