By Claire West


Business Secretary Dr. Vince Cable has highlighted the opportunities for UK firms offered by Russian plans to build an international technology hub along the lines of Silicon Valley in the US.

The plans for Skolkovo were announced by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev last year, as part of plans for Russia to diversify its economy.

During his visit to Moscow this week, Dr. Cable underscored the importance of this development to UK businesses seeking to export their technology and work with partners abroad.

Vince Cable said:

“Skolkovo presents a perfect opportunity for UK companies and universities to work with their Russian counterparts and develop truly world-class technology.

“The UK and Russia have a Knowledge Partnership to encourage cooperation in science, innovation and technology. The UK has the largest ICT industry in Europe and we can help Russia as it develops in this area.

“Next year, my colleague David Willetts will discuss more detailed collaboration on both science and education and I hope to see this yielding real results for both countries in the future.”

The Business Secretary is travelling with a large business delegation that includes ICT, construction, pharmaceutical, energy and financial services firms.

The new high-tech research and production hub is being built from scratch in the Moscow region town of Skolkovo. It is planned that some 4.6 billion roubles ($158 million) will be allocated for the construction in 2010.

The new centre's activities will focus on five priority spheres: energy, information technologies, communication, biomedical research and nuclear technologies.

Dr. Cable’s visit to Russia will include a roundtable discussion on innovation with some of the most influential businessmen and politicians from both countries.

This discussion will help to link UK businesses with Russian companies that could benefit from their skills in innovation, providing both sides with opportunities to develop beyond their own borders and create technology that could benefit people across the world.


Factfile

• Russia is the largest producer and exporter of oil and gas, and is estimated to have the sixth largest oil reserves in the world and the largest conventional gas reserves.

• Energy is a cornerstone of the Russian economy. Oil and gas sales account for more than 20% of GDP and about 40% of the Federal Budget revenues.

• Russian oil output, more than ten million barrels a day, accounts for almost an eighth of world supply.

• In 2008, Gazprom supplied 35% of Europe’s gas imports, meeting more than a quarter of Europe’s gas demand. Gazprom meets more than 50% of the gas needs of 15 European countries. Russia plans to significantly increase gas production over the next two decades.

• The UK is the largest foreign investor in the Russian energy sector.

• The Russian government has a Law on Energy Efficiency which calls for energy audits by businesses, energy efficiency standards for buildings, investment tax credits, and energy performance labels for goods.

• An FCO Science and Innovation Network review notes that Russia has world-class capabilities in many areas including: Advanced materials; Bioscience and healthcare; Design engineering and advanced manufacturing; Electronics and photonics; Emerging energy and nuclear technologies; Information and communications technologies; Sustainable production and consumption; and Nanotechnology.

• There are over 60 innovation technology centres, over 100 university technology transfer centres and 68 technoparks in Russia.

• Rusnano, Russia’s nanotechnology agency, has a big part to play in Skolkovo, Russia’s ‘Silicon Valley’ project.

• 2011 will mark the 50th anniversary since Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space and the first person to orbit the Earth on 12 April 1961.

• An MOU was agreed between the UK Space Agency (UKSA) and Roscosmos on space in July 2010.

• A "UK Russia Year of Space" will be launched in 22 February 2011. This will include space science events in both countries, and will help improve space science collaboration between the UK and Russia.