President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Good afternoon, colleagues,
I think this is our first meeting that is taking place right inside a plant. People are working nearby, while we discuss some fairly serious issues. This is probably good. In any case, I would like to thank everyone who has invited us for allowing us to meet in such an interesting place.
Still, we have several topics to discuss today, two of which I will outline more specifically. The third topic we will cover just briefly: it concerns computer technologies, including computer games. I just had a look at some very interesting samples, so I think that we can discuss it separately at one of our future meetings. I do not want to address it specifically now, although I stress again that we took a look at it — and the products appear to be very good, and we took a look at sort of a separate Russian computer game industry that already exists, which has an enormous educational significance and which needs to be developed, because we cannot always rely on foreign products, which will always find their way into our markets. But we need to support our domestic products as well.
There are two things I would like to say at the beginning. The first concerns the development of nuclear medicine in Russia. We are meeting in Obninsk, which is a special city in this regard. The second issue concerns a special legal framework for the innovation centre in Skolkovo, as we agreed earlier.
First, let’s talk about nuclear medical technologies, something our nation obviously needs: first and foremost, in order to diagnose and treat oncological diseases, one of the major mortality factors in our nation. This is a serious problem throughout the world, but unfortunately, we have our own challenges here due to our underdevelopment. The problem is that overwhelmingly these diseases are diagnosed too late. Cancer is diagnosed too late, with about sixty percent of people learning about their cancer when they already have it in the third or fourth stage. Incidentally, in the last ten years, cancer incidence rate has grown by sixteen percent, while cancer mortality rates have grown by fourteen percent, let alone the fact that these figures vary significantly depending on geographical area.
Our task is to learn to apply the leading technologies in this field. Radionuclide diagnostics and therapy are among the most promising methods with proven effectiveness. We were just looking at what Obninsk has here. About fifty thousand people need this kind of treatment. So far, there is only one radionuclide therapy section, but the demand for studies and procedures of this kind is significantly greater, and I think that Ms Golikova [Tatyana Golikova, Minister of Public Health and Social Development] will talk about this in her speech.
At the same time, we have a solid research and development foundation for producing radiopharmaceuticals, and we’ve had positive experiences with applying the most advanced technologies in diagnostics and treatment. Unfortunately, these have mostly been imported technologies. We have a large number of qualified specialists, this is particularly evident in Obninsk. Now, we need to link all the vectors I have talked about as quickly as possible – in other words, we must integrate all areas of nuclear medicine. Clearly, this will have a direct impact on the number of lives we will be able to save.
We need a whole set of measures – I hope that Ms Minister [Golikova] will talk about this – so we must also think about developing this sector more actively within our nation. It also has fairly good export potential, and we will need to take advantage of that as well.
The second topic I would like to address is the development of an innovation centre in Skolkovo. We agreed that this centre would serve as the driving force for creating an innovation system in our nation. It must be presented as entirely competitive from the very beginning, and its competitiveness must be global. This will be the major difference between this centre and what we have had up until today. Naturally, the most important thing now is to expand this work and to ensure that all the instructions I gave earlier are carried out meticulously and within the deadlines.
There are a few important pieces of information with regard to this issue. The first has to do with human resources. A person very well known in business community, former Intel head Craig Barrett, has agreed to serve as co-chair of the supervisory board to manage the project’s companies. In addition, Roger Kornberg will serve as co-chair of the research council, along with Mr Alferov [Zhores Alferov, Physics Nobel Prize]. This information has already been released. He is also a well-known person, a world-renowned biochemist and a Nobel laureate. I am absolutely certain that the involvement of these two exceptional people will spur international interest toward our project. We need exactly these kinds of well-known people.
And I’d like to say one more thing, which is perhaps less significant, but still fairly important. Unfortunately, it is something that took a long time. Today, the Commission for Modernisation has finally launched its own website on the Internet at www.i-russia.ru, which will provide extensive descriptions of all the work that we have been doing for over a year. I hope that this website will be frequently visited and interesting, because these two things are interdependent. We have already gathered a significant amount of information, and people are given the chance to look at all these materials and news, and to discuss many topics. This is extremely important for us because it is all about feedback, about getting to understand how many people are interested in topics related to the modernisation of Russia’s economy. I hope that it will also be a source of new suggestions and initiatives, which the Government will respond to strategically. I will be personally overseeing this. Currently, many issues of this kind are addressed to my website at www.kremlin.ru, and this is not quite right, although the two sites should hyperlink to each another. We need to work with this website seriously, because it’s not just for fun. I hope that everyone present today will work on this.
And now I’d like to address what is perhaps the most important matter. We are currently in the point of determining key technical, financial, procedural and institutional parameters for the project in Skolkovo. I instructed the Government to work on a special legal, administrative, tax, and customs framework for this centre’s operation – in other words, on its special legal and economic status. We must complete this work in May, and also prepare for submission to the State Duma a draft law on amendments to existing regulations, of which we have about ten. I will submit this draft myself.
Creating special working environment in Skolkovo means not only creating a potential base for innovative activities, but also creating a special atmosphere that encourages free creativity and scientific inquiry as well. And naturally, we are talking about eliminating administrative barriers to companies’ activities, about quickly attracting scientists and specialists who are working on leading technologies. We must also address the efficient use and commercialisation of these projects. That is precisely why the idea of a special legal framework was suggested.
Clearly, this can be regarded as a system of preferences, but in reality, we need to look at this issue more broadly. This is a special legal environment. This is not just about incentives, although we will need them and we will introduce them. Today, we must look at what needs to be done in the near future. A few suggestions have already been made, and I am ready to name a few to get the discussion rolling. In any case, as far as the tax regulations (which may really be a truly important topic) and categories of benefit recipients are concerned, I suggest the following system of incentives for the participants of our new projects – the people who will be ‘residing’ there.
First of all, a privileged regime that will be in place for ten years from registration as a participant, until the annual receipts hit a total of one billion rubles; after that – until the accumulated earnings reach 300 million rubles.
As regards mandatory payments to the budget and taxes, the rates will be 14 percent for mandatory insurance premiums, and zero percent for income tax. Depending on the taxpayer’s choice, he or she may be exempted from VAT payments. The corporate property and land taxes will be zero. Personal income taxes will be mandated in accordance with our laws. These are fairly serious decisions, and we will certainly be discussing them. I would like today’s discussion to address this issue in specific terms.
I would like to stress again that in the near future – in other words, before the end of May – we need to have the final version of a draft law, or rather draft laws, on amendments to existing legislation, on various matters, as well as a new draft law on Skolkovo itself and its legal status.
Another topic is that of inviting foreign scientists and entrepreneurs to our innovation centre. We must provide the possibility for them to freely enter and travel within Russia. I spent several days in Europe, visiting Denmark and Norway. Several times during our talks, the leaders of these nations raised the issue of making it possible for qualified workers to enter and travel throughout our territory freely. This is indeed a very important topic, if we want to be competitive. And naturally, we must take care to provide comfortable living and working conditions for workers and their families, if we want to attract specialists of a truly high calibre. We cannot do without them.
Thus, the Russian Government needs to step up measures intended to significantly simplify or even cancel current mechanisms for quota allocation, immigrant registration, and various types of work permits for highly qualified foreign specialists. We need to finalise this issue, and I have given corresponding instructions on this matter. Incidentally, I want to point out that their deadlines have already expired. The Government needs to present results, and those results need to include legislative initiatives.
We should also think about other measures to encourage innovative activities, including state grants. Such a system is in place, and there are presidential grants, government grants, grants instituted by Federal constituent entities, and grants instituted by scientific foundations. In awarding these grants, special attention should be paid to the research teams’ involvement in the work in priority areas of our economy’s development. Naturally, money must go toward areas that can produce breakthrough results. By the way, it was not long ago that the Government issued a regulation on these grants – it was signed on April 9.
Government grant applicants may include top Russian or foreign scientists holding leadership positions in a certain field of science. We discussed this with the Minister of Education and Science [Andrei Fursenko]; these grants are quite a lot of money by our nation’s standards. Grants like these will be reviewed and awarded on a competitive basis between 2010 and 2012 to support research at Russian universities, and will be up to 150 million rubles each.
There is one other related topic I would like to discuss. I want to let you know that today I signed an executive order on state support for young workers in the defence industry. This order sets a total of one thousand monthly stipends of 20,000 rubles each, which will be paid to young engineers and technicians, young specialists, and highly qualified workers over a period of three years. The Government has been instructed to formulate and approve a [stipend] applicant selection procedure. I very much count on this system to allow us to attract a greater number of talented youth to a sector where we are also seeing tough international competition and where our nation’s positions have been quite strong so far.
These are the key topics that I suggest we focus on today.