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On the track of “Asian tigers” June 6 2013

On the track of “Asian tigers” June 6 2013

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On the track of “Asian tigers” June 6 2013

In 20 years we will flash back to these days, and then we will say that we witnessed the change of the economy course of the country. It is the third year Belarus has been building the innovation economy. The main characteristics of this type of economy are high competitiveness, manufacturability and energy efficiency.

Europe andthe countries of South East Asia keep heading this way for a long time. Japan, the Land of the Rising Sun, was the first country to start moving in this direction.

In order to learn about the priorities of the new area of management based on science whichis built by Belarus, and our achievements in this way, the 7 Dnei visited the State Committee on Science and Technology (hereafter the SCST).

The Committee is a customer-coordinator of the historic document that determined a new economic policy of the state. And that's what we were told there.

Alexander Topoltsev, head of the Science and Technology Policy of the SCST:

“This document isthe State Program of InnovationDevelopment of the Republic of Belarus for the period from 2011 to 2015. The government has identified the key areas of construction of a hi-tech sector of the national economy. The information technology industry, aerospace and pharmaceutical industries; microbiological industry and biotechnology industry, instrument making, electronic industry and nanotechare among them.The program selected 900 promising projects. The program "stipulates" the road technological mapsof creationof new products, covering business planning and procurement of technological equipment,and itsoutlet to the market. It's only been 2 years since its adoption. However, given that the project takes at least 2-3 years, most of them are still in various stages of implementation”.

“It is said that once an enterprise announces that it is going to produce "innovation products", immediately all the doors are opened, privileges and preferences are pouring like manna from heaven... What is the practice of formalizinga project as "innovation" one and what follows then?”

A.Topoltsev: “I can’t say that everything is simple. Two-leveled scientific-technical boards conduct the selection of innovation projects to be turned on “green light”of preferences for. At first, the novelty and innovation of the future productsare consideredby the expert boards of specialists, and they act directly on enterprises. The selection of local importance is highly self-critical. Because the final judgment revealing the fact if the productsare innovativeis made by the government expert boards. And then the requirements are too stringent. If the products are recognized as innovative on both levels, the enterprise (organization, authors), the concessional financing and appropriate preferences are assigned for the project. In particular, a business entity that launched the production of innovation products is exempt from the VAT. Such a practice of selection and allocation of preferences and privileges of budget financing of development of products recognized as innovation ones is an important incentive to create a new way of hi-tech economy. Unfortunately, the possibilities of budgetary financing are limited. For example, 2.3 trillion rubles are to be allocated for science and innovation activities in 2013, which is approximately about 2% of the national budget in the State budget. 1. 8 trillion rublesare to be spent on the government sector and scientific and technical programs. So it is very important to attract credit funds, own funds of enterprises and organizations, and also the capital of the investor”.

Sergei Savitski, head of scientific-technical programs and projects:

“I want to emphasize that the benefits and the budgetary funding are given only for elite projects, that is those that turn innovations or technical ideas into a commercial solution that provide a maximum economic benefit to the country. An example is the state support for the market launch of high-power tractors "Belarus" which are  widely sold on the international and domestic markets. Belarusian tractors and other innovative products are exported to 140 countries”.

“Arethere conceptually new “breakthrough” projects among the approvedones that may enable the country to abandon the pre-existing and less efficient technologies?”

Fiodor Krylov, head of innovationdevelopment of industries:

“Now we don’t refer to the “breakthrough”projects. All the projects which made the cut, keep fundamentally changing the efficiency of management of the country as a whole, and most important industries in different ways.

For example, we may mark out three major areas in the field of energy and energy efficiency. The first area is the construction of nuclear power plant with the capacity of 2400 MW. The second area is the accelerated introduction of steam and gas technologies at the large plants. The Grodno TPP-2 is being upgraded and the Minsk TPP-5 has been upgraded on the basis of high technologies and devices. The third area is the growth of the share of alternative and renewable local energy sources in the energy system of the country. The production of biogas at biogas plants of livestock farms is increasing. In the future, the total capacity of biogas plants will make up about 90 MW, and the total capacity of the construction of wind farms (under Navahrudak) will make up 75 MW in 2014.

In addition, the new technologies for the obtaining of solid fuel, such as pellets made of wood, peat, straw, etc. have been implemented.We put our hopes in the growth of the use of wind energy. The total capacity of the Belarusian wind farm will grow to 300 MW by 2015. Already, nowadays the share of local fuels is 25%. This figure should increase by 30% by 2015. The important area is still an area of energy efficiency of existing productions.

Energy-intensive thermal productions are upgraded and foundries are upgraded in accordance with the unique development of the Belarusian scientists.

The production of LED and light galvanic facilities has been developed. The use of advanced energy technologies will significantly reduce fuel consumption, the main of which is imported natural gas, and significantly reduce the cost of the expenditures of all enterprises of the country”.

“In your opinion, the projects of which sectors except the ones of energy are dominant in the creation of a new economic way?”

F.Krylov:“No doubt, chemicals and petrochemicals are among the strategic sectors. The implementation of projects oriented to the deepening of the refining, the improvement of quality of Belarusian refineries meet the EU requirements of gasoline, diesel fuel and oil is going on. It creates new production of mineral fertilizers, chemical fibers and threads, tires and paintwork materials.

Belarus has made a significant progress in the field of aerospace technologies. A system of space monitoring of the Earth has been developed. This important project is oriented to the discovery ofthe sources of natural and manmade emergencies on the basis of observations made from space. The production of multifunctional unmanned aircraft has been almost established.

A new range of trucks, high-capacity buses, trolley buses has been created. The automotive industry technologies considerably upgrade. The creation of small tractorsand various units for agricultural production is parallel to the development of energy efficient tractor engineering”.

A.Topoltsev: “A feature of the new economic way is the state's interest not only to large-scale projects, but to relatively small industries. An example of this is the creation of small-tonnage chemical modern productions, such as shops and sites at traditional enterprises. Modernization enables them to remain competitive, as they are able to offer new products of high consumer qualitiesto our business partners and customers. In small quantities, though”.

“Is there any room forthe projects in the new economy that will dramatically change the lives of our readers? For example, such project whichmay considerably upgrade the construction industry? I mean, the way the price per square meter falls down in order to be equal to the average monthly salary.”

F.Krylov: “Building materials industry actively uses the newest technologies. The import substitution is increasing. Resource saving lines operating on a mixture of pulverized coal and natural gashave been commissioned atthe OJSC "Belarusian Cement Plant" and the OJSC "Krasnoselskstrojmaterialy". The introduction of these and other technologies will enableto reducethe energy intensity of production by 20-30%, and to use alternative fuels for gas for the burning of clinker”.

S.Savitsky: “Belarusian scientists have developed a technology of application of cement using nanotubes in the production process. Experience has shown that the introduction of only 1% of graphite nanotubes increases the strength of cement composites tenfold”.

F.Krylov: “The program stipulates the development of technologies for production of ceramic hollow blocks with the minimum thermal conductivity, as well as the output of complex-modified binders based on expanding cements and organic additives. Other types of building materials, finishing agents and protective polymer coatings of high technological and operational parameters have been created. The output of Belarusian construction engineering such as cranes, machines, equipment for decorating and roofing works and units for application of fire protective coatingsis increasing. New technologies of rapid construction of buildings and structures by permanent form have been adopted”.

“Which role is given to innovations in such important sectors like food and medicines?”

F.Krylov: “Now we can seedramatic changes in agriculture. New high-yield varieties and hybrids adapted to different zonal characteristics have been sown. The productions of modern plant protection products have been established. The methods of protecting crops from harmful influences have been improved. All of this together will minimize public subsidies, reduce production costs, and increase exports”.

S.Savitsky: “Serious emphasis in the implementation of the tasks of the national innovation program is on the development of biotechnologies. The creation of a new generation of drugs that are fundamentally change the level of development of the pharmaceutical industry is on. By the way, the technology ex vivo has beendeveloped; it is intended for the obtaining of graft of natural killer cells that are necessary for tumor cell immunotherapy of patients suffering from cancer. This technology is very effective at different stages of therapy for cancer patients. The use of cytotoxic cells will also enable to expand the export of high-tech medical services. The approximate cost per patient ranges from 7 to 9 thousand USD a year. A trend which is also interesting is the use of imaging techniques for the choosing of an optimal site of implantation of left ventricular electrode and patient selection for cardio resynchronizing therapy. The work in this area will reduce the number of unnecessary implantations by 30%. Besides,it will enable to save 35-40 thousand USD per year”.

“Which sectors 15 will have gone ahead faster than others due to innovation technologies and products by 2015? What should face consumers?”

F.Krylov: “Each industry and eachenterprise have a chance to climb to new heights. In this case, as in sports, we cannot compare a runner with a weightlifter. In real life, the man equally needs clothes, shoes, a TV-set, a car and other things made by various companies and industries. After purchasing the car, one will not give up shoes ...”

A.Topoltsev: “I agree with my colleague. The success of the enterprise and the industry depends on the development of the new, highly competitive andinnovative products of proper added value and improved quality. And the demand for these products must be both on the domestic and overseas market. Interestplays an important part at the initial stage of the project, which supposes investments.

The progress of any sector depends largely not on scientists, but on business. If you are the first businessman to hit the market, you will be the first in the list of demand, then you willguide the industry into the lead, andyou will become a rich man. The State should actively develop a public-private partnership. You can quickly implement certain scientific developments in order to ensure the flourishing of innovation economy only in close cooperation between the government and business. The adoption of the Law on Public-Private Partnership, regulating relations between business and the state could improve the competitiveness of the domestic economy. Such laws have been working effectively for a long time in the EU and the countries of South-East Asia, that is, the countries of an innovative way of the economy. There, the state support of small and medium innovation enterprises and the public-private partnership in the field of innovations have been legislated.

The adopting of a similar document would provide a new mechanism for the development of Belarus' cooperation between the representatives of science, industry, government and civil society. It would give a better chance of effective promotion in the most promising areas of innovation economy”.

“I agree that such a mechanism is necessary. And everything concerning the support of the State of applied sciences offering real projects to the economy is clear. It is needed. But, is it necessary for the country, which budget is just 50 billion USD, to spend money on research in such basic sciences as mathematics, physics and chemistry?

May be only large countries with huge schools and world-class universities such as the USA, Russia and Great Britain should be involved in this ...”

A.Topoltsev: “Basic science is the basis and framework for all the applied sciences. The institutions conducting research and development are grounded on the findings of research and basic research. We wouldn’t have science industry without a strong domestic fundamental science. There wouldn’t be worldwide recognized strong Belarusian schools of physics, optics, biotechnology, etc. And the expenditures for our science are not the biggest ones. Once Russian experts calculated, that the implementation of a project requires on the average 2 million USD. I think we may agree, this  moneyis not so huge to give up innovationdecisions to transform the economy of our country”.

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