By Maria Karaulova
The project on Emerging Technologies and Implications of Next Generation Innovation System Development is now actively engaging in field research. In March 2014, researchers from the Manchester team (Philip Shapira, Maria Karaulova and Oliver Shackleton) spent an intensive period in Moscow undertaking multiple team interviews with stakeholders and actors in the Russian innovation system. We were assisted by Elena Nasybulina and Angelina Petrushina from the Institute for Statistical Studies and Economics of Knowledge of the National Research University Higher School of Economics (ISSEK HSE), our project partner in Russia.
Russia is now at a critical stage in the development of its innovation system. Many reforms have been made, and a series of flagship projects have been announced aimed at developing Russia’s research and innovation capabilities in key areas of technology. One example of these flagship projects is Russnano – initiated about 5 years ago by then President Putin with the goal to foster technological and business breakthroughs in nanotechnology development. Russnano has received significant state-sponsored investment. Our field research sought to understand key changes in the Russian innovation system over the past few years, garner the perspectives of public, private, and academic representatives, and probe the performance and prospects of Russnano in nanotechnology and other programmes in other emerging technologies.
With two teams in the field, we completed 24 interviews in Moscow over a two-week period. A wide-ranging picture emerged. We met scientists actively engaging in innovation activities, as well as other researchers who saw no value in commercialisation. We encountered enthusiast entrepreneurs and frustrated entrepreneurs. We met with officials to discuss developments at Russnano (which has redirected its activities towards an array of innovation investments) and Skolkovo (the still “in progress” high technology cluster planned at one of Moscow’s edges). We spoke with members of the Academy of Sciences upset by recent changes in their organisation, and with government officials overseeing these changes. We learned about national Russian technology platform initiatives and interviewed city innovation and high technology park managers keen to foster local development. We held meetings with project colleagues in Moscow, including Dr. Alexander Sokolov from HSE and Ian Miles from Manchester to discuss preliminary findings, trends and next steps. We also managed to participate in extra events: Philip Shapira chaired a panel and presented at the XV April Academic Conference on Economic and Social Development in Moscow; Maria Karaulova participated at the “Nanotechnologies to the Industry – 2014” Conference with a poster contribution. Over the coming year, we plan further fieldwork in Russia, to continue to track developments in Moscow and to examine what is happening in other parts of the country.