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Minister Comments on Progress Made in Year One of National Projects for Science and Education

December 12, 2019

The Russian Minister for Science and Higher Education Mikhail Kotyukov has given his assessment of what the National Projects for Science and Education have achieved in their inaugural year. He was speaking at the annual VUZPROMEXPO National Science & Education Fair held on December 11-12 in Moscow.

Both projects, which have yet to complete their first year, are off to an ambitious start, in terms of both industry involvement and the pipeline of initiatives for developing researchers' competencies, said Mikhail Kotyukov. He added that their performance would be expertly evaluated following discussions with universities, scientific institutions and industrial partners.

Russia has launched its first-ever dedicated national project for science this year. The project, which will run through 2024, provides for the creation of 15 world-class science and education clusters (SECs) that would take to a new level cooperation between the authorities, business and academia in scientific research, innovation, education and digital economy. Pilot SECs are already operating in Perm Krai and the Belgorod, Kemerovo, Nizhny Novgorod and Tyumen Regions.

According to Mikhail Kotyukov, the SEC-related experience and ideas that the five pioneering regions have brought to this year's VUZPROMEXPO emphasize collaboration between universities, scientific institutions and industrial companies in areas of genuine importance to the regions' economies. His ministry, he added, will make every effort to support and promote those research projects and educational programs which premier universities will develop to engage younger scientists. It is also important to ensure that the SECs convert Russian researchers' ideas into full-fledged homegrown technologies, he stressed.

Attended by over 100 of Russia's leading higher education and research institutions, 26 engineering centers and more than 50 companies, the fair was an excellent venue for Project 5-100 universities to air their achievements. Lobachevsky University showcased some of the technologies being developed under the auspices of the National Projects for Science and Public Health: a brain-controlled car, a powered exoskeleton, prototype biomorphic underwater robots for an integrative monitoring of marine and freshwater areas, memristive devices and systems, etc. Tomsk Polytechnic University (TPU) displayed its designs for water treatment plants and an ash-and-slag waste recycling facility, and presented its in-house inorganic materials engineering center.

The strong corporate attendance at the event is hardly surprising, as the Unified Plan for Achieving the National Development Goals calls for one in every two Russian enterprises to engage in technological innovation by 2024.

In addition to stimulating research, the SECs will focus on integrating education across all levels, including the training of employees for industries that contribute to the implementation of national S&T priorities.

Mikhail Kotyukov reads the experience of the five pilot SECs as indicating that secondary and general education should also be brought within their purview to provide for vocational orientation and training early on in the education process.

Crucial to the National Projects for Science and Education is their human dimension, said the minister. To attract academic talent, Russia is creating a comfortable research environment, building state-of-the-art S&T infrastructure and encouraging efforts by research teams to turn young persons' ideas into workable, cutting-edge technology. To recruit superior students, SECs are being set up across the country.

The Projects for Science and Education have made progress on other fronts, too, noted Mikhail Kotyukov. His ministry has selected institutions to host international scientific centers for mathematics and genome research. Management systems and development programs have been designed for Russia's nuclear 'megascience' facilities. Research foundations have collaborated with the government to put in place grant programs to support promising research projects led by early-career scientists. Finally, 2019 has seen research institutions' instrumentation upgraded and over 280 youth-staffed labs set up.

The National Project for Science aims to propel Russia into the top five countries for R&D activity in high-priority areas of science and technology. Russia is therefore looking to make itself attractive to both domestic and international researchers, especially young ones, given that it seeks to increase the share of scientists aged 39 or less to at least 50.1% by 2024. This country's total R&D expenditure is set to reach R1,847.6 bln. The National Project for Science is to receive as much as R636 bln in funding over 2019-2024, with R404.8 bln financed from the federal budget and R231.2 bln from off-budget sources.