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Russian govt to increase funding for science, urges business to pitch in

October 29, 2012, 23:53 UTC+3
The president called for using more actively targeted capital funds as an effective means of attracting private money into science and education
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NOVO OGAREVO, October 29 (Itar-Tass) —— The Russian government will increase funding for science, President Vladimir Putin said and urged business to join in.

“Federal budget funding for civilian sector science has increased substantially over the last 10 years, but we often hear the view and have the idea that there is not enough money for science. This is fair enough. At the same time however, let me draw your attention to a few figures. In 2002, we spent only 31 billion roubles [1 billion U.S. dollars] on science, but we are spending 328 billion roubles on it this year. This is a big difference,” he said on Monday, October 29, at the first meeting of the Council for Science and Education since its membership was changed.

Putin stressed that public sector average wages in research and development have almost tripled over the last 5 years, from 9,700 roubles (320 U.S. dollars) a month in 2006, to 27,869 roubles a month in 2011 which is 21 percent higher than the average wage in the economy as a whole. Of course, it is still not much, but the trend is clear and positive at least.

“Russia is one of the top countries in the world now for the absolute volume of state funding for research and development. Put into purchasing power parity terms, our figure comes out at 22 billion U.S. dollars. Comparing this to the OECD countries’ respective figures, we are still a long way behind the United States (157 billion U.S. dollars), Japan (33 billion U.S. dollars) and Germany (29 billion U.S. dollars), but are ahead of countries such as France, Britain, and Italy, which have figures of 19 billion U.S. dollars, 14 billion U.S. dollars, and 11 billion U.S. dollars, respectively, in purchasing power parity terms,” he said.

He commended some research institutes and teams that work at the global forefront in their fields and enjoy a deserved reputation around the world.

The programme to attract prominent scientists to Russian universities and laboratories is also starting to produce results, he said. “More than 70 research projects involving the participation of foreign specialists and Russians returning home to work are underway now. I already mentioned on several occasions, including at the opening of the new Federal University, about the grant support programme that aims to attract globally recognised scientists and offers laboratories, accommodation, and decent pay. We had ten applicants for every one place on the programme, with applications coming from the USA, Europe, Japan, and South Korea,” the president said.

He believes that “we are moving in the right direction”. “Of course, this is still not enough and we must go further and ensure steady development and a new quality of work in research and development in Russia,” he said at the same time.

Putin said it would be necessary to move over “to multichannel financing for research, with funds coming not just from the state budget but also from extra-budgetary sources, business, private companies”.

“Many of you know the role the different channels play in funding for science in the world’s big research powerhouses. In Japan, for example, budget money accounts for only 23 percent of funding for science, while here it represents almost 75 percent,” he said.

He cautioned that new approaches will have to be introduced gradually, without radical upheaval to the existing instruments and institutions and realising that for now, budget money will remain the biggest source of funding for research and development in Russia.

At the same time, the president called for using more actively targeted capital funds as an effective means of attracting private money into science and education. “We have a law in this area that is in force and working, and we now have 70 such funds with total capital of 4 billion roubles,” he said.

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