President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Good afternoon.
First of all I would like to sincerely thank you for consenting to join Skolkovo Innovation Centre's academic advisory board . It is very important for us that actors in Russia's science city benefit from the support of distinguished scholars, whose life and work certainly represents an example for huge numbers of people. And our co-chairs, Nobel laureates Mr Roger Kornberg and Mr Zhores Alferov, have managed to gather a very good team composed of scientists from Russia, America and Germany. Naturally, we're very pleased about this.
The Skolkovo project is not simply a random one and I hope it will represent a special partnership between the Russian government, business and science. I think that today its purpose is obvious to all: we do not want to belabour the point. On the other hand, in Russia it is normal that such initiatives still generally receive a so-called blessing from above. And in our country often signals carry further if they are made by the government. Actually, this is not ideal, but I hope that someday such a high-tech centre could be established without such extensive government involvement. Nevertheless, today it is clearly needed and that is why I am involved. Perhaps such involvement really is necessary today. We have prepared a series of decisions designed to ensure that this project acts as a pilot one and, eventually, a model.
I receive many letters and messages via the Internet and other means in which Russians and, incidentally, foreign citizens ask the same question: why are you devoting so much attention to Skolkovo, it is just one project, there are other major scientific centres in Russia, other science cities, good institutions. All this is correct. But at the same time we do not have new models which work well, or if we do, there are very few of them.
Therefore, in order for Skolkovo to be realised we had to do an unprecedented thing which is unlikely to be repeated in the future: we had to pass a separate law on Skolkovo which was adopted by our parliament, the State Duma, the Federation Council, and which provides for a number of benefits and contains provisions defining the innovation centre's status. I expect that all these targeted benefits for Skolkovo's residents will produce results.
Once again I would like to emphasize that though Skolkovo is a big idea, we would like it to be just the beginning. There are other things that we have started recently. Russia still has a good education system. And no matter how much we might criticise ourselves, I think that the classical education system in our country and engineering education remain very decent. Unfortunately, we do not currently occupy high positions in international university rankings, but that is not only because we have certain problems, it is also because of our inability to sell ourselves. These ratings are, above all, based on citations, and in order to be cited you have to work at it.
Why am I talking about this? Some time ago we gave our universities permission to create specialised, small innovative businesses. To date they have established more than 500 such businesses. For what purpose? The thing is that scientific achievements naturally have to be commercialised, that is be transformed into new and tangible results, into new types of goods which can then be sold on the consumer market, or at least some of them can. We are not particularly good at doing this, so we decided to create these small firms at universities. In the future, I hope their number will expand and that they will receive additional benefits. We allocate grants to foreign scientists; this is our first experience doing so, the money involved is decent, and perhaps in the future we will think about how to increase the number of these grants.
Finally, I would like to point out that recently a group of leading Russian universities signed a special memorandum of cooperation with the Skolkovo Fund. This is the information I wanted to convey at the beginning of our meeting.
I would like to see the main task of the Skolkovo Development Fund academic advisory board as the creation of a most important and difficult thing: a special atmosphere. Because without a special creative atmosphere it is impossible to do anything. But if such an atmosphere is established, then we can cultivate an environment in which research can be conducted, discoveries can be made, new developments can occur, and a practical understanding of scientific results can be obtained. It is very important that the team works at this, because without such an atmosphere everything else will fail. I would be very pleased if those present were to create such a team. I very much look forward to this.