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Innovation in Russian Technology and Science Sectors: Analysis by the World Intellectual Property Organization
On July 3, 2012 World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) released its annual Global Innovation Index (GII), which ranks 141 nations on their level of innovation. The report considered each nation’s institutions, human capital, infrastructure, market and business sophistication, knowledge and technology outputs and creative outputs when compiling the ranking. Russia moved up the rankings five places from last year to 51st, ahead of fellow BRICS nations Brazil and India but still behind China. This jump is significant for the country’s economic forecast, as the GII lauds innovation as a key driver of economic growth and prosperity.
The GII gave Russia high rankings in a number of attributes that contribute lead to greater innovation:
• 12th in tertiary education (the ratio of total tertiary enrollment to the tertiary education-aged population)
• 14th in graduates in science and engineering
• 14th in pupil-teacher ratio for secondary education
• 17th in knowledge-intensive employment (number of professional and technical workers)
While identifying several challenges the Russian technology and science sectors face moving forward, the GII’s accompanying report applauded measures the Russian government has enacted to boost innovation. Specifically, government funding of civil research and development amounted to $14.9 billion, which represents a 400 percent increase since 1998. This level of spending is on par with France, the Republic of Korea and the United Kingdom and outpaces funding in countries like Italy and Canada.
The GII also noted innovation committees were established and chaired by the government as part of a modernization program launched under then-President Medvedev in 2009. The initiative encourages innovation in five areas:
• energy efficiency and new fuels;
• medical technologies and pharmaceuticals;
• nuclear power engineering;
• information technologies;
• space and telecommunications.
One of the many state programs launched under this initiative included the “IT and Communication Services in Education and Social Development Program,” which establishes information technology education centers for gifted students. Another example is the “Development of Supercomputing and Grid Technology Program,” which seeks to provide hi-tech industries the supercomputing grid they need to operate simulation technology. Simulation technology is especially useful for advances in aviation and other highly technical systems.
Room for Development
The report noted a need for increased innovation in Russia. The country’s dependence on exporting natural resources is “unsustainable,” as disruptive technologies or a prolonged poor global economy could halt Russia’s growth. The report also noted the accumulation of technological gaps with leading industrial nations.
A number of challenges account for Russia’s struggles with innovation. First of all, only 2 percent of Russian manufacturers target the international market, choosing instead to focus on local markets with fewer competitive pressures. Consequently, businesses acquire new technologies rather than develop them.
Another challenge is that only 45 percent of universities are involved in research and development, a holdover effect from Soviet institutional model that separated research institutes from universities. Keeping the two independent negatively affects the competitiveness of university graduates on the labor market.
Variation across Russia’s regions represents yet another challenge. Noting that “regions are characterized by diverse business climate conditions, competition regimes, and availability and accessibility of both innovation and non-innovation (standard) infrastructures,” the report warned that some combinations of these factors can inhibit innovation from taking hold.
Based on its evaluation of innovation trends, WIPO recommends encouraging the development of deeper relationships between universities and companies. In addition, the organization recommended Russia identify and promote designated research centers and foster cooperation between them. The report highlighted that Russia has already identified 27 national research universities as a step in the right direction. The report added this networking should be extended beyond universities to leading producers, suppliers, research organizations and engineering companies.
WIPO advises Russia to incorporate “social interests and concerns into the innovation policy design” to foster the growth of demand for innovation. By tying in issues like resource efficiency, Russian policy could increase the demand for innovation, creating a greater incentive for Russian entrepreneurs to look beyond acquisition and into development.