* * *
President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Hello again everyone!
Every time I come here, I say: ”I'm not going to talk much, I'm going to listen to you.“ But for some reason I end up talking a lot. Today I will try to break this bad tradition.
Dear friends, once again I warmly welcome you to Skolkovo. As I understand it, young scientists, inventors, engineers and entrepreneurs, all those who we now call ”innovators“ and who in the Soviet era were called ”novators,“ have gathered here. I don't think there's much of a difference, because the root of the word is the same.
But lately, over the past year we have witnessed a new development, a new vector for development, namely an innovative economy. This is something about which a lot of people are currently talking, and about which they are saying very different things. Some people say that things really are changing, while others think that nothing changes, there have been no new developments, that dreamers in the Kremlin came up with all this in order to gratify their own vanity. But actually, you yourselves represent a living example of what happens, what changes, and what does not change.
Naturally, we do not see innovative industry as some sort of end in itself to which we aspire, but rather a means of simply changing our economy, changing our lives, resolving social problems in depth, and simply making life more interesting. In general, it seems to me it is very important to always say what you are doing and why you are interested in it. It is important to be interested in everything you do in your life: to sweep the streets with interest (I say this because I did it at one point), work as president with interest, and to do business with interest, because it is also very interesting occupation, and I'm not even talking about science, because this is simply a vocation. Therefore, innovation is not abstract: it must produce concrete results.
Just recently I chaired a meeting of the Commission for Modernisation [and Technological Development of Russia's Economy] where a variety of very interesting projects were presented. Many stuck in my memory – in medicine, housing construction, and food production.
I think that in recent years something really has changed and, most importantly, the attitude to the relevant fields, to research and to research-related business, is changing. I recently talked about this during my speech at a nanotechnology forum. I said there that even judging by my own feelings, in the 1990s those who did business never thought about innovation, simply because they were just concerned with surviving or did not set the relevant goals for themselves. And now the country has changed, and that is the most important thing. But that does not mean that everything is perfect.
You know, we have identified five areas where the most successful innovative growth should occur. They are energy efficiency, energy conservation, nuclear, space, medicine, and information technologies.
We are actively developing and financing these spheres. Before our meeting, I took special care to calculate how much money is currently being spent on this, because periodically I read in the news apocalyptic arguments about how all is lost, modernisation has stalled, nothing is being spent on the development of science, nor on the development of related businesses. And yet next year 161 billion rubles will be spent on the space industry and telecommunications alone. All in all, about a trillion rubles will be spent on the forms of modernisation that I have been talking about in recent years. That is a lot of money. If we compare with what it was literally a couple of years ago, when we were not yet working on this topic, then it's about twice as much, and in some areas the difference is even more.
We have set up special development institutions, namely Rusnano, the fund for assisting the development of small R&D [research & development] enterprises, the Russian Venture Company, and the Russian Foundation for Technological Development.
It is very important that funding for fundamental and applied science, and university research increases, and I would stress the word ”increases,“ and that the programme of grants for young researchers functions well. Just recently in September I signed a relevant executive order on awarding 2,700 presidential scholarships to students and 300 scholarships to postgraduates. And this is only a fraction of what is being done.
You know about the creation of the Skolkovo innovation centre not far from where we are, the Moscow School of Management Skolkovo. While the work on the centre’s creation is still underway, we already have a legal framework and special legal conditions in place and working. I think this is very important because without the special legal regimes in place the areas we are talking about today cannot develop. We have (or at least I hope we have) minimised administrative barriers and introduced a special tax regime, something extremely rare for our country. This is an international project in which major international organisations are participating. We specifically asked them to create the necessary foundation, to bring their own special atmosphere, and competitive spirit. I am referring to giants such as Siemens, CISCO, Microsoft, Intel, Nokia and many others, as well as medium-sized companies, leading research centres, and the universities involved in this project.
What else can I say? Looking at some indicators, the situation in general is developing well. Before our meeting today I looked at the figures – our country is now among top ten global leaders in funding research, development, and design. In recent years we simply increased government spending to achieve these purposes and are ranked eighth in the world for investment in research and development. This is comparable to countries such as Britain and France that are advanced in this regard, and ahead of Italy and Canada. This is very good.
But other things remain poor. Private investments are not increasing together with public ones. Because innovation should be financed not only by the state, even though the state must put forward general orientations, finance high-risk projects, and take some principled positions. But naturally in this sense business has not been as active as we would have wanted.
There are, of course, reasons for this. The amount Russian companies spend on developing innovative technologies has grown from 190 billion rubles in 2006 (what it was five years ago) to 350 billion in 2010. To be frank, I cannot call this significant growth; it's actually quite weak. I hope that as a result of our discussions we can think together about what mechanisms are needed in order to make sure that private business still continues to invest in research.
I've already talked about changes in people's mentality: this is happening, and here you cannot convince me otherwise. It is good that dozens of universities have strengthened their material base – we worked at this as part of the national project and in a variety of other government programmes. Now that higher education institutions can create small businesses, maybe someone here can explain to me how this works, because we adopted the law and then amended it once. As I understand it, somewhere it works well, while elsewhere it has problems. I don't know how many of these businesses currently operate, maybe you can tell me?
Response: Absolutely not enough.
Dmitry Medvedev: Absolutely not enough. I understand. I have it here that, according to the Ministry of Education, there are currently more than 1,100 small businesses registered with universities. And that's really very little because we now have almost fifteen hundred institutions of higher education; it's less than one small business per university, and that is really very few.
I promised not to ramble on, and not to bore you with long opening remarks. So let's get to work. I would like to invite you all to speak. Please speak briefly, much more briefly than I did.