New technologies are replacing old ones, automation and robot-based workforce are replacing human labour, and the world is at the threshold of the fourth industrial revolution. The leading nations have long been investing in technologies of the future and creating consortiums that bring together the government, business and science. In Russia, the tech gap is dragging the economy down, and the country needs a proactive approach to develop technologies and markets of the future.
Experts estimate that Russia is about three to four times behind the leading nations in digitisation of its economy.
To ensure a shift from a resource-based economy towards a high-tech one, in December 2016 Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the Executive Order on the Scientific and Technological Development Strategy of the Russian Federation.
The National Technology Initiative (NTI) was launched with a goal to define new markets and key technologies of the future, and to offer a package of measures supporting development of products and services on those markets.
In pursuance of the NTI, the Agency for Stategic Initiatives (ASI) has approved seven roadmaps for various industries. The allocations for key NTI projects in the 2017 federal budget stand at RUB 12.5 billion. In the next three years the financing of NTI projects will total RUB 28.6 billion.
Key NTI technologies include digital design and modelling, new materials, additive technologies (3D printing), Big Data, neurotechnologies, artificial intelligence and control systems, genomics and synthetic biology, bionics, etc. Going forward, their development could take the country to a leading position in the global technology market.
In 2016–2020, the world market of the Internet of Things (IoT) will be growing at an average of 15.6% to reach USD 1.29 trillion by 2020. Russia’s share of the world market is currently just 0.5%. However, this segment of the Russian economy is projected to grow at an annual rate of over 20% until 2020.
In 2016, the Internet Initiatives Development Fund, major telecom operators and GS Group set up a consortium to develop projects for the Internet of Things.
The world sales of artificial intelligence systems (AI) in 2017 will rise by 59.3% to USD 12.5 billion. Prostor Capital Fund and Data Insight report that AI is one of the most promising areas for venture investors.
J'son & Partners Consulting analysts believe that Russia, with its solid foundation in mathematics and computer programming, has good chances to secure a status of a global player, subject to sufficient attention to this field from the Government and investors.
The market of additive technologies (3D printing) grew 17.4% in 2016 and now exceeds USD 6 billion. According to BCG estimates, it will more than triple by 2021, with aerospace, automotive and healthcare as growth leaders. Russia accounts for about 2% of all 3D printers globally. The Industrial Development Fund supports projects in additive technologies extending target loans from RUB 50 tо 500 milion at an interest rate of 5%. 3D bioprinting is a breakthrough technology which makes it possible to “print” organs and implant them into living organisms. The RAS Institute of Theoretical and Experimental Biophysics has created special biopaper to grow viable organs, and 3D Bioprinting Solutions Company “printed” a thyroid and successfully implanted it in mice.
NTI developers expect that the next technology revolution will be driven by neurotechnologies and a fundamental increase in knowledge work productivity through intergration of human brain and computing machines. Taking this trend into account, Russia has founded the Industrial Union of NeuroNet and approved a NeuroNet roadmap which is aimed at creating the Russian NeuroNet and ensuring its global competitive ability by 2035, with the segment capturing at least 2.5% of the world market (Russia’s current share is 0.05%).
In 2016, investments in medical innovations made up USD 169.3 billion, 85% of the amount in the biopharmaceutical sector. Russia accounts for 1% (RUB 544 billion in 2016) of the world’s medical R&D investment.
In April 2017, scientists of the RAS Institute of Design-Engineering Informatics demonstrated the first Russian assisting robot-surgeon, which will be able to compete with its US counterpart, da Vinci. A Skolkovo Foundation spokesman said that out of 400 biomedical projects that the Foundation supports this one is the most promising.
In 2018–2019, BIOCAD, a Russian biotech company, plans to launch production of a medicine acting on the same principle as the innovative immunotherapeutic ipilimumab (TM Yervoy) used to treat skin cancer.