Prime Minister Vladimir Putin holds a session of the Government Commission on High Technology and Innovation in Dubna


“I believe there are all the necessary conditions to start building world-class research facilities in Russia, megaclass research installations that would be similar in size to the world-renowned Large Hadron Collider, in order to obtain results worthy of the Nobel prize.”

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s opening address:

Good afternoon, colleagues,

Today, at the session of the Government Commission on High Technology and Innovation, we will focus on the development of research infrastructure, namely, building state-of-the art research facilities, also known as mega science installations, which we must have if we want to reach new levels in fundamental science.

We should also realise that good infrastructure is a prerequisite for the competitiveness of Russian science and its ability to act as an equal partner in carrying out breakthrough international programmes, so that Russian and top foreign specialists will come to Russia in order to implement their ideas.

Let me remind you that we discussed the building of new nuclear physics research installations in January 2010. Today, we will review their progress.

We are investing substantial resources in the development of Russian science. To give you an example, the financing of civilian research almost tripled over the past six years. In 2006, we allocated 77 billion roubles from the federal budget for civilian research and development, while in 2011 this figure was 230 billion roubles. That’s a significant increase.

The support of research conducted at institutions of higher education and the strengthening of scientific schools at the leading Russian universities is a very important area of work. We have budgeted an additional 40 billion roubles to this end.

The Kurchatov Institute launched the first pilot project in Russia to establish a national research centre. In addition to the current financing scheduled for 2010–2012, we have allocated 10 billion roubles for its development.

Today, Russian researchers are participating in four international megaprojects: the Large Hadron Collider operated by the European Organisation for Nuclear Research; the thermonuclear reactor in France (ITER); the European x-ray free electron laser; and the heavy ion accelerator in Germany. Russia contributes both intellectually and financially to international research.

We have extensive and positive experience in international scientific cooperation, including our work at the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research, where we are having our session today. Institute officials and lab heads told me about their joint work with foreign researchers, and I was impressed.

I believe there are all the necessary conditions to start building world-class research facilities in Russia, also referred to by professionals as megaclass research installations as I mentioned before – ones that would be similar in size to the world-renowned Large Hadron Collider, in order to obtain results worthy of the Nobel prize. We can do it here. To be sure, Russia is an incontestable leader in certain areas of research. In terms of its size, such a project can be comparable to space and nuclear research programmes that have been implemented in Russia in the past.

Why is this so important today? First, projects of such magnitude are not only about the prestige of a nation. They help focus resources on priority areas, and in fact, to make breakthroughs, first in fundamental science and then in technology.

Second. As we know from other countries’ experiences, megaprojects tend to become central points that give rise to research clusters emerging around them, a fully-fledged innovative infrastructure that is capable of transforming fundamental knowledge into new technology and innovative products, thus bringing research results to the market. For example, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research led to huge advances in cryogenic technology. Here, in Dubna, they are building Beta, an enterprise engaged in manufacturing medical equipment, including blood purifiers with nuclear filters developed by the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research.

Third. Such megaprojects also help us deal with crucial staffing problems. Given current mobility levels in science, it makes almost no sense to use administrative measures to fight the brain drain. The only surefire approach is to make Russia appealing to both Russian and foreign researchers, so that they can come here to fulfill their potential, and talented and promising young researchers could make a name for themselves here in Russia and do so using the most modern and unique equipment.

Finally, fourth. Research megaprojects encourage territorial development, expand high-tech and science-intensive production facilities and attract investment. Most importantly, they facilitate the introduction of modern management techniques and international cooperation in the research sphere.

I know that the Education Ministry’s interdepartmental ad hoc group has made a preliminary selection of megaprojects and picked the six most sophisticated mega-science facilities whose construction is deemed feasible for Russia. These include the nuclear tokamak Ignitor, the PIK research reactor and a whole number of other new-generation facilities.

The aim of our current session is not to decide on some specific project to be launched.  The list remains open to new entries. I believe we should begin by formulating new approaches to megaprojects and their selection criteria, setting forth our requirements in a precise, clear-cut way. We’ll then be able to make an informed and objective choice.

We should estimate the prospective benefits of proposed projects for Russia’s scientific community and the nation at large, their potential appeal to foreign counterparts, and the dividends they could yield on government investment. We should take our time and weigh all pros and cons.

Scientific megaprojects, especially ones of international standing, are quite costly. Sometimes their cost exceeds tens of billions of dollars, and the country that has initiated some particular project usually has to cover at least half of the expenses.

In my view, we should start by drafting a roadmap for each of the proposed projects. We should then have them undergo international expert analysis, arrange broad-based discussions in the research community, and do the full cycle of groundwork, from the signing of international treaties, where the signatories’ financial commitments are spelled out, through to the selection of a managing company.

The Russian Academy of Sciences has received a number of proposals from international consortiums on Russia’s participation in megaprojects based abroad (beyond those in which we’re involved already). We could and should consider them here today. That’s all I wanted to say at the beginning. Now I’ll give the floor over to Andrei Fursenko. Please go ahead, Mr Fursenko.

Andrei Fursenko: Thanks. Ladies and gentlemen, cost sharing is not the only motive for turning mega-science projects into an international collaborative effort. They are also sophisticated technologically, and call for vast intellectual resources no one country can provide single-handedly.

Russian scientists play a major role in all the international projects presented in the next slide. Many of these projects draw on ideas suggested in Russia or in the Soviet Union (the Hadron collider, the Tokamak, and the X-ray free electron laser are just a few examples). Russia also makes a significant financial contribution to these projects, as much as $1.5 billion.

It should be noted, though, that Russia’s involvement is disproportionate. Most of the international projects in which it’s currently involved are implemented in partner countries, leaving the nation’s own research infrastructure underdeveloped.

While continuing to collaborate on those projects, we should try to have more sites set up on our soil. We’ve already arranged for the Kurchatov Institute and the Nuclear Energy Institute to get involved.

In keeping with your March 3, 2011 instructions, the board of the government’s hi-tech commission ruled that an interdepartmental selection group should be set up to pick out the most feasible of projects for Russia.

The next two figures show the key selection criteria identified by the ad hoc group. The first criterion has to do with research goals. A goal set should make possible the solution of ambitious scientific challenges; expected scientific results should open up new opportunities and, most importantly, create some breakthrough technology with no existing analogues.

We should look for one-off projects, capable of staying in the lead for a long while, providing a competitive edge for Russia’s R&D sector and fostering competent management teams formed with homegrown talent.

And then there’s a whole number of numerical criteria. One of these is a substantial budget, because we should be oriented toward large-scale projects. Also, we need projects that would take no more than a decade to get up and running. We must assess their feasibility for Russia based on our domestic industrial capacity.

We’ve already come a long way. But this is the first time all those interested have gathered together in one place.

Twenty-eight projects have been proposed, and six of the entries have been picked in a unanimous vote. All of these meet the selection criteria set. Almost all draw on intellectual property created by highly-qualified Russian scientists, and some are already being implemented.

The construction of the PIK reactor was shelved for a while, but we recently got the project restarted and it is fast nearing completion. 

This and other selected projects will enable us to make an important step forward.

They have to do with sectors currently in the focus of the world’s research community, and their implementation will allow us to maintain our leading positions for some time to come.

But to make a final decision on whether we should throw our weight behind this or that project, we should subject each of them to international expert analysis and assess its international co-sharing potential.

We’ve already agreed in principle on the fifty-fifty investment scheme for at least two of the projects – the tokamak Ignitor and NIKA, which you visited earlier today. The Kurchatov Research Centre has been able to raise substantial funds for the PIK reactor. As of today, our German partners are ready to supply tens of millions of euros’ worth of equipment. That’s quite a contribution, but we hope for more to come.

Negotiations are currently underway on all the other projects.  So we’d now like you to consider and assess our selection criteria and the projects selected.

It would be great to see them approved in principle and to hear recommendations on how to streamline them further. This way we could make sure that the projects we’ll propose to the government are thought through, both in terms of organisation, technology, and resources. 

Vladimir Putin: Thank you.

* * *

Vladimir Putin’s concluding remarks:

Dear colleagues,

We will consider everything voiced during our discussion today.

Without going into detail, I’ll just say that a lot of good suggestions have been made, notably on the organisation of feasibility studies.

For decades, we’ve regarded the achievements of the Western economies as the benchmark for our standards. But meeting these standards is not enough. We should strive to be a leader among world economies. Leadership would give us a sense of security. To gain and keep a leading position, we need to look to breakthrough ideas in science and technology.

Despite all the difficulties of the transition period our country has gone through, we can gain a leadership role in the major sectors if we make the most of our past achievements as well as innovate proactively. This is how we can progress. So let’s make the necessary adjustments in our roadmap and go from here.

Thank you for your efforts and commitment.

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