President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: The state corporation RUSNANO has been active for nearly a year and a half. Please tell me about the major projects it has undertaken and how things are going now, particularly given our current economic problems. Despite these problems, we have not changed our minds; on the contrary, we are maintaining Russia’s orientation in innovative development. So your work isn’t any less relevant; indeed, it is becoming particularly important.
Following your progress report, we will share our opinions.
Chief Executive officer of the Russian Corporation of Nanotechnologies Anatoly Chubais: When addressing major achievements in our year and a half of existence, I think that our most important accomplishment is the creation of a mechanism, the procedure for putting together innovative projects. We now understand how to use it, and so we are achieving results – although, truth be told, we still have much room for improvement. We have twelve projects already approved for implementation and two more projects will be reviewed by the Supervisory Council today.
Among the projects intended for implementation, I think we have some very interesting and promising ones. I would like to give one or two of the more noteworthy examples. Today, the Supervisory Council will be considering a project in the most promising solar energy sector. In fact, one of the most promising technologies in solar energy is the production of thin film for solar cells. We are looking into a proposal to build a small factory in Chuvashia that would cover the entire production cycle from processing raw materials to releasing fully-assembled solar batteries. Based on the provisional results, we think that this is a very serious and promising project, and not just for the Russian market – it should be suitable for export as well.
Dmitry Medvedev: How will this project be financed? How are you organising this process?
Anatoly Chubais: The financial structure is as follows. RUSNANO takes on a significant amount of the financial responsibility – over fifty percent. That is part of our mandate. Nonetheless, in accordance with our principles (which, in my view, were very well written from the outset), we are not trying to hold controlling interest. The project should include a strategic investor who is responsible for business development, which is in fact what is happening in this case. The investor in this project is the Renova Company, which is determined to develop it fully and invest its own funds into this project.
By the way, this company is also involved with the next technological phase of the project. It owns another company that assembles, adjusts, and installs solar batteries in Europe. Thus, we want to break into the European market with this project.
Dmitry Medvedev: We also need to develop this energy source in Russia. Although we have many energy sources, I don’t think we have done nearly as much to develop solar energy.
Anatoly Chubais: In your executive order you outlined specific indicators for developing renewable energy. I think that it would be a good idea to supplement it with incentives for producing renewable energy – this is something that countries around the world are doing. The law on the electric power industry stipulates basic provisions for this, so we need to take the next step, and as I see it, it is mainly the government’s job to create incentives. But what you said may be very promising, at least for Russia’s southern territories.
Dmitry Medvedev: Yes, it is very relevant and promising, especially since we have been actively discussing the so-called green economy and green or renewable energy at major meetings such as the G20 summit. Russia is also taking on these responsibilities, so we must work to fulfil them.
By the way, it is my understanding that you are also developing projects together with other international participants, and that you have outlined certain goals. During my visits to other nations, including Germany, I discussed this with the German Federal Chancellor. Are you currently working on any projects of this kind?
Anatoly Chubais: Yes, we do have projects of this kind, and in fact, Germany is one of the recognised world leaders in nanotechnology, and we are making important strides in developing our partnership. You know, I was quite amazed to discover that in the North Rhine-Westphalia region alone, there are over 500 small and medium-sized businesses working with nanotechnologies. These figures are simply enviable. But at the same time, we have already received some orders from several of them. One of the requests, even though not from North Rhine-Westphalia but from another German region, is that to build a LED factory. What’s interesting is that this request comes from former Russian citizens, former students of [Russian physicist and Nobel Prize winner] Zhores Alferov who laid foundations for this innovative technology in Russia. Now, we would like to invest over three billion roubles into a large-scale factory that will produce LEDs with a five- to seven-fold increase in energy efficiency. I am thoroughly convinced that over the next five to fifteen years, most lighting engineering, not just in Russia but around the world, will upgrade to this kind of lighting technology production. It is very promising.
Dmitry Medvedev: Indeed, I think that what you just said is very important. First of all, even during a crisis, we must continue efforts in the nanotechnologies development, rather than decreasing investments in this sector, especially given that now, the crisis may even be creating certain new opportunities. Second, with reference to Germany and its five hundred small and medium-sized businesses in one single federal land which you mentioned, we should not, after all, limit ourselves to merely creating ROSNANO, a large government institution that allocates major bids. Our most important task now is to create the right kind of building blocks: small and medium-sized businesses that will work on these initial projects, which will ultimately serve as the foundation for bigger projects. And in this regard, the state corporation has an essential role to play.
Anatoly Chubais: Indeed, we have prepared a framework for creating various investment funds specifically geared toward creating these building blocks, as you put it, to set the right type of atmosphere. This includes two types of funds intended to serve smaller projects, rather than ones costing billions of dollars. The funds of the first type provide venture capital, and the funds of the second type provide seed capital on a really minor scale. The seed co-investment programmes are intended for the small businesses rather than medium-sized or large companies.
Dmitry Medvedev: How big are these funds?
Anatoly Chubais: Our sense is that a typical seed capital fund is between 20 and 70 million dollars, certainly not more than that.
Dmitry Medvedev: Yes, even 20 million dollars is already quite a bit.
Anatoly Chubais: Quite enough for the set purposes. This money goes to researches who are in the final stages of their work, who need funding to produce final, copyrighted products of intellectual property.
This is not the stage at which factories are built, this is a much earlier stage, but one that I believe is in demand for funding, so we hope to gain the Supervisory Council’s support; then we can create these kinds of funds as well.
Dmitry Medvedev: Very well.