Excerpts from speech at a meeting of Commission for Modernisation and Technological Development of Russia’s Economy
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President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Good afternoon,
Colleagues, we are here at this research and production centre for the second time now. Two and a half years ago our Commission met to discuss modernisation in general and the development of new centres and clusters, including the [International] Biotechnology Centre Generium that is hosting us today.
We have seen what has been accomplished over this short time. Everything looks very good: the laboratories, offices, and the support infrastructure too, which I think is particularly important. When visiting various sites we always look over the production facilities, but here we have a good example of how to successfully combine the production site, the research facilities, and the living infrastructure, with houses built right nearby.
I met with the young people just now, and they told me about how things work here. This is a good example that illustrates well the subject we are set to address today, and it is always good when you see something new develop and take shape before your eyes, and what we see here is of world-class standards. This is all the more important when we think that many of the young people working here were working elsewhere before, working abroad in some cases, but had the will and desire to come here to work. They all said to me just now that the working and living conditions here are totally competitive in terms of how they measure up to world standards.
We will discuss the effectiveness of our scientific research support system today. I remind you that in 2010, I instructed the Government and the big state-owned corporations to draft an innovative development programme and make provisions for a substantial increase in spending on research and development. This matter was discussed with business community representatives too. We issued instructions designed to encourage the development institutions to support R&D activities at all stages, from coming up with new ideas to commercialising their results.
These efforts saw state investment in R&D increase, in some cases several-fold. The Federal Targeted Programme for Research and Development in Priority Fields [of S&T Complex of Russia in 2007–2012] alone saw its financing increase almost four-fold over the last year, from 1 billion rubles in 2010 to 4 billion rubles in 2011.
”State investment in R&D increase, in some cases several-fold. The Federal Targeted Programme for Research and Development in Priority Fields [of S&T Complex of Russia in 2007–2012] alone saw its financing increase almost four-fold over the last year, from 1 billion rubles in 2010 to 4 billion rubles in 2011.“
Our big state companies invested 50 percent more money in their innovation programmes in 2011 than in 2010. This is an improvement, though I think that 50 percent is still not a fantastic increase. The big state companies can do more, both by cutting costs in other areas and simply by investing more in R&D. This is essential and it is time they opened their wallets instead of waiting for handouts from the state.
We need to ensure maximum returns on investment by working faster to get the results of R&D put to practical use in production. We need to step up applied research in the universities and get business broadly involved in co-financing R&D activities as much as their possibilities allow.
I gave a few figures. Let’s take a look at what they actually mean and how the support mechanisms are working in practice, how the various support methods fit together, what real problems there might be, open or latent, and what additional decisions might be needed to make the support system more effective. I hope to hear from you not just appraisals of the situation, but proposals too.
Let’s get to work.
Before giving the floor to Mr Fursenko, I note that the Commission has met regularly throughout these last few years and you have all taken part in its work. I will think about how to reformat its work, but overall, its activity will continue and I hope that all of you here will continue to play as active a part in its work as possible.
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I will comment briefly on a few issues I think important and on which I want the Government and the Presidential Executive Office to draft the according instructions.
”Our big state companies invested 50 percent more money in their innovation programmes in 2011 than in 2010. The big state companies can do more, both by cutting costs in other areas and simply by investing more in R&D. This is essential and it is time they opened their wallets instead of waiting for handouts from the state.“
First, concerning a draft law on biomedical cell technology, I am not against the idea of such a law, but we would first need to take a close look at the laws in this area in other countries. I am not terribly clear as to which countries have such laws and how they work, but if other countries already have experience in this area and there is a subject for legal regulation in the form of a law, this is something we could consider. Perhaps it could be in the form of a bylaw or government regulation. The thing is first to understand the specifics of the situation. I can therefore say that we can give an instruction on this matter.
The same applies to improving the laws on transferring technology and commercialisation stages, although the problems here in my view are not so much in the legislation as in current practice and various restrictions that remain in place at the agency level, as was noted by many here today.
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Some of the issues you raised relate to political matters, the issue of cooperation with various European institutes, for example. Naturally, I support such cooperation wholeheartedly, but the question usually ends up coming down to money in the end. All of the good institutes expect payment in return for the chance to participate. My position is clear: if the sums asked are not astronomical, then we should pay because we would lose a lot more otherwise, and so we would be better off paying annual membership fees or other dues they ask. Let’s think about where the money for this can come from. Perhaps we need some diversification and in some cases having not just the state but also private organisations take part in the funding. We have associations of the various relevant businesses and they count for something in our country after all.
Regarding the visa situation, as you know, I have made a lot of effort to get our European colleagues moving forward on this issue. In principle there has been some progress and we have drawn up a roadmap for the steps to take towards visa-free travel. I do not know how far we will get along this road. Everything depends on their good will. We are ready to go ahead with it today, tomorrow, whenever, and I see no obstacles in the way. I remind you that over these last years we have signed 22 or 23 readmission agreements. There are 27 countries in the European Union. We are absolutely ready to move forward, but they have their own considerations, and we have to listen to them too. Actually, the biggest problems are not with countries with which we have difficulties in our political contacts, but with the big countries that face migration issues. These are problems we see in Germany and a few other countries. But we will continue moving forward nonetheless.
”We need to ensure maximum returns on investment by working faster to get the results of R&D put to practical use in production. We need to step up applied research in the universities and get business broadly involved in co-financing R&D activities as much as their possibilities allow.“
On the question of single entry visa waivers, to be honest, it is not to the country’s advantage, as you noted too, but potentially it is also something we could consider, especially in cases when we already have final agreements. These kinds of decisions are usually taken not for smaller events such as congresses and forums, but for really big events such as big football competitions, when we are talking about tens of thousands of people. But we could consider applying a similar procedure for big events such as scientific forums and congresses. We will examine any requests made. I think the visa question is a little exaggerated though in this case because people come here or do not come here for a whole variety of reasons, and I think the problem of visas themselves is secondary now. People did not come before for other reasons. But in some cases the visa issue does play a part, I won’t deny this.
I will end with a few remarks on the question of improving our civil laws. We are in the process of drafting the new version of the Civil Code, which includes improved provisions of Section Four of the Civil Code dealing with intellectual property. You are all experienced people, company heads and directors of research institutes. You know that there is no such thing as an ideal law. No sooner will the new Civil Code come into force, then we will start discovering new problems in it, but it will nonetheless take us a step forward and I hope that it will indeed modernise our intellectual property and industrial property protection laws.
Colleagues, thank you for your work. This work will continue now and after the events that will follow in May.
See you at our next meeting!