09 September 2009

Investments in Russia: assessment and forecast

Elena Zvereva, Vesti.RuNowadays, the need for investment in science is important.

Despite this, only 1% of large companies in Russia are willing to invest their resources in scientific research. In a crisis, research funding is shrinking, and the gap between science and business is widening.

Most of the scientific developments that are being successfully implemented in Russia have already been invented and sold by someone. For example, a robot at an exhibition in Moscow in Japan will no longer surprise anyone. But innovation is not necessarily a breakthrough, but rather the necessary knowledge–intensive technologies.

When budgets were reduced to the crisis option, innovations became one of the first items. Since the summer of last year, the sector has missed more than 250 billion rubles. In the first quarter of this year alone, I received less than 45 billion rubles. Investments decreased by 75%. At the same time, the ratio between public and private investments has increased in favor of the former. By the end of the second quarter, there was a slight recovery in the market – an increase of 7%. Private business has gained a little weight.

The Russian market has its own specifics: investors are following already familiar paths. Only a few are ready to risk their capital. In general, there is a gap between science and business in Russia. Businessmen are not interested in scientists who are engaged in fundamental science in state institutions and institutes. They talk about partnership with those who have already established production and want to develop it.

"We are not able to do the whole business for you completely. We are able to finance it, we are able to open some doors for you, connect you with some partners or even additional investors who can significantly help you in the development of your enterprise. But we are not able to take the technology from you, say: please sit on the bench, we will lift everything here for you now, then you will work. Unfortunately, this is impossible," says Dmitry Gordienko, senior manager of Rusnano.

The project should not just be ready, but the possible profit on it should be at least 20%, then the business will be interested. At the same time, the investment structure is also very predictable. The most innovative industries in Russia are space, aviation and telecommunications. This is followed by biotechnology, military developments and energy. But even in high-tech industries, the share of such projects does not exceed 14%.

"The interest depends on the amount of capital, on the total capitalization. 10% in the European market is billions of euros, if we say 5% in the American market is also quite large. If we say 15% in the Russian market, then, of course, it's millions, or even less," says Albina Nikonnen, executive director of the Russian Venture Financing Association.

In Russia, only 1% of large companies are ready to finance scientific developments. Two thirds of companies invest in innovations abroad. Russians are still afraid of venture business as the riskiest. The investor is acting blindly, buying almost a pig in a poke. Statistics are merciless: out of ten projects, three are guaranteed to go into the negative. For three more, the investor manages to return the invested money. And only three give a small, but still profit. And only one project is ready to "shoot".

But if it does, it will be a multimillion-dollar jackpot, like Google used to be. However, large multinational companies that know a lot about innovation believe that Russia does not need venture capital investments. Since there are no traditions or legal basis, their implementation will take decades. Contracts are what will lift the industry. India and China followed this path in their time. In this case, the country receives money and technology at once, and the customer receives a guaranteed product.

"The difference between investments and contracts is very simple. In both cases, money is spent. But only when you sign a contract, you have an exact understanding of what you will get at the end, and you will pay money only if this work is done. And an investment is when you invest money and hope that this money will come back to you and what your partners promise you will happen. I believe more in contracts," says Sergey Kravchenko, President of Boeing in Russia and the CIS.

Microsoft also believes in contracts more. This year, the company's research center was opened in Russia. Unlike Boeing, Microsoft is ready to consider both individual and even the most insane projects.

"Practice shows that there are quite a lot of such appeals. And, of course, they are being considered. They very often turn out to be the projects that change something in our lives. On the basis of such ideas, very interesting products, new services and new technologies are coming out," says Oleg Syutin, Director of Microsoft's Technological Development Department.

But the problem is not only in risk and quick returns. The Russian innovation market is completely unknown, except for the IT sector. Professional consultants are opening their own investment and innovation center in Moscow to systematize the Russian market.

"For example, we cannot answer the question of what is an innovative company, how to define it. Therefore, there is no registry of such companies. Therefore, it is difficult for investors to make any choice," says Ekaterina Shapochka, director of PricewaterhouseCoopers.

It would seem that assets are cheap in a crisis, it's time to take a risk. But neither national nor Western investors are ready to enter the innovative sphere of Russia yet. However, scientists like to repeat: science is not done so that each of its results turns out to be in real life.

Portal "Eternal youth" http://vechnayamolodost.ru09.09.2009

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