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Technology innovations and city development: Russia’s contribution

20/06, 14:21

During recent decades, Russia has been unwillingly playing the role of an «intellectual donor» of the world. Because of economic problems of the 90’s the rich technological potential and outstanding scientific schools created in the Soviet Union were used not inside the country, but abroad. As a result, solutions proposed by Russian scientists formed the basis for many innovations implemented by transnational companies, and key positions in R&D centers of the world’s leading high-tech corporations are often occupied by Russian universities and research institutes graduates.

System of innovative project selection

But the situation has changed. Today, an indisputable priority of the country development is formation of an innovative economy. We understand absolutely clear that the past achievements, no matter how great they are, can not be the foundation for technological leadership in the modern world. Therefore, we rely on the generation of a new wave of innovative solutions that can provide the basis for the Russia’s technological breakthrough in XXI century. The most important step towards our major goal is to create a national countrywide system to select the most promising innovative projects.

The key elements of such a system are already working in Russia at both the federal and regional levels. An award of the President of Russian Federation was established in the field of science and innovations for young scientists; institutions for support and commercialization of innovations such as OAO Russian Venture Company and the Rosnano State Corporation were created. But an equally important fact is the widespread occurrence of expert initiatives in the field of innovations in Russia. At present, there are a number of programs and competitions in our country, under which the information on tens of thousands innovative projects is annually accumulated across Russia; then projects undergo independent expertise and the best of them receive support from the state and business. Competition of Russian Innovations, the Zvorykinsky Project (focused on the assessment and promotion of innovative projects carried out by young people), the program Participant of a Youth Scientific Innovation Contest – these are just some examples. These and other projects are under the auspices of the state and therewith are supported by the Ministry of Trade and Industry of Russian Federation.

Today, we possess the necessary knowledge about the most promising Russian innovation projects, which may be implemented in various fields of economy and social sphere. There are a number of innovations among them, and their implementation can create a base for city development of a new quality. This includes improvement of transportation systems, security, energy and energy saving.

For example, one of the winners of the Russia’s innovation competitions in 2010 is the project on design and organization of a pilot production of ventilation devices, which can reduce the heating costs by half. I believe that the international cooperation in the implementation of such projects will contribute to development of the urban environment not only in Russia but in many other countries. I want to emphasize that we are open for collaboration in this and other fields, but only on equitable and mutually beneficial basis.

Competitiveness of cities

Without a doubt, the global competitiveness of cities in the XXI century will be determined by the level of development of their innovative economies. From industry development point and hence, from Russian Industry and Trade Ministry competencies it means that urbanization today becomes one of the main industrial innovations development drivers with an effect similar to state need in high-tech weapons – the most important factor of innovations implementation in the former USSR in the second half of the past century.

It is considered that stimulation of innovations in the cities can be performed through creation of technology parks and business incubators, improvement of administrative and fiscal management, and development of the venture business. Russia uses all these tools. In particular, the Ministry of Industry and Trade of Russian Federation has become one of the initiators of the creation of technology parks and business incubators in the Samara region.
So, IT-park “Zhiguliovaskaya dolina” (“Zhigouly valley”) is being established in the largest Russian motor industry center, Togliatti, with Russian Industry and Trade Ministry support. This IT-park is created based on the idea of infrastructure and services rendering for entities, hi-tech products and services development and scientific researches acceleration to promote region’s marketability, social and economic development. Samara region authorities have already signed preliminary partnership agreements with 11 prospective investors and negotiations are kept with another six companies.

However, the rapid progress can not be achieved when using only traditional recipes. The concept of «creative economy» suggests that prerequisite for the development of innovative economy is the existence of the so-called «creative class», that is a social stratum, composed of people whose activities are directly related to creativity in science and technology, culture and education. Creative class representatives will not follow the technology, high-tech companies and venture capital, on the contrary, technology, innovative companies and the capital are moving to places with large concentrations of talented, educated and creative people. The creative professionals are concentrated not in places where the labor force with an appropriate qualification is needed, they live wherever they like and where there is a suitable «creative climate». Thus, the competitiveness of modern cities largely depends on their ability to attract creative class representatives and create favorable living and self-realization conditions.

According to the American researcher Richard Florida, the number of Russian creative class is 13 million, and thus we’re in the second place after the U.S. However, in order to realize this potential, Russian cities must become world class cities. This will help attract qualified professionals from abroad and retain local talents, so they will not be interested in finding more suitable «creative climate».

The largest Russian project of a «creative city» is the center of innovations in Skolkovo (Moscow region). The project is under the direct supervision of the President of Russian Federation.

Parity technologies

By promoting innovations, we improve also the areas, in which Russia has a serious backlog of competitive developments. These are, above all, alternative energy, nuclear energy, and medicine. In these areas, Russia has at least the technological parity with the most developed countries of the world, and in a number of areas is the technological leader.

In 2010, the Russia’s largest hydroelectric company Rushydro starts the project on building a tidal power plant in the Murmansk region, on the shore of the Barents Sea. Northern tidal power plant on the Dolgaya Gulf will have a capacity of 12 MW, and the commissioning is scheduled on 2013. This project will make the Kolskij peninsula the leading region in the sphere of alternative energy sources development. In accordance with the current plans, at least another two tidal power plants can be built in the region: Tugurskaya tidal power plant on the Sea of Okhotsk, and Mezanskaya tidal power plant on the White Sea. The strength of the tidal waves transformed by modern technologies can become one of the key factors in providing environmentally friendly renewable energy, as evidenced by the facts around the world.

Russian companies have competitive production technologies and equipment to use solar energy. In our country there are more than ten manufacturers of photoelectric cells for solar panels. There are technologies of equipment production for the use of low-potential heat sources in Russia. One of these developments, an installation based on contour heat pipe, is represented in the Russian exposition at EXPO 2010.

Innovative technologies can significantly improve the systems for forecasting, prevention and minimization of the consequences of natural and technological disasters. First of all, this is the global monitoring of natural and technological disasters; new earthquake-resistant building materials and structures; technologies to combat radiation and chemical contamination; technologies for modeling the incidents and emergency situations; application of new technologies for elimination of the consequences of disasters and conduction of rescue operations.

In this area, Russia also has fully competitive technologies and developments. For example, one of the most developed initiatives to establish monitoring systems for disasters was a project on establishment of an international aerospace system to monitor global geophysical phenomena and forecast natural and technological disasters (MAKSM), which was proposed by the Institute of Space Systems named after A.A. Maximov. Our country also has advanced technologies for disposal of chemical and radioactive waste.
It is impossible to overestimate the importance of new technologies to improve the healthcare system: technologies for diagnosis and monitoring of disease spread, modeling technologies for the spread of pandemics, innovative medicines and medical technologies, rehabilitation technologies. Although the domestic pharmaceutical and medical industry, and the specialized science, had not completely recovered since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia still maintains strong positions in several areas (especially in virology, oncology and cardiology). It is no accident that in the exposition of the Russian Pavilion there are five innovative medical developments – the unparalleled artificial tricuspid valve of the heart, the complex for the Flash-DNA diagnostics, the innovative gene-therapy drugs for cardiovascular diseases, artificial bio-leather, as well as the «trainer clothing” – a simulator for rehabilitation of children with disorders of the musculoskeletal system.

The Shanghai Declaration and the bank of the best innovative solutions

Russia’s participation in the Worldwide Universal Exhibition EXPO 2010 is not limited to the preparation of the national exposition in the Russian Pavilion. We actively support the initiative of the Organizers of the exhibition devoted to preparation of the Shanghai Declaration, designed to be the main outcome of EXPO 2010, fixing the key strategic approaches to long-term development of urban environment.

Currently we are preparing a package of proposals on the content of the Shanghai Declaration on behalf of Russian Federation. Although this work has not been completed yet, I now would like to introduce you to one of the Russia’s initiatives in this area.
From our point of view, significant contribution to the future development of cities can be made through creation of a public bank of the best innovations and practices already implemented in specific municipalities. Its content should include specific cases of innovation in city development, giving an adequate idea about the project and the problems, which it tries to solve, strategies and challenges encountered during its implementation, and the key results. Availability of such information would allow the city administration to choose the most effective tools for solving city development problems and to avoid mistakes and errors by taking into account the previous experiences.

Of course, innovation is an important competitive advantage, which can not be shared with potential competitors yet. However, we are talking not about business environment, but about improving the lives of millions of people, who, being the taxpayers, are the end customers of innovative solutions. So, in this case, the partnership is beneficial for all.

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