President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Dear friends, I welcome you all.
I want to begin by congratulating you all on Russian Science Day, which we are marking today. Our country has given the world a great many discoveries. I want to wish our young laureates and all the scientists present brilliant new achievements that not only raise our country’s scientific prestige but also contribute to our economic development and raise the quality of our everyday lives.
A year ago now, this same venue saw the start of a new tradition with the first ceremony awarding the President’s Prize for Young Scientists. Today, we continue this tradition.
I want to say a few words about what this prize means in our view, and about the laureates themselves. Science is above all about looking for new possibilities that allow us to not only foresee but also shape the future. At least, this is one of the purposes of science. The world of knowledge recognises no borders, but our scientists’ achievements have always been a source of national pride, and also represent opportunities to really change and modernise our country, and give ourselves advantages in all areas – in economic competition, security, and in cultural achievements too, of course.
We place big hopes on our young people, and on all of those working today to ensure our country’s scientific prestige and technological development. Support for young scientists is one of the country’s priorities.
Despite the difficulties we still face as a result of the global financial crisis, a year ago we increased the Presidential Grants for young Ph.D. and D.Sc. degree holders, and we will continue to expand the system of grants and prizes, above all those supporting people developing cutting-edge technology. I recently issued the according instruction.
Six months ago, the law allowing universities and scientific centres to set up small businesses was passed. Under this law, these businesses’ statutory capital can be formed not just by money and traditional types of assets, but also by intellectual property rights. Around 200 scientific centres and universities have declared plans to establish more than 1,000 such businesses. Frankly speaking though, this process is not moving as fast as we hoped. According to my information, 116 businesses have been set up so far, providing around 1,000 jobs. This is not bad, but we need to move faster.
Speaking now to the Government, and to the heads of these centres and universities, I know that there are a few problems in this area, I have heard about them from my colleagues, and I hope very soon to have meetings on these matters with the responsible people in the Government in order to take whatever steps necessary to address these issues.
There is another matter that we spoke about here in this hall a year ago, a matter raised by last year’s laureates. This matter is housing, and it is perhaps one of the most important issues we need to address, especially as far as young people are concerned, in order to maintain our scientific potential. As we discussed during a meeting at the Academy of Sciences, the authorities have taken unprecedented decision to provide military servicemen with housing. Not only have we taken that decision, as has been done so often in our history, but we have actually carried it out, and this year will see the completion of this work. It makes me very happy to say this, because in all the years of our history, whether during the Soviet or post-Soviet period, we were never able to actually achieve this. Having reached this goal, it should be perhaps a simpler task to provide housing for all of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ young scientists, and indeed for our young scientists in general.
At my meeting with the senior management of the Russian Academy of Sciences we agreed on a deadline of May 1, 2010, for drafting a proposal on this matter. I remind the Government that this proposal needs to take into account the Academy of Sciences’ own possibilities and the existing housing programmes we have. This is not a superhuman task but is an issue we can realistically address. Of course, it is a problem that cannot be solved for once and for all, but we can certainly resolve the situation for young scientists already working today, and lay a good foundation to get tomorrow’s young scientists covered by the programme too.
Turning now to the laureates themselves, it is significant that many of the works competing for the 2009 prize were in areas that come under our technological modernisation priorities – areas I think are top priorities and am personally involved in – and this without any doubt improves and increases our competitive advantages.
Chemist Alexei Knyazev’s research, for example, has made Russia the eighth country in the world to possess its own glyoxal production technology. This substance can be used to manufacture thousands of the products our economy needs. What’s more, Russia’s glyoxal production method has turned out to be not only effective but also more environmentally friendly, and this is very important too, of course.
Another of our laureates, Alexei Bobrovsky, has won recognition not only for his fundamental research in physics, chemistry and materials studies, but also for his commercialised practical developments. He helped create new technology for protecting securities, new materials for display technology, and other products.
Pavel Belov is awarded the prize for his research on metamaterials physics and development of technology for processing and transmitting super-high resolution images. The experts say that the results he has achieved could bring about a revolution in information and communications technology.
Finally, it gives me great pleasure to name one more laureate, Yekaterina Shishatskaya, and not only because she graces an otherwise all-male list, in which she deservedly figures as an outstanding young scientist in her own right. She has made an important contribution to developing biodegradable polymers. Her work has produced a multifunctional complex of medical materials that will make new advances possible in endoprosthetics, suturing, and many other high-tech materials.
These young scientists’ work represents the quintessence of what we are all working on today. It is really very pleasing to see that our young scientists have not only demonstrated their outstanding scientific talents but have created a whole new range of new technologies and materials which we lack so much. Commercialising developments and developing applied technology remain big issues for us, after all. By the way, the technology our laureates have come up with could also be used by the working groups the Commission for Modernisation [and Technological Development of Russia’s Economy] has set up.
Dear friends, in my Address [to the Federal Assembly] last year, I quoted Louis Pasteur, who spoke about the direct link between science and a nation’s victories and successes. He has another very good thought too: “The cult of science is perhaps even more important for a nation’s moral rather than material development.” There is much truth in these words too.
I remind you that 2010 is the Year of the Teacher. In this respect, I have a request to make of our laureates and of everyone here representing higher education and the [Russian] Academy of Sciences. I ask all of you to give schools more of your time and attention, to communicate and meet with talented adolescents.
You all know that the road to science for anyone begins in school. If schools succeed in kindling an interest in science we can expect results to follow, but if schools fail to do this, people can end up losing all interest in ever going into science. This is the reality.
That is probably all I wanted say. Let’s move on to presenting the awards.
I found our laureates very sincere in what they said, and at the same time careful and exact in their choice of words, as befits speeches made by young scientists. Although Yekaterina [Shishatskaya] said just now that she is nervous, she said everything we needed to hear – about why she and the team she works with chose to work on these particular developments, the general situation, and the confidence it gives our young scientists to see us all here in this hall today.
We realise that there still are many problems. We admit we are still only at the start of the road towards rebuilding our science and moving to a new quality of regulation in this sector. No matter how much pride we take in the USSR’s achievements, we all know full well, especially the older generation, that these advances were made in conditions that, while presenting certain advantages, also had some serious shortcomings.
We live in a different world now. The country has changed, the economy has changed, and the world has changed too. Our task therefore is not to recreate a copy of the Soviet system for managing science, but to create a system for the scientific Russia today, a system of incentives and support, regulation, and legal protection for intellectual property, based on international standards. We therefore must set up a brand new system of our own. Everything our laureates said today sets me in a very positive frame of mind in this respect.
I am sure that we can obtain excellent results, even if it will take time. Of course, investment is essential, investment in both fundamental and applied science. We are still only in the early stages of establishing a commercial framework to accompany science. This is something we need whatever the case. True, there are some things, fundamental science, some areas of applied research that will probably never offer many opportunities for making money, but at the same time, we see how this whole system works in the best-prepared countries. I prefer to use this term rather than call them ‘developed countries’, because we are developed too, only we have not yet brought our development up to the same level. We therefore need to create a new science infrastructure, a Russian system based on state attention and investment on the one hand, and on private investment, personal interest and, of course, moral incentives, on the other.
The main thing about today’s ceremony (receiving a prize – and the money attached – is always a pleasure, but is perhaps still secondary nonetheless) is that it represents the state’s recognition, a signal from the authorities that this is a priority, and an indication of what to expect in the close future.
I think it is important that in honouring our laureates today we send an important signal not just to science but also to business, which is a complex environment. We spend a lot of time now on converging scientific work and business plans and projects, and this is extremely important too.
Once again, I congratulate our laureates. They have all done well, thanked their teachers, the research teams they work with, the institutions where they studied and work, and thanked their families too, who also have their part to play.
I hope this will not be the last time you receive a prize, and I am sure it will not be. I congratulate you, your teachers and your families from all my heart. I congratulate us all, congratulate our country with the fact that our science is developing really quite well. I say once again, we are only at the start of this road, but we will definitely achieve results.
My sincere congratulations to you all.