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Posted: May 19, 2009

Russian government takes aim at nanotechnology sector

(Nanowerk News) After getting rapped by President Dmitry Medvedev earlier this month, the State Nanotechnology Corporation RUSNANO was once again criticized by a top government official on Tuesday, as Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov accused the company of "lagging behind" in realizing its goals.
In a speech to a government commission on technology and innovation, Ivanov said Rusnano was "lagging behind" in fulfilling "its primary assignment, which is preparing nanotechnology projects for realization."
Rusnano head Anatoly Chubais, who was also in attendance, put a positive spin on events, telling reporters after the meeting that the commission "approved" of Rusnano's activities and the company would present the commission with a blueprint for the development of Russia's "innovation economy." He also said the company planned to approve over 28 billion rubles ($879 million) worth of technology investments in 2009.
Ivanov's accusations, however, are not the first to be aimed at Rusnano in recent weeks. Earlier this month, Medvedev criticized the country's strategy of developing the technology sector through state-owned corporations, singling out Rusnano as an example.
"[Rusnano] is the kind of instrument that sometimes works and sometimes doesn't work at all," Medvedev said, calling the company a "large structure that has a lot of money and that still has to understand how to correctly spend it."
In a meeting with Chubais last week, Medvedev took a more conciliatory tone when he said the government would continue to finance the development of the nanotechnology sector even during crisis conditions.
But he was quick to say the state's task "shouldn't be limited to the creation of Rusnano, a large structure that places large orders."
"The important thing is to create a fabric of small and medium-sized enterprises that will realize small projects, which will become the basis for larger projects," Medvedev said.
Rusnano can play a significant role in this, he said.
Later in the week, however, Medvedev castigated top officials for the slow pace of reforms in the technology sector, saying efforts to foster innovation and help companies spend more on research and development had failed.
"Practically no major changes in the technological levels of the economy have taken place," Medvedev said. "Technological parks ... Russia's venture capital company ... special economic zones, all of this exists only on paper," he said.
Rusnano officials did not respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.
Chubais, however, has been quick to point out the company's efforts.
While the company has only approved 14 projects in its year and a half of existence, it will be approving 15 projects per quarter starting this July, he said after Tuesday's meeting.
During last week's meeting with Medvedev, he said the company aimed to create several funds of up to $70 million that would provide small and medium-sized businesses with seed capital.
Source: The Moscow Times (Ira Iosebashvili)