$36Bln Set Aside for Nanotechnology

Itar-TassFuresnko presenting nanotechnology plans to the Cabinet meeting Thursday.
The Cabinet on Thursday gave the nod to ambitious measures aimed at boosting sales in the country's nanotechnology sector at least 130-fold in the next seven years.

According to the plan, sales of materials and equipment based on nanotechnology will rise to 900 billion rubles, or about $36 billion, by 2015, the government said on its web site. The total for last year was 7 billion rubles.

Education and Science Minister Andrei Fursenko was even more ambitious, predicting after the Cabinet session that the sales would grow to 1 trillion rubles.

The government's plan focuses on funding research and expanding the number of companies producing new materials and equipment commercially. There are currently 75 Russian firms involved in the sector, including steelmaker Severstal.

Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov put planned government spending on the measures at 236.4 billion rubles, or $9.6 billion, in comments on the web site.

Funds slated for the State Nanotechnology Corporation budget will account for 130 billion rubles of this, with the rest coming from the federal budget under the auspices of the Program for the Development of the Nanotechnology Industry, which got the go-ahead at Thursday's meeting. The main concern, Zubkov said, was that there were few ideas on how to apply the funding effectively. "There is enough money," Zubkov said. "Unfortunately ... there is more money than ideas." Nevertheless, the Cabinet's plan forecasts that Russia will earn 3 percent of the global nanotechnology market by 2015.

St. Petersburg's Svetlana-Optoelektronika, which makes power-saving light emitting diodes for Russian Railways and a number of housing maintenance companies, said it expected the government to make energy efficiency a priority in nanotechnology development.

"We expect to have considerably more work ... and to receive the support of the authorities in doing so," company director Grigory Itkinson said Thursday.

Viktor Barsky, director of Moscow's Biochip IMB, which makes medical nano-devices, said he hoped the government would be true to its word in helping translate research achievements into business.

Barsky said his company had been filling orders for the federal and Moscow city governments since 2005 and last year received a biochip order from the Geneva-based Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria for its efforts to help inmates at the city's Matrosskaya Tishina prison.

Lev Trusov, general director of Association Aspect, which produces nano-membranes to process the associated gas generated as a result of oil production, said he expected the government's plan would help large-scale projects in the sector take off, including in the production of biofuels.