President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Good afternoon, colleagues,
We are meeting today at Moscow State University, a place that needs no introduction. It is a name that speaks for itself. I want to note that the university is working on developing modern computing infrastructure, in line with the programme we have approved on developing a new Russian supercomputer.
Mr Sadovnichy [rector of Moscow State University] gave me a demonstration just now of the new computer’s possibilities. True, he said it has not been given a name yet. I propose that we give it a name today, seeing as the previous one was named after one of our outstanding compatriots – Chebyshyov.
It is perhaps not very original, but if no one has any objection, we could call it Lomonosov and it would then share its name with that of our main university. Perhaps someone has other names to propose? I do not think we should name it after Bill Gates, better to give it a different name, better to name it after Lomonosov.
This really is a good thing. This new computer that we have just named after Lomonosov and the Chebyshyov computer are Russia’s first two supercomputers. They differ in their productivity levels. The Lomonosov computer has peak productivity of 414 teraflops, which is really not bad. It just missed out on making it into the world’s top ten most powerful computers. American supercomputers hold the top nine spots. America is still ahead in this field for now.
But this does not mean we cannot compete with them. We have discussed a number of ideas on how to get into the top spots, all the more so as things are always changing. Let a few months go by and there will be some shuffling about on the list. This is what normal competition is all about.
I propose two subjects for discussion today.
First, I would like to hear your accounts of what has been done over this period, on the state of progress in carrying out the instructions on various projects decided on at our previous meetings.
Second, let’s discuss how to make development institutions in Russia more effective in the five priority technological modernisation areas we have chosen. The majority of these institutions are represented on the Commission, and so we therefore have someone to whom we can put our questions, and there is plenty to discuss.
The development institutions are an important part of the national innovation system. Their purpose is to support projects at the various stages of research, development and commercialisation. But so far, these institutions have been working in disparate and fragmented fashion, meaning that new ideas and developments are not yet getting the support they need through the different stages of the innovation cycle.
Companies usually receive an injection of funds at only one specific moment in their work. But these kinds of one-off subsidies are often the product of chance circumstances, including personal connections and circumstances unrelated to particular developments’ actual value. Only if we succeed in ensuring ongoing support throughout every stage of the process will we achieve a breakthrough in this area.
Development institutions under government control, those controlled by private companies (they are few as yet, but they do exist), educational organisations and funds for supporting science, technology and innovation work all need to play their part in ensuring the full innovation cycle’s uninterrupted progress which is a very important task today, while the Government Commission on High Technologies and Innovations needs to ensure accurate coordination of this work.
We need to put in place a co-financing system for research and development projects that corresponds to our priorities, and we also need to create incentives for private business to invest in these projects and make active use of the possibilities they offer. In other words, our task is to achieve a new synergy between the state programmes and the development institutions that have government funds intended for these purposes, and private financing in order to keep our joint activities focused rather than letting our efforts become dispersed for opportunistic or whatever other reasons.
There are several stages of work that I will run through now. At the start-up stage projects need access to venture funding and loans. During the second stage they need to be able to make use of the various funds and federal targeted programmes and the resources allocated through the Academy of Sciences’ research programmes. During the final stage tested inventions and patented new technology ready for commercialisation should receive the support of our major development institutions. This is the best moment for making use of the potential offered by institutions such as VEB [Vnesheconombank], RUSNANO, the Investment Fund, technology incubation zones and technology parks. Of course, the same goes for projects that we need to acquire abroad.
What else is important? We need to make sure we do not duplicate financing. This happens very frequently. Often, leafing through all of these proposals, these rather large catalogues, even if you’re not a specialist you still find yourself thinking that the same names keep coming up again and again and that the same projects are supervised by lots of various agencies. I put this down not just to my lack of knowledge, my ignorance of this or that nuance, but also to the fact that various sources of financing are used to fund relevant projects on similar or the same subjects in the hope that if we take three rubles here and five rubles there, squeeze a bit more from wherever we can, we will achieve some kind of result in the end.
But we do not see any result because all these bits and pieces of funding are not enough to see projects through to completion. We therefore need to ensure that project financing is not duplicated, and we also need to provide for full-fledged risk-sharing with private investors, also not easy to organise, as private investors, understandably, are very cautious about entering such ventures.
The adoption of part four of the Civil Code and the Federal Law on Technology Transfers, as well as the law enabling universities and scientific institutions to establish small businesses gives us the legal base we need for scientific and educational institutions to carry out business activity in the high-tech sector. This gives the market access to the fruits of scientific research and the possibility of employing intellectual property, including that created using federal budget money.
Incidentally, I would like to take a look at how these laws are being applied, including the law on setting up small businesses. Have any difficulties come up with their implementation? I am sure that there no doubt are problems. I would like to hear about the results achieved over these last months. We should give private business the possibility of using the results of scientific research ordered by the state. In return, investors should finance test, design and related work. In other words, we need to find areas in which our interests meet.
In conclusion, I want to remind you that the priority areas for establishing national research centres have not been settled yet. There are no general principles and no corresponding legal base for these centres’ operation. I know that our one and only national research centre at the Kurchatov Institute is up and running now, but this is obviously far from enough.
The Government needs to draft the relevant documents. This goes for scientific and technology funds too. We need to get these laws passed as soon as we can.
This is an eventful time in general. We are discussing development institutions today and their contribution to our economy’s technological modernisation and development.
As well as seeing the new supercomputer, a good event in itself, another important event is taking place today: the start of registration of Cyrillic .рф domain names. This perhaps has not just technological but also political implications. It is a first such event in the Internet’s history.
I think this is a victory for our country and it will help us in a way to position ourselves in the boundless market for knowledge, services and everything else linked to Internet technology. Incidentally, the Russian Internet, Runet, is also awarding its prizes today, for the tenth time now, I think.
Let’s begin our work.
I want to draw your attention to one thing: the priority areas identified by the Presidential Commission as the most important areas for our country’s technological modernisation are not the only areas to receive investment. I can tell you that 620 billion rubles ($20 billion) are being allocated to these priority areas alone. This is a huge amount of money when you think about it. We do not even quite seem to realise that this is $20 billion. This makes it essential to ensure the coordination we spoke about, because this really is a lot of money and we have to make sure it is spent effectively.
Another matter that came up during the discussions today was our country’s very large public sector. In my Address [to the Federal Assembly] I named the figure of almost 40 percent of the total economy, or around 25 percent if we count the purely corporate sector only. But this is still a very large share. We therefore need to get our state organisations involved in this work or else they will sit stewing in their own juices. I was chairman of the board of directors of a very large company for eight years and I know how decisions are made there. Other companies also have their own big investment projects, and they are important, but they are not running in synch with what we are trying to do.
The proposal has therefore come up to call the chief executives of all of the biggest state companies to one of our upcoming meetings. Let them tell us about their work on innovation and the priority areas, and we will set them important tasks.