Mil­lions into In­tel­lect

Rus­sia’s Skolkovo Foun­da­tion will branch out into Be­larus

Economy of Belarus - - UNION STATE - An­drei ASFURA, Econ­omy of Be­larus Mag­a­zine

The doors of the Rus­sian “Sil­i­con Val­ley” will soon open to Be­larus’ sci­en­tists. At a re­cent meet­ing in Minsk this au­tumn the Skolkovo Ad­vi­sory Sci­en­tific Coun­cil (ASC) sup­ported the ini­tia­tive of es­tab­lish­ing a Skolkovo of­fice in Be­larus. This way Be­laru­sian de­vel­op­ers will soon have an op­por­tu­nity to ap­ply for grants to fund their ground­break­ing projects with­out hav­ing to move to Rus­sia.

Bar­rier-Free Road

Truth be told, Be­laru­sian sci­en­tists can be­come res­i­dents of the Skolkovo Foun­da­tion even to­day. How­ever to do so, they need to set up a le­gal en­tity in Rus­sia and pass a short­list­ing process. This op­tion is avail­able to both in­di­vid­ual de­vel­op­ers and re­search teams, in­clud­ing large in­sti­tutes. Some Be­laru­sian sci­en­tists have al­ready taken this op­por­tu­nity.

By the way, to be­come a Skolkovo res­i­dent and re­ceive a grant (which varies from $50,000 to $10 mil­lion) a de­vel­oper has to pre­pare a set of doc­u­ments that has to in­clude a project pre­sen­ta­tion, a grant mem­o­ran­dum and a roadmap (a de­tailed plan of the project devel­op­ment). Then, the project will be scru­ti­nized by a tough se­lec­tion com­mis­sion com­prised of ten ex­perts, half of whom are Rus­sian and the other half are for­eign spe­cial­ists. They ex­am­ine not only the rel­e­vance and in­no­va­tive side of the project but also its prac­ti­cal ap­pli­ca­tion and mar­ketabil­ity.

In fact, the foun­da­tion is open for de­vel­op­ers from all coun­tries, but due to con­sid­er­able priv­i­leges it is more of in­ter­est to Rus­sian sci­en­tists. In the near fu­ture Skolkovo will be­come as at­trac­tive for Be­laru­sians as well. First, an ex­pert panel re­spon­si­ble for the se­lec­tion of projects will be formed in Be­larus. Then, a fully op­er­a­tional sub­sidiary of the Rus­sian foun­da­tion will be opened in Minsk.

This sce­nario is ben­e­fi­cial for both Rus­sians and Be­laru­sians. Ow­ing to this in­tel­lec­tual union Skolkovo will raise its in­ter­na­tional stand­ing and ex­tend its in­flu­ence by in­clud­ing the most promis­ing sci­en­tific projects of Be­larus into its busi­ness plan, while Be­laru­sian de­vel­op­ers will get fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance for im­ple­ment­ing their ideas with­out leav­ing the coun­try.

The lead­ing Be­laru­sian re­search fa­cil­i­ties that are un­will­ing to open sub­sidiaries in Rus­sia due to cer­tain rea­sons will soon be able to be­come Skolkovo res­i­dents. Rus­sian grants will help them ma­te­ri­al­ize ap­plied projects promis­ing con­sid­er­able prof­its in the mid-term per­spec­tive. Thus, the Rus­sian foun­da­tion pins its hopes on the Be­laru­sian know-how in physics, biomedicine, in­for­ma­tion, nu­clear and space tech­nolo­gies.

Ex­cep­tions in the Best In­ter­ests

How­ever, it may take years be­fore the Skolkovo sub­sidiary opens in Minsk. First of all, the Rus­sian leg- is­la­tion needs to be changed and this is a painstak­ingly long process. The mat­ter is only le­gal en­ti­ties reg­is­tered in Rus­sia are el­i­gi­ble for the pref­er­ences now. More­over, by 2014 all Skolkovo res­i­dents will have to be phys­i­cally present on the ter­ri­tory of the Skolkovo In­no­va­tion City which is now un­der con­struc­tion.

The Ad­vi­sory Sci­en­tific Coun­cil of the Skolkovo Foun­da­tion has de­cided to make an ex­cep­tion for Be­larus. The re­cent ASC meet­ing was held in Minsk on 20-21 Septem­ber and was at­tended by more than 500 sci­en­tists from all over the world, in­clud­ing three No­bel Prize win­ners: Mr Zhores Alferov, Vice-Pres­i­dent of the Rus­sian Academy of Sciences, Mr Roger David Korn­berg, pro­fes­sor at Stan­ford Univer­sity, and Mr Jean­Marie Lehn, founder of the supramolec­u­lar chem­istry and pro­fes­sor at Strasburg Univer­sity.

On the eve of the meet­ing in Minsk, the Na­tional Academy of Sciences of Be­larus (NASB) and the Skolkovo Foun­da­tion co-or­ga­nized a fo­rum ti­tled “Rus­sia-Be­larus: Sin­gle In­no­va­tion Space” show­cas­ing promis­ing Be­laru­sian projects.

Ap­par­ently, the Be­laru­sian projects made a good im­pres­sion on the renowned guests as the lat­ter uni­lat­er­ally de­cided to speed up the sub­sidiary open­ing. “Amend­ments might be in­tro­duced to ac­com­mo­date Be­larus that has a great sci­en­tific po­ten­tial. Es­pe­cially since we see Skolkovo as not just a project, but rather an ide­ol­ogy aimed to fos­ter re­search and devel­op­ment,” noted Mr Valentin Par­mon, Di­rec­tor

of the In­sti­tute of Catal­y­sis named af­ter G.K. Boreskov and an ASC mem­ber.

Co-chair of the Ad­vi­sory Sci­en­tific Coun­cil Zhores Alferov shares this opin­ion. “Skolkovo is an ide­ol­ogy, not just a Moscow sub­urb, and it has to go be­yond Rus­sia to Be­larus that is also part of the Union State. Be­laru­sian com­pa­nies should be re­quired to meet the same con­di­tions as their Rus­sian coun­ter­parts that are res­i­dents of the foun­da­tion,” the No­bel Prize win­ner be­lieves.

Es­tab­lish­ing the Skolkovo sub­sidiary re­quires con­ces­sions from the Be­laru­sian party as well. Thus, the tax pref­er­ences en­joyed by foun­da­tion res­i­dents in Rus­sia have to be pro­vided in Be­larus as well. Be­larus has al­ready gained some ex­pe­ri­ence in this area. For in­stance, res­i­dents of the High-Tech Park of Be­larus are ex­empt from the VAT and profit tax.

The Be­laru­sian government is ready to sup­port cre­ation of the Skolkovo sub­sidiary. Prime Min­is­ter Mr Mikhail Myas­nikovich promised an en­vi­ron­ment con­ducive to its op­er­a­tion in Be­larus, which in turn will help ma­te­ri­al­ize the rev­o­lu­tion­ary ideas of Be­laru­sian de­vel­op­ers. “We will find funds for promis­ing projects. The government will not stand aside,” he as­sured.

By the way, the Be­laru­sian aca­demic elite are not idly wait­ing for the of­fi­cial open­ing of the sub­sidiary: the NASB has al­ready submitted dozens of re­search projects in all five Skolkovo clus­ters. NASB em­ploy­ees be­lieve that the par­tic­i­pa­tion of Be­laru­sian sci­en­tists in the ac­tiv­i­ties of the foun­da­tion will strengthen R&D ties be­tween Be­larus and Rus­sia.

It should be noted that Skolkovo has five clus­ters: bio­med­i­cal tech­nolo­gies, in­for­ma­tion tech­nolo­gies, en­ergy ef­fi­cient tech­nolo­gies, space tech­nolo­gies and nu­clear tech­nolo­gies. Apart from grants, res­i­dents can count on ex­ter­nal funds. In 2011 alone pri­vate in­vestors, in­clud­ing Euro­pean ones, funded $150 mil­lion worth of projects.

In­ter­est in All Ar­eas

What ideas and projects of Be­laru­sian sci­en­tists are cur­rently

The Ad­vi­sory Sci­en­tific Coun­cil gave the green light to the project to cre­ate a fully pro­tected quantum in­for­ma­tion trans­fer sys­tem of the Na­tional Academy of Sciences of Be­larus

con­sid­ered to be in­ter­est­ing and promis­ing? At the meet­ing of the Ad­vi­sory Sci­en­tific Coun­cil the green light was given to the project to cre­ate a fully pro­tected quantum in­for­ma­tion trans­fer sys­tem. Lead­ing the project is Mr Sergei Kilin, NASB chief sci­en­tific sec­re­tary. The project par­tic­i­pants sug­gest set­ting up a brand-new en­cryp­tion sys­tem with the use of a cer­tain laser that will be im­pos­si­ble to crack. This quantum key can be used for in­for­ma­tion ex­change with space ve­hi­cles.

The Skolkovo Foun­da­tion also sup­ported a project of the NASB In­sti­tute of Bioor­ganic Chem­istry aimed at us­ing su­per­com­put­ers to gen­er­ate new an­ti­fun­gal com­pounds. In par­tic­u­lar, they can model a hu­man body re­ac­tion to var­i­ous or­ganic com­pounds and de­ter­mine the most ef­fec­tive ones. The find­ings will be use­ful in many fields from medicine to agri­cul­ture.

Skolkovo is also in­ter­ested in the project of cre­at­ing a sim­u­la­tor of neu­rosen­sory re­pro­gram­ming. The project is be­ing im­ple­mented by the Be­laru­sian Sci­en­tific and Prac­ti­cal Cen­ter for Neu­rol­ogy and Neu­ro­surgery in part­ner­ship with

the Rus­sia-based V&A Lab­o­ra­tory (by the way, it was founded by Be­laru­sian pro­gram­mer Alexan­der Khromenkov). Spe­cial soft­ware an­a­lyzes move­ments of a pa­tient, eval­u­ates the state of his/her lo­co­mo­tor ap­pa­ra­tus and helps doc­tors de­velop an op­ti­mal set of ex­er­cises.

Be­laru­sian sci­en­tists have other promis­ing projects which will surely at­tract at­ten­tion of Skolkovo ex­perts. Thus, the United In­sti­tute of En­ergy and Nu­clear Re­search Sosny has been de­vel­op­ing un­der­crit­i­cal nu­clear re­ac­tors which are much safer than the ex­ist­ing re­ac­tors. Both the EU and USA are in­ter­ested in such projects. By the way, the in­sti­tute has been in­volved in the devel­op­ment of mo­bile nu­clear power plants since 1985.

Ex­perts of the A.V. Lykov In­sti­tute of Heat and Mass Trans­fer to­gether with their coun­ter­parts from Pe­leng have been de­vel­op­ing space tele­scopes with a record high res­o­lu­tion. Spe­cial mir­rors with mag­ne­torhe­o­logic fin­ish- ing will make it pos­si­ble to take im­ages with the res­o­lu­tion of sev­eral dozen cen­time­ters. To com­pare: a Be­laru­sian satel­lite takes im­ages of the Earth with a 2.1-me­ter res­o­lu­tion.

The United In­sti­tute of In­for­mat­ics Prob­lems has been de­vel­op­ing a mul­ti­lin­gual sys­tem of speech syn­the­sis. Thanks to this new tech­nol­ogy it will be pos­si­ble to dub texts in var­i­ous lan­guages of the CIS mem­ber states.

Mr Mikhail Tatur, a pro­fes­sor of the com­puter de­part­ment of the Be­laru­sian State Univer­sity of In­for­mat­ics and Ra­dio­elec­tron­ics, has also submitted an IT project. He wants to de­velop spe­cial­ized pro­ces­sors to ful­fill in­tel­lec­tual tasks re­lated to data pro­cess­ing. This in­ven­tion will be use­ful in many eco­nomic sec­tors, for in­stance in agri­cul­ture for de­vel­op­ing op­er­a­tor-free farm­ing. Although re­motely con­trolled trac­tors and com­bine-har­vesters seem to be some­thing from sci­ence fic- tion, they may be­come re­al­ity in 10 to 15 years.

Price of an Idea

Skolkovo’s in­ter­est in the Be­laru­sian R&D can be ex­plained not only by re­la­tions within the Union State. Fa­mous Rus­sian sci­en­tists, many of whom work closely with their Be­laru­sian coun­ter­parts, think much of the coun­try’s sci-tech po­ten­tial. “Be­larus has pre­served its high-tech sec­tors. Its R&D projects are both highly de­manded abroad and ef­fec­tively work for the coun­try’s econ­omy. There­fore co­op­er­a­tion be­tween Skolkovo and Be­larus will be very ben­e­fi­cial from the prac­ti­cal point of view,” Zhores Alferov noted. Valentin Par­mon agrees with him: “Be­larus is one of the CIS lead­ers in the IT devel­op­ment”.

Mr Evgeny Ve­likhov, Pres­i­dent of the Kur­cha­tov In­sti­tute, noted that Be­laru­sian aca­demi­cians are not iso­lated from the global sci­en­tific com­mu­nity and main­tain close

con­tacts with the world-known R&D cen­ters. It is im­por­tant that the ma­jor­ity of Be­laru­sian re­search projects are re­sults-ori­ented and used in pro­duc­tion, Evgeny Ve­likhov noted.

Rus­sian ex­perts see the space in­dus­try as an­other promis­ing area of co­op­er­a­tion with Be­larus. Mr Sergei Zhukov, Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor of the Skolkovo space tech­nol­ogy and telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions clus­ter, be­lieves in Be­laru­sian success in this area. Ac­cord­ing to him, the coun­try can pro­duce com­pet­i­tive space ve­hi­cles. “Be­larus can de­velop space equip­ment, in­clud­ing tar­get de­vices and plat­forms which will be de­manded in the global mar­ket,” he spec­i­fied.

How­ever, Skolkovo grants and in­vest­ments are im­por­tant not only for big sci­en­tific or­ga­ni­za­tions which ma­jor projects are funded by the state bud­get, and man­u­fac­tur­ers who will be wel­come in the Be­laru­sian-Chi­nese In­dus­trial Park un­der con­struc­tion in Smole­vichi District. The Skolkovo Foun­da­tion is es­sen­tial for Be­laru­sian sci­en­tists and re­search teams dream­ing to im­press the world with their bril­liant ideas.

The fact is Skolkovo is not afraid of in­vest­ing mil­lions in star­tups and even helps at­tract ven­ture cap­i­tal. Although there are bu­reau­cratic de­lays in Skolkovo, too: af­ter a project has been given a go-ahead, de­vel­op­ers some­times have to wait months for the promised grant.

By the way, it has to be taken into con­sid­er­a­tion that not all Be­laru­sian know-how will be of in­ter­est to Skolkovo. Some of projects might over­lap with sim­i­lar re­search projects be­ing done in Rus­sia or might be com­mer­cially un­vi­able. This means that Be­laru­sian de­vel­op­ers will have to be sci­en­tists and man­agers at the same time. They will have to strive for both sci­en­tific and com­mer­cial success. Although they say that ideas are price­less, the pref­er­ence will be given to projects paying good div­i­dends.

Prime Min­is­ter of Be­larus Mikhail Myas­nikovich and No­bel Prize win­ner Aca­demi­cian Zhores Alferov at a meet­ing of the Ad­vi­sory Sci­en­tific Coun­cil of the Skolkovo Foun­da­tion, Minsk, Septem­ber 2012

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Belarus

© PressReader. All rights reserved.