Director of the Center for Management of Technological Development of NTI in RVC Arsen Gareev
© RVC Press Service
Russian Venture Company, which supervises the development of the Competence Centers of the National Technological Initiative in the status of an operator, sums up the results of the first one and a half years of work of structures that were created to accelerate Russia's entry into the technology markets of the future. The director told TASS the main results of the technological development management center of the NTI JSC Russian Venture Company — Arsen Gareev.
— Arsen, first of all, I would like to understand what the competitive advantage of the NTI Competence Centers over other formats of supporting research activities implemented in Russia is?
— The peculiarity of the NTI Competence Centers is that they work according to the model of consortia. This means that there is a “basic” organization, based on which a center and a pool of organizations and companies are created, which unites around it to solve common problems. The development program of each center involves the implementation of research projects. It includes measures to develop infrastructure, educational activities, commercialization, and partnerships. Another distinguishing feature is long-term but, at the same time, flexible programs for the development of centers. Each of them is designed for 4–5 years; annually, these programs undergo an update procedure.
— What is the role of Russian Venture Company in the development of centers?
— RVC acted as the organizer of the competitive selection of centers; at the moment, we perform the functions of tracking and monitoring their work. Also, RVC is trying to participate in the formation of the regulatory framework for the development of “end-to-end” technologies in Russia. The experts of the Russian venture company implement monitoring and analysis of the centers, prepare summary reports and analytical reports for the interagency working group (IWG) on the development and implementation of NTI under the Presidium of the Presidential Council for Economic Modernization and Innovative Development of Russia. An important area is the development of guidelines for the strategic planning of the centers and the commercialization of developments.
— What will happen to the centers after the five-year period for the implementation of development programs expires?
— The program provides for systemic performance indicators of the centers — revenue and co-financing. They are aimed at ensuring that the centers come out on a financially sustainable model. Government support is provided only to launch the center with the expectation that it will continue to act as an independent sustainable structural unit that contributes to the development of end-to-end technologies. Therefore, we, as the design office of NTI, will monitor their activities for at least three years after the state support phase.
— Centers for the National Technological Initiative (NTI) earned 3.9 billion roubles in 2019? Is it a lot or a little?
— This is more than planned. The result is 106% of the planned total revenue of the centers in 2019. Although the program for creating the centers was planned to be launched in early 2018, actually worked at the end of the year, the centers fulfilled their obligations. Now the centers are moving at a good pace and have a chance to maintain it.
— How do the centers cope with the task of attracting co-financing? Still, for every state rouble, the center should attract a rouble of private investment.
— Indeed, the target volume of attracted co-financing by the end of the term for the implementation of the programs of the centers is one to one. Today, it is at the level of 1:0.74; that is, the coverage is already three quarters. Although there is a deviation from the achievement of the planned volumes of co-financing, a higher share of government spending was initially included in the basic model at the initial stage when the costs of equipment and putting it into operation are required. Further, the share of grant support will decrease, and the share of the center's co-financing program should increase. Together, the centers have already attracted more than three billion roubles. At the same time, in 2019, as many as 28 infrastructure facilities were launched — these are collective use centers, test benches, test equipment complexes, and so on.
— What can other results of the work of the centers following the results of a year and a half of work be discussed today?
— If we talk about formal indicators, then there are three of them. First of all, the number of specialists trained in educational programs on cross-cutting technologies over the past 1.5 years has exceeded 14 thousand people. The second evaluation indicator is the number of licensing agreements concluded, of which there are already 400. And finally, the income provided by the activities of the centers today is almost 6.5 billion roubles. We also observed a 40% increase in the number of participants in consortia last year; now, their number has reached 470 organizations. At the same time, the number of customers of services and products of the centers exceeded 190 organizations.
— Presently, the centers' portfolio includes 200 projects, of which, last year, the centers implemented 43 projects. What specific developments are behind these numbers?
— As an example, we can remember the devices developed by the NTI Competence Center based on MIPT for the rehabilitation of people with disabilities. This project uses artificial intelligence algorithms to track the patient's gaze with motor impairments, which allows him to make more precise hand movements. This decision has already been transferred to an industrial partner who will produce ready-made complexes for rehabilitation. Among the completed projects, one can also single out a virtual testing ground for helicopters and airplanes at SPbPU, an encryptor with a quantum key distribution, created at Lomonosov Moscow State University The implemented projects have different planning horizons and the degree of technological readiness. It can be either finished devices with systems or technologies used to complete projects of later stages.
— Twelve of the fourteen centers were created based on Russian universities. What is the peculiarity of educational programs implemented by the centers, provided that universities are already training personnel in this area?
— The centers, in this case, are developing new training programs that the industry needs. Note that about 70% of the specialists trained last year were trained as part of continuing education programs — for the most part, these are people who already work in the technological field and need up-to-date knowledge. Many centers attract students of their educational programs to solve urgent technological problems, then attract the best as employees, so this approach provides training for the centers themselves.
— When will two new NTI Competence Centers Photonics and Technology of Modeling and Development of New Materials with Given Properties be launched in Russia? Why did these directions add to the list of “end-to-end” NTI technologies?
— I would single out three features that are characteristic of “end-to-end” NTI technologies. First of all, these areas have a “cross-cutting” character, meaning that they can be applied to a wide range of areas. They also have the potential to advance in global markets. They are more likely to be in demand among Russian companies to create products for global markets. Now RVC is planning to launch a competitive selection of centers. Financing issues are being worked out. Competitive selection can be carried out already in the fourth quarter of 2020 if the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation makes an appropriate decision.
— How does the self-isolation regime affect the work of centers, and how do they get out of the situation?
— In a pandemic, each center faces different difficulties. For example, IT solutions developers, for the most part, can work remotely. Still, their colleagues from the fields of biotechnology or the new energy sector need equipment, access to which is now limited due to the self-isolation mode. On the other hand, the “home” mode of work allows employees to work more on scientific articles, develop and launch new educational programs, and fill out grant applications. In connection with the changing needs of the markets, NTI Competence Centers have already begun to implement new projects, including the development of medicines for COVID-19, as well as solutions that help using machine intelligence to prevent crowding in a pandemic. Representatives of the VR/AR sphere also see new ways of applying technology for themselves.
— How much can the deadlines for the implementation of the programs of the centers be postponed due to the pandemic?
— We allow different scenarios and conduct a risk assessment. In case the deadline is critical, RVC will come up with a proposal for adaptation of the NTI Competence Centers to the current crisis conditions. In particular, these measures may relate to the extension of the implementation of the programs of the NTI Competence Centers. However, we can’t reduce the total amount of obligations. It is important for us that the centers implement the tasks supported by the Ministry of Education and Science when the competitive selection started.
The centers of competence of the National Technological Initiative are units that, under the Nauka (Science) national project, are created based on educational or scientific organizations and conduct research and educational activities in a consortium with leading technology companies in the interest of developing end-to-end NTI technologies. Among such technologies are big data, artificial intelligence, quantum technologies, new and portable energy sources, etc. In Russia, 14 such centers have been created. Until 2021, state funding of the Centres for 10.3 billion roubles is provided. The operator of the project to develop the NTI Competence Centres is Russian Venture Company.
Interviewed by Ekaterina Zamakhina.