"All facets of the future", an interview with Alexander Shumilin for “Republic” newspaper
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"All facets of the future", an interview with Alexander Shumilin for “Republic” newspaper
We must run as fast as we can, just to stay in place. And if you wish to go anywhere you must run twice as fast as that. This famous quote from "Alice in Wonderland" perfectly describes the state of affairs in the field of industrial production. Obsolete technology today are self-defeating: we can loose both the market and the competition. Lots of work is ahead of us. The export of high-tech products is growing and is projected at the level of $ 14.3 billion by the end of the year. Although large innovative industries are not opening as fast as we would like.
Nevertheless, by 2025, the country will have the most modern companies in engineering, energy, medicine, and agriculture – in those industries which already make the lion's share of GDP. Alexander Shumilin, chairman of the State Committee for Science and Technology, shared his views with newspaper "Republiс".
– Alexander Gennadievich, let's start our conversation with numbers. Last year, the export of high-tech products grew by 20 percent and reached almost $ 14 billion. What number are you striving for in 2019?
– In the first half of the year, the share of export of high-tech products reached 36 percent, which is already 3.5 percentage points higher than the target value for the year. In value terms – this is 7.2 billion dollars. Given the expected growth rate, the export of such products by the end of the year is planned at the level of $ 14.3 billion, and in 2020 - at least $ 14.5 billion.
– It was planned that this year more than 20 large innovative industries will be launched in the country. How many have already been commissioned and how many highly efficient jobs have been created?
– Over the first six months, the country has launched 5 new innovative industries. Among them is the creation of a new generation of optical components and laser systems created by the National Academy of Sciences with diode pumping of a new generation and the technology for producing polypropylene fibers introduced at Vitebsk Carpets. In total, over 1200 new jobs have been created in the country as part of the creation of new industries. Another 322 jobs were created by technology parks and their residents. According to the results of the year, we plan to commission 22 new production facilities and create more than 1800 new highly efficient jobs.
I want to pay attention: taking into account the length of the procedures for opening project financing, procurement, delivery and installation of equipment, the commissioning of most of the production facilities is planned for the 4th quarter of the year.
Smart technology is the future
– The draft Decree “On Priority Directions of Scientific, Technical and Innovative Activities for 2021–2025” has already identified six main directions. Could you tell us more about each of them?
– The draft decree has already passed several discussions and approvals, the last at a meeting of the joint board of the SCST and the Presidium of the NAS of Belarus. Thanks to a detailed and multilateral discussion, we have developed 6 priority areas of scientific, technical and innovative activities for 2021–2025: high-tech information and communication, digital and interdisciplinary technologies; biological, chemical, medical and pharmaceutical technologies; energy, ecology and environmental management; mechanical engineering and innovative materials; agro-industrial and food technologies; ensuring the safety of man, society and the state.
The main difference between the document and the priority directions of this five-year plan is that high-tech information and communication, digital and interdisciplinary technologies, which are still too early to be called traditional for the Belarusian economy, but already having a backlog in the economy (for example, HTP), will become the vanguard of development in the upcoming five-year plan.
They include such key areas as information society development technologies, aerospace and geoinformation technologies, artificial intelligence and robotics, communications and computing devices, smart city technologies, electric and unmanned vehicles, laser, plasma, optical technologies, micro-, optical - and microwave electronics, photonics, microsensorics, electronic systems and technologies, nanomaterials and nanotechnologies, nanodiagnostics and other high-tech areas.
It is these technologies that should stimulate the creation of new industries of the appropriate profile, and possibly new spheres and sectors of the national economy. Potentially, they can give the country “projects of the future”, as required by the President. At the same time, the draft decree has priorities for medicine, energy, engineering and the agro-industrial complex. That is, in industries and sectors that are traditionally present in our economy and constitute the lion's share of GDP.
“Energy, Ecology and Environmental Management” provides for new types of energy - green, smart, hybrid. The priority “Biological, chemical, medical and pharmaceutical technologies” includes, for example, such a high-tech area as genomic and postgenomic, cellular, microbial, medical and industrial biotechnologies.
The priority "Engineering and innovative materials" focuses on high-tech areas, such as manufacturing and robotic complexes, composite and multifunctional materials and surface engineering. Agro-industrial and food technologies, which, it would seem, are all known, include, for example, such a direction that is not quite usual for Belarus yet, like a smart farm – a fully autonomous, robotic agricultural facility intended for automatic farming of animal species that does not require human participation (operator, livestock breeder, veterinarian, etc.).
Of course, such a document cannot be presented without a priority to ensure the security of man, society and the state, which includes such important areas for the country as people, society and the state, history, culture, education and youth policy, physical education, sports and tourism, national security and other.
Thus, it would be wrong to ignore and not develop traditional areas of activity, concentrating only on ICT and digitalization, as this would definitely affect the decrease in the competitiveness of the respective industries and fields in comparison with similar industries and fields in the near and far abroad. And this can only mean one thing - the loss of sales markets with all the negative consequences arising from this.
In general, the draft decree was formed by our scientists and industrialists on the principle of "think about the future, but do not forget about reality."
– Recently, you spoke in detail about how the procedure for implementing scientific and technical programs will change. Generally speaking, will it be simplified?
– The order has become easier and more understandable. Now, only state expert councils will carry out the examination of the draft program and each individual task. Separate coordination boards for program review are no longer needed. This made it possible to eliminate “erosion of responsibility” when considering scientific and technical programs. In addition, now the contractor knows exactly the list of circumstances under which in case of failure to ensure the release of products in the prescribed amount, no refund of budget funds will be required.
Given the amendments to the law, the contractor will need to pay special attention to the development of the marketing component of the proposed project. But these additional labor costs will pay off, because the contractor will receive detailed information regarding the demand for developed products in the domestic and world markets, and the prospects for its development. In general, innovations make the procedure for developing scientific and technical programs more understandable and attractive for performers, including by reducing risks, and at the same time aim to achieve the necessary effect from the implementation of tasks.
– Not so long ago, another 21 innovative projects were included in the state program of innovative development. Is it possible to theoretically calculate the return on them: how many jobs will be created, how much will our exports grow? How much will the country earn after the implementation of these projects? What are the most interesting and unique projects in your opinion?
– We expect that the implementation of these projects will create about 400 high-performance jobs. The cost of implementing new projects is more than 140 million rubles, including 63 million rubles – at the expense of innovative funds. Moreover, after putting the plants into operation, the planned annual output of these projects will be about 300 million rubles.
Among the new projects, I would like to highlight the organization of the production of original bioresorbable multifunctional drugs; the creation of mechanical assembly production of small-scale products based on additive technologies; the production of new types of medical products, the organization on the basis of the Minsk Scientific and Practical Center for Surgery, Transplantology and Hematology, a unique bank of stem cells, valve and vascular allografts for the country, etc. (...)
Read the full version of the interview in the newspaper Republic.