The forum opens a series of annual meetings on the innovative practices of national technological development. The event included scientists from the world’s leading universities and research centres, experts and representatives of the business community.
The forum’s central event – the plenary session – was devoted to a discussion of priorities in the development of computing and data transfer technologies and their potential for economic growth and improvements in living standards.
The President announced 2022–2031 the Decade of Science and Technology in an executive order.
Before the plenary session, Vladimir Putin visited the exhibition of advanced developments in quantum technology by Rosatom State Corporation and Russian Railways.
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Moderator of the plenary session, co-founder of the Russian Quantum Centre Ruslan Yunusov: Good afternoon, Mr President.
Good afternoon, colleagues.
Before we begin our discussion, I would like to introduce the participants to you, Mr President, and to you, colleagues. I will go from left to right.
Next to me is Alexei Fedorov. He heads a research group at the Russian Quantum Centre and is the youngest full professor in the history of the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT).
Alexei Likhachev, Head of Rosatom State Corporation is with us.
Ilya Semerikov is the same Ilya that built the computer we showed you, Mr President. This is a 16-qubit quantum computer. Ilya heads a subgroup in the Russian Quantum Centre and works at the Institute of Physics of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
Nadezhda Boshchevskaya is also with us. She works in the optics laboratory at the Quantum Technology Centre of Moscow State University.
Oleg Belozerov heads Russian Railways.
And Vladimir Yegorov is Deputy Director of the ITMO National Center for Quantum Internet.
Mr President, we had time to exchange a few words with the scientists, and you said – you know, happiness is in creativity. Strange as it may seem, but during our preparations for the session, we discussed the same idea. We think that, as a scientific community, we feel very happy to live in these times. So much is happening today that in only a decade of creative life we are covering ground that other people were unable to in a lifetime.
I remember ten years ago, Alexei Fedorov, a fourth-year student at Bauman Technical University, and I were walking and talking about a quantum computer. People told us it was science fiction and didn’t believe us. But when we talk about it now, people ask us when we will have a 100-qubit computer. Mr Likhachev asks – when will you do these things for the Russian nuclear industry? And so on and so forth.
We have covered a long road. Indeed, today we will talk about technology, but we will also talk about the people – how they lived during these years and how we came to this event. A decade ago, it was impossible to imagine such a forum at all. Nobody could imagine that the state would pay so much attention to quantum technology at this level.
Before we start our discussion, Mr President, I would like to give the floor to you, if I may.
Go ahead, please.
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Thank you very much.
I doubt this will be a fundamental speech because the issue you are discussing is very special. Nevertheless, I am of course happy to welcome all Russian and foreign scientists, engineers, and businesspeople – all participants in the Future Technologies Forum.
Our moderator said that ten years ago it was difficult to imagine that such a forum could take place. But why? This is exactly what we were striving to do – not only to hold such forums but also to advance research. We wanted young scientists to take part in it and we wanted to reach the parameters and results we need. I think it is very important that we are setting ourselves feasible goals that our country needs and that we are confidently implementing them and achieving the results, as I have said.
We are hoping today’s meeting will also become traditional. In fact, it is already becoming traditional opportunity to discuss promising areas that are already on the horizon of the current decade and will continue gaining momentum in the next one. This will largely determine the shape of national economies and the world map as a whole.
Naturally, I will not be talking about strictly scientific issues which are for those seated next to me, or, at any rate, some of my colleagues and those in the hall. Nobody knows this issue better than you, better than specialists. That said, I considered it important to tell you how we are organising this work at government level, how we are developing international science and technology cooperation in conditions of an actual blockade that was declared on Russia by the authorities and ruling elites – by the ruling elites rather – of some countries.
We really faced pressure and attempts to limit our access to technology designed to compel us to give up our sovereignty and the right to choose our historical path ourselves. Our opponents hoped that we would retreat and surrender but, as we often say in such cases, this is not going to happen. Russia will only go forward and follow its own road but without isolating itself from anyone at the same time.
We are responding to external challenges only by improving the quality and efficiency of our work and spreading freedom. Incidentally, this is what happened in 2014 – I have already talked about this, and it is common knowledge anyway. At that time, the first wave of external sanctions became an impetus for the rapid development of some of our industries, including agriculture.
Today, similar positive processes are gaining momentum in the industrial and technological sectors. We realise that in the current circumstances the most important thing we need to ensure the advanced development of our country is concentrating efforts on priority objectives.
First, we need to concentrate on the fields where we already have technologies and products that meet global standards, for example, nuclear power engineering, artificial intelligence and many other fields.
Second, on the fields that are of critical importance to the development of the country and where we must – I mean it, must – have our own competences. Not only do we need to simply have scientific products and basic solutions but rather the entire technological and industrial chain: our own equipment, element base, software and, of course, people, personnel.
Of course, as we address the objective to achieve technological sovereignty, we are not going to retreat, as I said in the beginning, into our shell. Quite the contrary, it is our intention to build and expand mutually beneficial technological and scientific alliances with other nations, with everyone enjoying equal rights.
I want to note that with Russia holding the BRICS Presidency next year, we expect to discuss specific projects like this in several important areas with out partners, including cutting-edge computing technology, as well as data processing, storage and transmission technologies. I will elaborate on this topic, with your permission, all the more so as this very issue is at the centre of attention at the Future Technologies Forum this year.
Our fundamental objective is to transition the economy, the social sector and the authorities to essentially new principles of work and to introduce big data-based governance. We expect a truly wide-ranging multiplier effect from it. This will help increase the quality of governance and labour productivity many times over, create jobs requiring advanced skills and offering high salaries, ensure the availability of services and offer essentially new opportunities to our people.
Thus, digital platforms will allow us to develop smart cities and unmanned systems, use digital twins of technical systems and their production processes, launch precision agriculture on a broad scale, reach a new level in logistics and energy, develop telemedicine and online education, provide government services and carry out financial transactions. In general, platform solutions will pave the way to full-scale automation of not only technological processes but also relations between market participants.
Everything linked with data, big data is acquiring critical importance in making such changes. In effect, this concerns backbone infrastructure for our further development, for the future of our economy as a whole. Obviously, dependence in this area poses serious threats to national security and is fraught with the weakening or even loss of national sovereignty. We must certainly think about this and look into the future.
Let’s be straight about it – this is exactly what some countries were striving for when they went all-out to hook us up to foreign technological platforms and, we must admit, not without success. Clearly, interdependence is an objective thing. Yet, there is a difference between general words about openness and self before all, and we often see this difference in practice.
We bought many critical technologies in a foreign shop, a supermarket of ready-made solutions – made by someone. And at one point, the door was simply slammed shut on us, and a “closed” sign was hung up.
We have learned our lessons and made the necessary conclusions. The Government, as well as public and private companies have already done much to change this situation, but, of course, we must go further, resolve more complicated, systemic issues and plan this work for the long term.
I propose drafting a new national project for the period to 2030, more specifically, a national project for forming a data economy, within a year. Let me emphasise, it is not just about consolidating existing tools to support the digital economy, artificial intelligence and high-tech projects, including roadmaps for advancing quantum technology, which you are discussing today and which the companies partly owned by the state are now trying to put into practice – but to implement the existing developments in this area in practice.
We need to build an end-to-end mechanism for creating and implementing advanced developments. This applies to all technologies and spheres of life. We discuss this often, and are gradually moving forward and resolving these challenges. But we need to speed this work up, including the formation of the data economy, which I mentioned earlier.
Everything is important here, including research, personnel training at all levels of education, creating conditions for producing and testing pilot samples, demand for domestic products and computing and data handling services, as well as flexible regulations and support for production.
At the same time, it is critically important to have a systematic look at the forthcoming technological wave, and to create industries and markets of the future. This kind of logic underlies the national project for unmanned aerial systems. As we agreed earlier with our colleagues, please have it approved by September 1, 2023 and also be mindful of this priority when forming the 2024 budget and the planning period to 2026.
Colleagues, the new national project on forming the data-based economy should touch on all phases and levels of work.
Data collection comes first. I am talking, in particular, about highly sensitive sensors, including quantum sensors, which drastically improve the accuracy of object positioning, make it possible to detect diseases at early stages, and are used in other advanced areas, such as satellite and terrestrial communication systems.
Data transmission and communication systems come second. This is true not only for the current generation, but also for next generations, which, according to forecasts, will be able to transmit information in real time, which is critical for robotics, unmanned transport systems and automation of the urban environment.
The third is sovereign infrastructure for computing and data storage inside the country. First of all, I am talking about domestic cloud platforms and data processing centres that will be able to effectively support the work of government agencies, enterprises, and telecommunications operators, as well as computing capacities of our own production, including those based on qualitatively new principles. I mean computers, which we have just talked about with colleagues and which I have been shown, using quantum and photon technologies, about which we will talk more.
The fourth is data security. Of course, we must fully consider this aspect and keep it in mind. In particular, I believe it is necessary to continue work on quantum communications and quantum encryption technologies. Such technologies ensure the resistance of information systems to cyberattacks using both classical and quantum computers, and make it possible to create systems invulnerable to hacking, as well as to develop secure quantum communications. By the way, Russia is among the leaders in this area. Of course, we are still only taking the first steps in this field, as our colleagues have just told us, but nevertheless this is already a tangible result.
The fifth is sovereign and national standards and protocols for working with data. Such standards are necessary for reliable data processing and storage, including personal information, for the use of quantum cryptography technologies, for cyber security and protection against attacks.
The sixth is algorithms for data processing and analysis, including artificial intelligence solutions, as well as domestic software. The availability of such national tools guarantees data sovereignty, significantly reduces dependence on foreign suppliers and will increase control over critical infrastructure.
And, of course, we need so-called code repositories: domestic platforms and services that are necessary for programmers not only from Russia, but also from other countries to work together. I want to emphasise that work in all these areas should be aimed at achieving systemic changes in all sectors of the economy, the social sphere, public administration, and the quality of life throughout our country.
I would like to focus on quantum technology, which is the main topic of today’s discussion. At the exhibition, the researchers tried to tell me more about it. We need not only to address the issues at hand, but also to take the long view over the horizon, to try to expand human capabilities, to control the smallest objects, and to put the most complex physical processes at the service of progress.
The quantum world is not in a hurry to reveal its secrets, but Russian researchers are ready to tackle the challenging scientific problems and to clear the way for creating advanced solutions. Without a doubt, we will be supportive of their commitment, which we just discussed.
Please identify measures, as part of the national project, to support fundamental research, including increases in funding.
I am referring to scientific research on a wide range of computing technologies, many of which, as you are well aware, rely on the principles of quantum physics and mechanics, and are linked with the breakthroughs achieved during the first and the second quantum revolution, which is unfolding before our eyes. The second revolution, which our presenter just told me about at the exhibition, boosted, among other things, the efforts to create quantum computing technology and quantum computers.
However, according to forecasts, promising computing systems will come in the form of hybrid solutions, which include the quantum kernel and the conventional microelectronics technology.
Notably, every 10 years the performance of computers increases approximately 1,000 times over. Existing integrated circuits contain tens of billions of transistors. The race is on at breakneck speeds.
For example, Sberbank’s new supercomputer – Christofari Neo – is capable of making about 12,000 trillion operations per second, and Yandex’s supercomputer – Chervonenkis – almost double that. I am aware of the fact that they are not the top performers internationally, but they deserve mention and we can show some respect for it since there is room for growth.
The demand for computing capacity continues to grow, and our sovereign solutions in this area are critical for developing AI systems and creating extensive neural network models. That is why it is crucial for us to expand the domestic microelectronics industry. For this purpose, we engage specifically in promoting serial production of high purity materials and technology media.
Many know that in Zelenograd a new science and technology centre is being created, and technological equipment projects are being carried out, including with the involvement of our partners from Belarus. I want to remind you in this connection that the high level of cooperation in Soviet times set the stage for training engineers with an eye to developing unique technologies and also for promoting scientific schools, including in photonics. Thanks to the solid foundation in fundamental research they laid to build upon in the future, today photonics integrated circuits have become a fully functional technology.
In Moscow, an inter-sectoral photonics cluster is making good progress and serves as a basis for research centres, startups, businesses and universities to jointly develop new solutions and put them into production. We need to put in place similar sites that can be used to experiment with future technologies, as well as test them and put them into operation in other advanced fields – we need to do the same in other fields.
I know that the Moscow Government – Mr Sergei Sobyanin is present here today and we also talked with him on this issue many times – has proceeded to create a quantum cluster in Moscow. Mr Sobyanin, I would ask you to give us today more details on it. Well, if not details then, at least, a general outline.
I have met with Russian scientists, as well as our compatriots who work in foreign universities and research centres on more than one occasion – the last time was quite recently. Many want to work in Russia and take part in interesting and important research projects, and they raise, among other things, questions about the resumption of our megagrant programme that allows us to build strong research teams and address interesting scientific problems.
I fully support this proposal. I am asking the Government and the State Duma to provide, by all means, for the allocation of necessary funding for the megagrant programme in the federal budget for the planning period until 2026, and also to make changes in the programme to make its terms even more attractive to researchers.
I believe it is necessary to increase the maximum amount of megagrants and also – this issue is very important and my colleagues have talked with me about it recently – to extend the grant period for, say, up to five years – some say ten years would be better – well, five years with the possibility of extending it up to three years. In this case it will add up to nearly ten years.
Above all, we need to support major research projects that are conducted by our compatriots and leading foreign researchers, including the ones who have already participated in creating world-class laboratories in Russia. In five years, a researcher should receive a total of half a billion rubles for their project, provided they are willing to work in our country as permanent residents.
Support in the amount of a quarter of a billion rubles over five years will be provided to leading foreign scientists who will come to Russia, create departments at our universities, engage in teaching, and work with students and postgraduate students. In fact, this is not much different from the terms and conditions we had before, but we will reaffirm and expand them a little. As a result, our international colleagues will be able to form scientific schools in priority research and technology areas.
Finally, there is one more groundbreaking area of focus. Acting as part of the revised megagrant programme, we will assist promising young researchers, including our compatriots, who are many, and who would like to return home and to make a significant contribution to scientific and technological solutions.
Importantly, the updated megagrant programme must become operational soon. We will be glad to see in our country researchers who share the open science principle, dedicate their lives to scientific research, and engage in projects of the future. For our part, we will do our best to make designs of tomorrow’s products globally competitive already today.
I would like to thank all participants in this extensive joint work, in particular, Roscongress for hosting this forum, and Russian Quantum Centre, Rosatom and Russian Railways state companies, whose heads are here with us, as well as innovation-driven enterprises and leading research institutes and universities for their breakthroughs in science and technology and the unstoppable will to keep moving forward.
Special words of gratitude go to the Russian Academy of Sciences for providing in-depth scientific assessments of research and technology projects. Colleagues, please expand not only your expert support, but also scientific and methodological support for our national development programmes. As you may be aware, the Russian Academy of Sciences is about to turn 300 this year. It has brought under one roof researchers and business leaders who strive to deal with the challenges of our country’s sovereignty in science and technology.
I look forward to similarly close cooperation during preparations for next year’s forum which will focus on developing neurocognitive and biomedical technology.
Ruslan Yunusov: Thank you very much, Mr President.
It was a very substantive address. We will work on it.
It is possible to draw certain parallels, which come to mind following your speech, including about people and the sign “Closed.” Mr President, we had this feeling when many doors were closed to us.
But it is also a challenge. We are working; we have shown you what we have been trying to do. We are in high spirits. But when we discuss these issues, we often ask ourselves who we are. It has to do with the symbols of the current period.
This is what I would like to say before we begin to talk about the new elements. In 1937, sculptor Vera Mukhina presented her new monument, Worker and Collective Farm Woman. It was a symbol of the year 1937.
Vladimir Putin: It’s good that you recalled that rather than some other events of 1937.
Ruslan Yunusov: We are positive people; we have a positive forum.
In the 1960s, when our scientists harnessed the energy of the atom, is also known by the expression “physicists and lyricists.” Physicists had an incomparably larger role to play, for they often saved other people at that time; they protected them. Then came the 1990s, which was a difficult period for science. But in the past 20 years we have seen major changes.
And we ask ourselves when we discuss these challenges with our colleagues: Are we, researchers, not the heroes of these new times? Of course, we certainly do not try to dominate the entire awards stand; we respect many other professions.
Do you think that researchers deserve to be hailed as heroes of our time?
Vladimir Putin: You know, researchers always move in the forefront. In a way, they are pioneers, people passionate about what they do. This is the first point.
The second point is that every period needs its own heroes, including the 1960s, but the same is true about earlier periods. Speaking of 1937, it all began with Lavrenty Beria, who supervised the nuclear project and was also partly involved in the missile project. This is when it all began. The times demanded results in that sphere, and so those who worked in that area certainly became the heroes of public opinion.
Times have changed; we now have different priorities, which can easily be tested. The latest VTsIOM poll, which was held several weeks ago, if I remember correctly, showed that the most popular professions among young people were IT specialist (31 percent), doctor/medic (30 percent), and third was serviceman, defender of the Fatherland. However, I would like to point out that young people’s interest in the engineering professions has increased severalfold, or more precisely, by five times, if memory serves.
It shows, one way or another, that although people keep certain things on the radar – I will not describe any of them – the fact that interest in the engineering professions has increased several times over is a sign of our times.
As for researchers, I would like to repeat that they march at the forefront, they are pioneers. And you know better than I do that many, very many Nobel Prize winners received the prize decades after making their discoveries. But they made them not because they wanted to win a prize; no, they simply wanted to move forward. We must bow our heads respectfully before such people and their character.