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Science and Innovation: Risks in the Name of Development

3 September 2021
Наука и инновации: риски во имя развития



Russia has successfully encouraged scientific development; however, care must be taken not to lose ground

 “The Far East is a region of particular interest to us, as it is not only becoming a leader in terms of economic growth, but also in terms of scientific development,” Alexander Sergeev, President, Russian Academy of Sciences.

“In my opinion, Russian companies have rather successfully advanced in the applied sectors, such as green technology, digitalizing companies, and making production facilities more economically, environmentally, and energy efficient. They have also advanced in developing materials for use in extreme conditions, which is of more relevance to us,” Dmitriy Pumpyanskiy, Chairman of the Board of Directors, Tube Metallurgical Company (TMK); President, Sinara Group.

“We have talented people and excellent science and engineering schools. These people are capable of developing new aircraft and rockets. However, we need to see a major change to the funding situation, because in another 10–12 years, this will not be the case, and we will lose in the scientific and technological race,” Andrey Klepach, Chief Economist, VEB.RF.



Powerful competitors benefitting from substantial funding for the sciences

“China has made a huge leap forward. I remember how in the mid-1990s our scientist colleagues from China came to Russia to purchase equipment. And now we’ve arrived at a point where such a scenario would be unthinkable. That happened over the course of just 15 years. First, the country became economically rich without having a particularly strong scientific base. Then, as time went on, so more was invested into science. There was an understanding that it would be impossible to advance further without developing their own scientific sector. Now, China is planning to become the world’s leading scientific power by 2035,” Alexander Sergeev, President, Russian Academy of Sciences.

“China’s 14th Five-Year Plan includes a target of a 7% average annual increase in spending on science. And this year, spending on fundamental research in China increased by 10% in comparison to last year. In South Korea, 10% of GDP is spent on science. We spend just a fraction of this, and need to spend more. That said, we do have one unique advantage – our fundamental mathematical and engineering schools. So, instead of coming here and buying equipment, as they used to, people in China are luring away people and ideas. It is therefore very important to support scientists and engineers so that we don’t lose them. We need science to be viewed as a prestigious and lucrative profession in Russia, and we need scientists to come here, rather than leave the country. Unfortunately, the wave of outward migration is beginning to grow,” Alexander Sergeev, President, Russian Academy of Sciences.

“The government has announced a whole range of strategic initiatives, encompassing a number of project benchmarks. These include autonomous vehicles, and strategic initiatives in hydrogen power and nuclear energy. There are some very ambitious scientific objectives, but they require a completely different level of funding. In my opinion, there is huge demand for the government to substantially increase spending on the fundamental sciences,” Andrey Klepach, Chief Economist, VEB.RF.

Slow implementation of new technologies

“The times are changing, as are forms of management. Tools designed to improve efficiency are changing, and we are implementing lean technologies at companies across the country. However, this was something which was thought up 60 years ago in post-war Japan. Is it possible to create something new?” Maxim Protasov, Head, Russian Quality System (Roskachestvo).

“A law on organic farming was adopted just a year ago. Our scientific potential may now enable us to move forward at a faster rate in this area. Yes, we are 38 years behind, but now we have the potential to cultivate green, organic products,” Maxim Protasov, Head, Russian Quality System (Roskachestvo).



Commercializing developments and attracting resources from the private sector

“We are destined to work together with our neighbours. It would be virtually impossible to develop the innovative science sector without China, South Korea, Japan, and Singapore. However, when working together, we must learn from our neighbours and study what they are good at – turning knowledge into technology, and technology into a product,” Alexander Sergeev, President, Russian Academy of Sciences.

“The biggest risk is having excellent plans and strategic goals, and then not realizing them. This is not so much a danger to the fundamental sciences, because in recent years salaries have increased, and universities have begun to conduct research. For the applied sciences though, the situation is far riskier and more difficult. Businesses have begun to invest in new technology, and not only in traditional areas, but also in hydrogen cells for rail and road transport. On the part of VEB, this work is also being done at Rusnano and Skolkovo,” Andrey Klepach, Chief Economist, VEB.RF.


Implementing new technologies and management initiatives

“The main innovation today, and the thing that could lead to a growth in GDP, is the potential to move over to digital platforms. Primarily, these are digital material science platforms – everything connected to designing new materials and using them at the heart of new constructions. If we are able to do this today, then will see a 1.5–2% increase in GDP on account of the construction and mechanical engineering sectors alone. The risk which we are seeing today is connected to the lack of a Russian engineering platform. We do not have software for heavy industry. The faster we develop this, the faster we will be able to secure our independence and increase GDP,” Vladimir Nelyub, Director, Center for National Technology Initiative, Bauman Moscow State Technical University.

“Management is one of the key risks. The prevailing idea is to attempt to control everything. Everything is built upon a suspicion that the money will not get to where it’s needed, and tasks will remain unfulfilled. The planning timeframe is a year – sometimes less. It is impossible to create something in these circumstances, particularly something risky that might break new ground. Progress is made not thanks to these factors, but in spite of them. We need to have long-term plans and benchmarks in place, and not try to live from one day to the next,” Andrey Klepach, Chief Economist, VEB.RF.



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