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#3 - JRL 7032
24 January 2003
Putin Aims to Turn Science Cities Into Silicon Steppes
By Paul Webster

MOSCOW--The Kremlin hopes to knock a little business sense into Russia's
scientific community. Last week, President Vladimir Putin's science council
agreed on a plan to anoint a few of the country's struggling science cities
as "innovation zones."

The move hews to a line that Putin laid down shortly after coming to power:
Russian scientists must focus limited funds on applied research. That
message was clear last week at a meeting of Putin's Council on Science and
High Technologies. According to Alexander Sokolov, deputy director of the
science ministry's Center for Science Research and Statistics, Putin
spurned pleas for blanket salary raises. Instead, he argued that federally
supported science must be integrated with industry. "We aren't rich enough
to fund pure science," Sokolov told Science.

That philosophy will now be applied directly to Russia's 70-odd science
cities, many of which were given wide academic freedom in Soviet years but
have withered over the past decade. Some were given a boost 3 years ago
when new laws granted tax and subsidy privileges to 10 closed research
cities, including the nuclear bomb towns of Sarov and Snezhinsk, and to
three civilian centers near Moscow: Obninsk and Dubna, both nuclear physics
bastions, and Korolev, devoted to space science. Other science cities do
not enjoy such concessions. At the science council meeting last week,
Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref presented a draft bill
to create "innovation zones" where subsidies, tax breaks, and seed money
from a $3 million government venture fund will spur investment in civilian
research. Parliament is expected to pass the bill in March, after which the
government will tap a handful of science cities as innovation zones.

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