President Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon dear colleagues!
First of all I would like to say that I am very pleased to be here again, at the Kurchatov Institute. Your centre was and remains the pride of Russian science. It is also a recognized scientific centre in Russia and throughout the world. Our country’s nuclear shield was created at this institute. But a great deal of time has passed and the Kurchatov Institute, drawing on its excellent foundations, has since conducted research into a very wide range of areas. First and foremost, its intellectual foundations: namely the personnel and their potential. However, as Mikhail Valentinovich just said, recently a great deal has been done to upgrade laboratory facilities, to obtain new equipment, and substantial financial resources have been invested. Even though this occurred in difficult times, the Kurchatov Institute still managed to accomplish a great deal.
I remember my visit — we recalled it today — in 1999 when I was Prime Minister of the Russian Federation and we opened a new Centre for Synchrotron Radiation. I am pleased to see that this centre is also developing, can make use of new possibilities and is, at the same time, creating new opportunities. And not simply within the centre but within the institute as a whole. As I already said, over the past few years we were able to accomplish a great deal with respect to improving the quality of the centre’s equipment and technology.
Russia’s increasing economic potential provides new opportunities for expanding fundamental research in fields such as the one that interests us today: nanotechnology. I was pleased to see the important role that nanotechnology plays today — and Mikhail Valentinovich and his colleagues, they explained this to society. Evgenii Pavlovich Velikhov does a great deal in this respect. And nanotechnology is definitely increasingly in demand in industry, medicine, transportation, aerospace and telecommunications. And concentrating our material resources and intellectual potential must act as a stimulus for developing and implementing fundamentally new strategic technologies in Russia. I am convinced that this could be and absolutely will be of crucial importance with regards to establishing the very newest, most recent and most effective weapons systems, both offensive and defensive weapons, as well as communications systems.
At the end of last year I instructed the cabinet to prepare an adequate programme in this field and asked them to consider whether we could establish a unified Russian centre to coordinate this field. And I would now like to ask Andrei Aleksandrovich Fursenko to report on what the cabinet did in response to this request.
Andrei Aleksandrovich, please go ahead.
Science and Education Minister Andrei Fursenko : Dear Vladimir Vladimirovich!
As per instructions the cabinet of the Russian Federation drafted and agreed upon a document that outlines promising directions for developing the Russian nanotechnology industry. We have provided for systems to supervise this work, coordination between the interdepartmental and governmental levels, determined who is accountable for implementing these tasks and, most importantly, laid out concrete steps for attaining our basic objectives. We are suggesting that we call this document the presidential initiative to develop the nanotechnology industry. As I already said, the cabinet developed and agreed on this document and we are therefore ready to submit it for your and consideration and that of the Presidential Executive Office. We would also ask that this document be adopted in the near future.
Vladimir Putin : What are you proposing regarding a national centre?
Andrei Fursenko: We held a contest in order to ensure the best organisation of this work. A contest to determine a parent organisation in the nanotechnology industry. The Kurchatov Institute won the contest. Together with the Kurchatov Institute we then prepared a series of proposals concerning the creation of a national research centre. We consider that this type of centre could then be established in other fields, but that this will be a pilot project. We also thought about how the centre should work. I think that Mikhail Valentinovich will in part talk about how we propose to develop this work. We consider that in the near future the corresponding provisions will be confirmed and that the centre will begin operating.
Finally, the third issue. We have now prepared and put before the cabinet — the document is presently in the Finance Ministry — a federal target programme entitled Developing Infrastructure in the Nanotechnology Industry until 2010 that will help equip this national centre and the entire network designed to develop the nanotechnology industry in Russia. This programme targets at providing our leading research and educational centres with the newest scientific, technological and measuring equipment — and you saw some of this equipment at the exhibition just now. This programme has also been prepared, agreed upon, and we would hope that it could be adopted at a cabinet meeting in the very near future.
Those were the three instructions that you gave.
Vladimir Putin : Sergei Borisovich, I asked you to host a corresponding meeting of the cabinet. Who did you invite to participate in this project and who would you consider essential to involve in this work in order to ensure that it develops successfully?
First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov : Vladimir Vladimirovich, in accordance with the instructions you gave a week ago I held a cabinet meeting on the three issues that the Science and Education Minister just mentioned. Aleksandr Dmitrievich Zhukov and, of course, the Science and Education Minister, representatives from the Economic Development and Trade Minister or, in other words, representatives from all interested departments attended this meeting. And at the meeting we agreed on the following triad, if you will allow me to express it that way. These three issues are the presidential initiative, the federal target programme on providing equipment for research centres, including the Kurchatov Institute, and establishing a national laboratory. This was the cabinet’s unanimous opinion as expressed during the meeting.
Vladimir Putin : Dear Sergei Borisovich, dear colleagues!
At present I would like to say the following. The government is ready to provide this industry with all necessary means. The only condition is — and I am addressing you, Sergei Borisovich, as first deputy Prime Minister — that this work be organised effectively and that the funds provided for this programme be well spent and used efficiently to obtain the desired results. And in this respect the way this work is organised will be extremely important. Let me repeat that we can now provide significant financial resources for this project but we must organise ourselves in such a way so as to ensure that the money is spent efficiently and produces the desired results.
Mikhail Valentinovich, please go ahead.
Kurchatov Institute Director Mikhail Kovalchuk: Dear Vladimir Vladimirovich! Dear colleagues! I would like to start my speech by stating the following: when you embark on any major task it is very important to have ideas that allow you to set clear goals and to understand the various ways that these objectives can be attained.
Vladimir Putin: Mikhail Valentinovich just said (and I apologise for interrupting you) that it is very important to have clear goals. Because when we, shall we say, invest considerable funds in social projects, in national projects — health or education, for example — the vast majority of citizens understand what this money is being spent on and how the government’s investments will benefit society. In this case, it should be just as clear what we expect from these public investments.
Mikhail Kovalchuk: And in this respect, when we explain why this is important, we say that our projects are designed to improve Russian citizens’ quality of life, to strengthen the country’s defensibility and to establish a knowledge-based economy. Let me take a brief excursion into the past.
Any system based on scientific and technological developments evolves according to the system’s well-defined laws: knowledge accumulates, is translated into technology, and technology then results in new types of research and production. However, because the different parts of the system develop at different speeds, so-called natural conflicts occur and these conflicts allow the system to pass to a qualitatively new level. Most often, such a transition is accompanied by a revolution. For example, it was largely due to the discoveries of Rutherford and Bohr that the classical model of the world developed in Newton’s time was transformed into the quantum worldview. The science and technology revolution that has been described as the nuclear project was the result of this transformation. We moved from accelerators to the atomic bomb and from the atomic bomb to the nuclear power plant. And the result of this revolution includes a fundamentally new geopolitical world map that has already existed for several decades.
Let's recall the various stages in which humankind has gained more knowledge of the world. 300 years ago scientists considered nature an indivisible whole, science pertaining to the world around us was called natural science and the scientists who studied this world were called natural scientists. As the ways to study our surrounding world increased, people gradually began to separate this little-known whole into segments that they were better able to analyse. The various scientific disciplines were formed precisely as a result of this process: mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology, geology. The following step was an even more pronounced degree of specialization and, as a result, today there are hundreds of different very specialised scientific disciplines. It is easy to find two people who both study hyperfine splitting of nuclei, but if you ask them both how this relates to our place in the universe they will not understand what you are talking about. On the one hand, our very specialised system of science and education has allowed us to construct the unique civilization in which we live and, on the other hand, we have arrived at an impasse.
We just talked about objectives. The issue at hand is that we can only perceive five percent of the world in which we live. Only five percent of the energy and matter created 14 billion years ago by the Big Bang. In other words, we simply cannot perceive 95 percent of the matter and energy in the world and we are, therefore, unable to study it. And the number of sharp divergences between our theoretical notions and the observations resulting from experiments is enormous. In practice, we have created a unique, hyper-specialised system of science and education and used this to create a civilization, but we have also arrived at a logical impasse.
Our very specialized system of science and education resulted in our sectoral economy. At the beginning we witnessed various sectoral technologies: metallurgy, stone working, wood processing and so on. Then more sophisticated technologies developed, the so-called integrated intersectoral technologies. The economy kept its sectoral nature but certain integrating forces appeared. In turn, this resulted in major machine building, aviation, aerospace, microelectronic and other projects. And then information technology appeared. One thing I still have trouble understanding is how humankind perceived the development of IT as if simply another form of technology among a number of existing priority technologies had developed. It was the first time that a fundamentally suprasectoral technology had appeared. And the next example explains this.
As a matter of fact, information technology is present in all existing technologies. Today, progress in every sector, in every field from medicine to education is linked with a more intensive use of information technology. And therefore nanotechnology truly is suprasectoral. Vladimir Vladimirovich, you also referenced this when you stated the government’s priorities. Our various discussions about our priorities and crucial technologies have allowed us to understand just how important nanotechnology is for all sectors, how suprasectoral it is.
Nanotechnology is like an elementary foundation that unites all other forms of technology. And nanotechnology is, therefore, changing information technology itself. What is the best possible information technology? Bioinformatics. We all have protein ribosomes that have printed our genetic code for billions of years. This code is the best kind of information technology. And this implies that nanotechnology is changing information technology itself.
As such, nanotechnology is the first priority that bridges sectors, a basis for developing all sectors of the new knowledge economy in our postindustrial society without exception. If you collect something from atoms then who are you? A chemist, a geologist, a biologist? You are once again a natural investigator just like the scientists of 300 years ago. Like Newton, but with a new amount of knowledge. This is the idea.
And now about nanotechnology. This is actually the name of the nanotechnology revolution of the beginning of the twenty-first century. Historians agree that humankind has lived through two revolutions. The first was the domestication of livestock and the fact that man started sowing crops, and the second was the industrial revolution. The third revolution, whose scale will exceed that of the previous two, is the nanotechnology revolution. Simply recall that a nano is ten to the minus ninth of a metre, a billionth of a metre. In other words, we have arrived at the size of an atom. We are working with atoms; we can see them and we can manipulate them. We have actually known about and been able to see separate atoms for over a 100 years, but today we can do more than simply see them: we can track them and manipulate them.
Vladimir Putin: Evgenii Pavlovich says that this is also possible with even smaller units — with ten to the minus thirteen.
Mikhail Kovalchuk: Ten to the minus thirteen is still far off.
We need to create technology and equipment for atomic and molecular design. Part of the diagnostic equipment we saw today is involved in this. A country that has adequate atomic diagnostic techniques for these technologies will be able to do this, be able to create these technologies.
This example was done in response to the request that German Oskarovich made about a year ago. But I would like to now explain it in a different way.
Yopu see, nanotechnology is sharply divided into what I view as two completely different categories. The first is on the left: a product that is already on the market. In fact, our industry has long been producing goods and products that use the achievements of nanotechnology. They include composite, ceramic and polymeric materials, catalysts, membranes, light-emitting diodes, sensors and biochips, and I have not even mentioned the various nano-dispersion materials. These products are on the market. There are national companies that produce them for a million dollars or for ten million dollars and this is a task for broadening markets. In other words changing the scale by a factor of ten: from a million to ten million or from ten million to a hundred million. And resolving this problem depends on the government’s will. I will talk in more detail about my vision.
One task in this field consists in launching the market. As well as the second part of the picture: products that are ready to go on the market in a few years — in three to five years — such as, in particular, carbonic materials, nanoelectronics, ways to administer medicines and to make medical diagnoses. There is no question here. This will easily be transferred to the left side of the picture, the side that depicts finished products, with the help of the Federal Target Programme for Research and Development. This programme will facilitate this.
But the right-hand column is key. This is the beginning of the future. This is something fundamental: making the transition to nanobiotechnology, creating a new interdisciplinary environment instead of a very specialised one. This is something fundamentally new, very difficult, and comprehensive.
There are dozens of federal target programmes in Russia. For instance, just within one programme there are products such as light-emitting diodes and other light technology, nano and micro systems equipment, various medical applications, nano-membranes, and nano-materials. Here there is a large-scale task to accomplish. And we tried to demonstrate some of these ready, existing products in the room below.
I would like to emphasise that we are now able to manufacture the means of production ourselves. This is extremely important. We have the necessary technology and the fundamental knowledge. For example, the molecular beam epitaxy system. Sergei Borisovich, I think that both you and Vladimir Vladimirovich saw these before in Leningrad at ‘Svetlana’ and we demonstrated equipment for the molecular beam epitaxy at the forum. Graduates from the Institute of Technical Physics, from the Leningrad Institute of Technical Physics founded a Russian company which produces unique world-class equipment, as Iurii Sergeevich is well aware.
Sergei Ivanov: Industry is already producing in Saransk.
Mikhail Kovalchuk: That’s right. Nanofabrication is another example. This is what companies from Zelenograd do as they produce a whole range of unique technologies for nanoelectronics and many other things. Or the clean rooms that we just visited together. In Russia there are centres for synchrotron radiation and a specialised such centre in the Kurchatov Institute where we are today. There are also research centres on neutron reactors. All this is evidence of our country’s technological prowess and its authoritative position in international science. We are one of the leaders in this field and this has been proven without a doubt.