Prokhorov Touts New Innovations

MTMikhail Prokhorov addressing a conference Wednesday. He said he would create a foundation to support scientists.
Billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov said Wednesday that he would soon create a foundation to support scientists, joining a growing chorus of businessmen eager to invest in new innovations.

"We have to use our advantages, like the high creativity of the population," Prokhorov told an annual conference of Russian businesses.

"The most important problems to solve with new innovations are connected with energy, the environment, clean water and transportation," he said, speaking without looking at his notes.

To solve the problems, strong links need to be built between businesses, science and the state, Prokhorov said. IT parks could serve as these bridges, he added.

Prokhorov, Russia's fifth-richest man with a fortune estimated by Forbes at $22.4 billion, did not offer further details about his planned foundation. But he said he planned to focus on renewable energy sources, hydrogen energy and nanotechnology.

Prokhorov's enthusiasm was echoed by politicians and other businessmen at the conference. State Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov called for the creation of a task force through which the White House, the Duma and United Russia could discuss and adopt decisions aimed at promoting and developing new innovations.

"New innovations have recently become a topic that is passionately discussed among our businessmen," said Sergei Belyakov, head of the budget and tax policies committee of Russian Union of Entrepreneurs and Industrialists, or RSPP.

"Having arrived at a stage of stability, Russian businesses understand that they will not be able to compete in the international market if they don't use new innovations," he said by telephone.

RSPP has worked out a package of proposals on tax concessions that the state could offer companies that tackle new innovations, he said.

"It will soon be adopted by the Duma," Belyakov said, adding that the sectors that have shown the most interest in new innovations were oil and gas, light industry, machine building, electricity and nuclear energy.

The roles of state and business in the process have yet to be defined, Prokhorov said, calling on businesses and the state to work more on promoting the sale of Russian inventions.

Russia's model for innovation should embrace the clear planning seen in the United States and the quick reaction to market changes seen in China, Prokhorov said.

Other billionaire businessmen have also expressed an interest in science. Oleg Deripaska, Russia's richest man with a fortune estimated at $28.6 billion, spoke about investing in nuclear energy at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum last month.

"The only practical solution to global warming, in my view, is the development of nuclear energy," Deripaska said. "We need to develop an international nuclear waste treatment and storage system and unify the standards for building the reactors."