'National Nanotechnology Network' Announced by Government
The largest state universities and research centers will be integrated into a countrywide nanotechnology network, whose members will receive access to information about one another's research developments and facilities.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin signed an order in late April creating the National Nanotechnology Network, which was published Wednesday on the government's web site.
An Education and Science Ministry official said the network was created as part of the federal targeted program on developing the nano-industry from 2008 to 2010. Fifty research centers (such as the Kurchatov Institute) and universities (including Moscow State University and the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology) that the state already provides with equipment needed for nano-research will automatically become members of the network, known by its Russian acronym NNS.
Once the Education and Science Ministry develops criteria for NNS participants, any qualifying organization will be able to join, the source told Vedomosti.
The ministry official stressed that the network's creation would not reduce the importance of Rusnano. The state corporation works on commercializing ideas, whereas the NNS has the much broader task of uniting all participants in the innovation process, from scientists to entrepreneurs.
The NNS is being created to form a competitive research sector in nanotechnology and an effective system to commercialize that know-how, the government's order says. The network's goal is to boost the volume of nano-production and create an entry point for Russian companies onto the global market.
The domestic market for nanotechnology was 19.2 billion rubles ($637 million) in 2009, a figure that should reach 55 billion rubles by 2015, the ministry official said.
NNS members will work in nine different spheres: electronics, engineering, energy, space, biotechnology, security systems, high-purity substances, composite nanomaterials and construction nanomaterials. The ministry official said the members would receive access to one another's scientific results and information on their technological facilities.
The network is intended to coordinate the work of the largest participants in the innovative process so that they are not duplicating research or purchases of expensive equipment, the ministry source said, adding that NNS participants would be able to work on one another's equipment.
Information will be collected about developments' commercialization and demand for them, and universities will be able to get information on cutting-edge scientific programs, a source in the White House said. NNS membership will be free, he said.
An official in the Economic Development Ministry said a structure like the NNS was needed. "The government is spending serious resources on science and nanotechnology, and it wants those expenses to be highly effective," the source said.
In 2010, the state will spend 1.1 trillion rubles ($36.5 billion) on basic and applied science, higher education, related federal programs and high-tech medicinal help, Putin said. From 2010 to 2015, the state is planning to spend 62 billion rubles on nanotechnology through the federal budget, Rusnano, VEB and the Russian Venture Company.
The Kurchatov Institute, headed by Boris Kovalchuk, will coordinate scientific developments in the NNS, while Rusnano will analyze the market for nano-products and follow how products developed with budget financing are progressing. The Education and Science Ministry will oversee all of the NNS participants and approve new members.
A spokesperson for Rusnano said the system would codify its existing relationship with the Kurchatov Institute. A spokesperson for the institute declined comment.
Nikolai Kudryavtsev, rector of the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology, called the idea a good one. To date, the fastest way to share information is at research conferences, which means a delay of at least half a year, he said.
"Now we can learn about everything online," Kudryavtsev said, adding that coordination on nanotechnology projects was very important because the research is complicated and expensive.
Marina Udachina, director of the Innovations, Infrastructure and Investments Institute, said network management could help optimize a project's costs.
In the West, similar systems have been in place since the early 2000s, and not just for investors in nanotechnology, said David Yang, chairman of IT company ABBYY. Informational exchanges can help realize a business project, but they are not a panacea, he cautioned. "The most important thing is that the product is competitive," he said.
NNS members should not be required to disclose all information, since that will frighten effective businesses that are afraid to reveal their competitive advantages, he said.
By Maxim Tovkailo, Anastasia Yermakova and Valery Kodachigov / Vedomosti