Russia says innovation is the key to high growth

Moscow, Sep 21 (IANS) Even as prices of Russia’s major resource, oil, are recovering, the Russian government on Wednesday said innovation, as distinct from income from natural resources, is now the key to national economic development.

“We believe innovation is the key for development of the economy. Innovation is essential for achieving high economic growth,” Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich told reporters here on the sidelines of a global conference under the the International Association of Science Parks and Areas of Innovation (IASP).

“Technoparks all over the world working in synergy will bring benefit to each individual technopark,” he said, adding that such recent developments have fuelled a debate whether innovations are creating jobs or killing them.

Over 1,500 participants from around 70 countries, including technopark representatives from Russia, the US, Spain, Britain, Brazil, South Korea, China, Italy and Sweden are participating in the four-day 33rd annual IASP Conference, being hosted by Moscow for the first time, following the country’s selection as the venue after a global competition.

The theme of IASP 2016 is “The Global Mind: Linking Innovation Communities for Internationalisation, Sustainability and Growth”. The IASP’s mandate is to contribute to global economic development through innovation, entrepreneurship, and the transfer of knowledge and technology.

“At least from the Russian experience, innovation is creating jobs. Modern manufacturing cannot create many jobs. But start-ups are an opportunity for millions of young people,” Dvorkovich said.

“Innovation and start-ups help to liberate technologies, capital and create jobs. Five years ago in Russia only one per cent of people knew of start-ups… there were literally only a dozen start-ups. Now we have 50,000 jobs created by start-ups,” he added.

Falling global prices of oil has made it imperative for the government to accelerate the country’s transformation from a resource-intensive to an innovation-based economy.

Oil prices fell by more than two-thirds — from over $100 a barrel to under $30 — between June 2014 and January 2016. Prices have recovered somewhat this year, rising to nearly $50 in May, before dropping to just over $40 a barrel in recent weeks.

The Russian economy is deep into a recession with gross domestic product (GDP) in decline for the sixth consecutive quarter.

“Only way you can create jobs for young people is by supporting knowledge,” the Russsian Deputy Premier said.

Russia’s biggest innovation fund, the Skolkovo Foundation, is the local organiser of this edition of the IASP conference.

Created in 2010 by the Russian government, the foundation runs the Skolkovo City here which houses an innovation centre comprising over 1,500 companies and start-ups, a Technopark and a new university established in collaboration with America’s Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The resident companies in the start-up village conduct research in diverse fields ranging from information technology and robotics, space, energy-efficiency technologies and new materials.

“When people come to Russia they are going to get a new environment for innovation. An important feature of science parks in Russia is that we are creating cities, and not just buildings or spaces for innovation. We are providing other services, housing, services for commercialisation of research, etc, in these cities,” Dvorkovich said.

“In each such environment you also have education, formal technopark education as well as ambiences for people to meet and exchange ideas,” he added.

“The cumulative revenue of Skolkovo’s start-ups through January 2016 reached $1.6 billion. They brought in more than $350 million in investment, creating 18,000 jobs and filing over 1,900 patent applications along the way,” Skolkovo said in a release here.

(Biswajit Choudhury is attending the conference at the invitation of the Skolkovo Foundation. He can be reached at biswajit.c@ians.in)

–IANS

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