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III. The Present State of Nanotechnology

f. Nanotechnology in the former USSR

In the Russian Wikipedia, in the article on "Nanotechnology", we read:

"On 26 april 2007 the President of Russia Vladimir Putin sent a message to the Federal Congress, in which he called nanotechnology "#1 priority in the development of science and technology".

According to the opinion of a number of deputies of the State Duma of the Russian Federation, one of the reasons for today's popularity of nanotechnologies is a desire of bureaucrats to obtain for themselves an additional "nano source of income".

Financing of this sphere, according to Rusbalt, from 26 April 2007:

"Putin proposed to start a Russian corporation for nanotechnologies and appropriate for investment in this sphere 130 billion rubles in the short run; taking into account various competitions, this sum should be hiked to 180 billion roubles. In 2008 the head of the state proposed to spend 48 billion rubles for financing academies and 8 more billion rubles for funding open competitions".

According to Rusbalt from 2 February, 2008, the general director of "Russian Nanotechnology Corporation" (Rusnanotech) Leonid Melamed said:

"Around 200 billion rubles is to be spent over the course of the next five years through various federal programs and through the Academy of Sciences for conducting investigations, both theoretical and applied, and for development of structure of the nanoindustry".

Considering that 1 U.S. dollar is around 25 rubles, 200 billion rubles makes up around 8 billion dollars. This money is to be spent from 2008 to 2013.

For comparison:

"In 2004 the world investments into development of nanotechnology almost doubled in comparison with 2003 and reached 10 billion dollars. Private donors, i.e. corporations and funds, contributed around $6.6 billion, and state, government structures contributed around $3.3 billion. World leaders, according to the volume of overall investments in this sphere, are Japan and the USA. Japan increased its spending for development of new nanotechnologies by 126% in comparison with 2003 (total volume of spending was $4 billion), and the USA increased its spending by 122% (to $3.4 billion)".

Hence, the money that was allocated for nanotechnologies by the Putin government is huge; it is comparable to the total world spending.

The main apprehension of Russian journalists is "nanotechnological deceivers". Nanotechnology is small definition and hence invisible to the unaided eyes.

One way of "nanotechnological deceivers" is clothing the old technologies in new clothes with a name "nano" attached to it, and making government pay for it. Here is one example, from "Rusbalt", 16.01.08: "One interesting development offered for railroads comes from Nizhnigorod regional center for nanoindustry. This is ceramic nanocement, or phosphate ceramics; this powder, consisting of a phosphate and metal oxides, when mixed with water, produces a paste-like cement. This material is fireproof, very durable, resists chemical decomposition and freezing temperatures. It differs from a traditional cement in that is becomes solid even under water. The phosphate ceramic is superior to usual cement according to its properties".

In "Rusbalt", from 6 February 2008, we find an article "Money for nanotechnology and building infrastructure may go abroad":

"The financial means for the corporations were allocated but got 'suspended' in the State bank and Treasury; hence there is no financing for serious programs at the present. The technology for 'freezing' the means and thus lowering the level of inflation is already developed in partnership with Stabilization fund".

The pretext for withholding money is lowering the level of inflation. The political goal is administration change (Medvedev replacing Putin).

There is an interesting quote of Leonid Melamed about the money appropriated for nanotechnologies in Russia:

"In the current year the corporation hopes to obtain 5 billion rubles of profit... However, this is to come not from nanotechnologies, but from investing money temporarily available in financial markets".

And so there is an incentive not to invest in research and development, but to invest the money in "financial markets". 

In a "Rusbalt" article from 15 June 2007, called "Nano breakthrough or nano slush fund for bureaucracy?" we read: 

"I am afraid that the call for development of nanotechnology may turn into a slogan for stealing the money into the pockets of officials!"

On the one hand there are the deputies and ministers, with their salaries and perks comparable to those of the American and British officials. On the other hand, there are rank-and-file scientific workers:

" 'Salaries of engineers and technical specialists are less than a minimum (survival) wage, which forces them to look for other jobs and leave science', said the vice-chairman of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation Ivan Mel'nikov... According to Mel'nikov, there are also problems with the career growth and providing apartments for scientists and graduate students. This prevents young people from going into science'. By the way, to the question of what is the average salary in the Russian Academy of Sciences the minister of education Andrey Fursenko did not find an immediate answer. Later the minister said: 'Somewhere in the region of 15 thousand rubles' ", i.e. around $500/month. 

"The president of the Russian Academy of Sciences Yuri Osipov did not hide that the scientists are mostly old men, while two thirds of young graduate students, after obtaining their Ph.D's, prefer to go abroad or into business".

Tretyakov3

For example, look at the photo of the people who were present at the lecture of Academician Yu. D. Tret'yakov "Development of nanotechnology - good, deception or evil?", which took place on 19 March, 2008 in the House of Scientists in Moscow. These were mostly grey, bald academicians and old women.

Another problem of Russian society, inherited from the Soviet times, is nepotism. For example, Alexey Tarasov, in the article "Do you need this nano?" (published in "Cyberpunk.ru" in 2007), writes:

"Mikhail Koval'chuk is appointed to oversee the development of nanotechnology in Russia, and hence to obtain money. He is a member of the most powerful family now in Russia. He is a neighbor of Putin in a famous summer house community 'The Lake'. He is a brother of Yuri Koval'chuk, a co-owner of a St. Petersburg bank 'Russia'; the man was a close partner of Putin before he transferred to Moscow. When Putin became a president, Koval'chuk became the head of the Kurchatov Institute.

When Professor Koval'chuk tried to become an Academician, aiming for Presidency of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the academicians blocked his candidacy. This is a completely understandable opposition to Kremlin. Then the Kremlin made a maneuver by creating a 'Nanotech' corporation. In simple terms, the academicians were black mailed... It was announced that 'Nanotech' will get more funding than the entire Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS). Also, the 'Nanotech' obtained exclusive rights, freedom from taxes and inspections.

And Kremlin got its way. The presiding council of the RAS at its unscheduled meeting appointed Koval'chuk as a temporary vice-president of RAS. In the fall the government should decide on the new membership of RAS, there will be new elections of the President of RAS, and judging by the behavior of academicians, Koval'chuk will get elected... The academicians now hope that due to their flexibility the financing of nanoindustry will go to the RAS."

According to Tarasov, nanotechnologies in Russia is a "grand project for dividing up the state money".

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