Russia's Nanotechnology Initiative Comes Under Attack from Its Own Political Leaders

After devoting some ink to Russiaâ''s peculiarities in its nanotechnology initiative, I was beginning to develop a begrudging respect for the idea of the government supporting the commercialization aspect of nanotechnology as much as, if not more than, it funded the research.

I arrived at this sense after seeing how the US government officials were coming to the realization that the â''next Industrial Revolutionâ'' had not really met their expectations, with a seeming lack of job creation and other economic impacts. Maybe if someone acknowledged that the time, energy and money spent to get a research project to market probably far exceeds those expended in the research, the idea of investing in the commercialization of research projects makes a lot of sense.

But no sooner had I come to that realization than President Dmitry Medvedev earlier this month singled out the State Nanotechnology Corporation Rusnano as an example of how itâ''s a mistake to create large, state-owned corporations.

"[Rusnano] is the kind of instrument that sometimes works and sometimes doesn't work at all," Medvedev said, calling the company a "large structure that has a lot of money and that still has to understand how to correctly spend it."

The â''sometimes works and sometimes doesnâ''t workâ'' phrase from the quote implies that there is not something fundamentally wrong with the idea. Instead problems arise in the execution, or at least that seems to be the logic of the quote.

This is further supported by the follow up criticism leveled against Rusnano by Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov who accused the company of "lagging behind" in realizing its goals.

Russiaâ''s political officials seem to like the idea in principle they just want it to be more successful and to happen faster. Mind you this is hardly two years into the program.

With the money, the apparent sense of urgency and the commitment to charting the economic impact of nanotechnology accurately, Iâ''m beginning to think Russia may very well meet their rather lofty goals in the field of nanotechnology


Tech Talk

IEEE Spectrum’s general technology blog, featuring news, analysis, and opinions about engineering, consumer electronics, and technology and society, from the editorial staff and freelance contributors.

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up for the Tech Alert newsletter and receive ground-breaking technology and science news from IEEE Spectrum every Thursday.