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Posted: April 13, 2009
Rusnano Might Invest in Canadian Nanotechnology Firms
(Nanowerk News) According to a Canadian news service, Canwest, RUSNANO might invest millions of dollars into Canada's fledgling nanotechnology industry:
Senior officials from the Russian Corporation of Nanotechnologies were in Windsor, Ont., Toronto, and Ottawa last week meeting with scientists and entrepreneurs as well as provincial and federal officials as part of their global search for promising nanotechnology companies that need some seed money.
"What we saw we liked," said Alexander Losyukov, RUSNANO's deputy director general for international co-operation, in an interview in Ottawa. "Scientists are getting engaged."
Alexander Losyukov (Photo: Jessica Hinds, Canwest News Service)
Losyukov and other senior RUSNANO officials have also travelled to Germany, Israel, Finland, the United States and elsewhere as they look for startups in which to invest. With $5 billion U.S. to work with, RUSNANO is one of the largest technology capital funds on the planet.
Losyukov said it has identified more than 100 Canadian firms involved in commercial development of nanotechnology. Later this spring, RUSNANO officials in Moscow will decide which firms or startups it wants to fund. RUSNANO's minimum investment in any of these firms will be $10 million U.S..
The Russians will provide no details about potential Canadian investment targets. Any detail — location, province, or sector of a potential target — could provide a strong hint as to who they're looking at because the pool of potential Canadian companies is so small.
Still, based on his discussions so far, Losyukov believes RUSNANO will be able to successfully negotiate an investment in more than a few Canadian companies.
"I hope that before the end of this year, we'll make a decision," Losyukov said.
"It was very refreshing to see activities like this," said Nils Petersen, director general of Canada's National Institute of Nanotechnology and one of those who met with the Russian group. Petersen's institute, based at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, has a $20-million annual budget partly funded by the federal government.
"I think the other thing (RUSNANO's interest) illustrates is that there (is), across the world, an increased understanding of the fact that nanotechnology will underpin the next industrial revolution. This is obviously why they're investing."
Unlike some private sector venture funds, RUSNANO is prepared to be patient with its investment. Losyukov says its investment horizon could stretch to 10 years.
"In certain cases, we don't need profit at all," he said. "There are projects of social significance, like producing medicines which is badly needed by the population. We are not quite a normal investment fund."
Nanotechnology is the science of manipulating matter at the atomic or molecular level. Advances in nanotechnology have the promise to revolutionize medicine, agriculture, materials science and many other endeavours.
Already, nanotechnology has been used to manufacture products as varied as wrinkle-free pants, self-cleaning windows, better tennis racquets and lighter, stronger auto parts. The federal government estimates the worldwide market for nanotechnology-derived goods and services could be $1.5 trillion by 2015.
The public policy imperative behind RUSNANO, which is only a year old, is to help Russia quickly build nano-production capacity to catch up to other powers, notably Japan and the United States, that have developed capacity in this area.
"We lost a bit when our scientists when we were engaged in resolving our political problems and now we have to catch up rapidly," said Losyukov, who spent a career as a diplomat, joining the government of the former Soviet Union in 1968 and only recently retiring. He was asked to join RUSNANO because of his contacts with scientists, government officials and businesspeople in other countries.