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Economic restructuring: Russia’s grand ambition

The country is thinking big in technology and finance. But it needs to create a supportive culture first.

It is Russia’s perennial problem – how to wean the economy off its reliance on oil and gas? The answer, hope Russia’s leaders, lies with high technology and high finance.

Russia already has some world-class companies specializing in cutting-edge sectors. One is Rusnano, a state-owned nanotechnology company that was established in 2007. Rusnano, which is headed by Anatoly Chubais, one of the architects of Russia’s privatization programme in the early 1990s, is spearheading the nation’s push to become one of the world’s leading centres for nanotechnology – the study of controlling matter on an atomic and molecular scale. Rusnano’s projects include developing new materials for use in medicine, electronics and energy production. The government hopes that the nanotechnology industry will generate revenues of $30 billion by 2015.

Rusnano has received about $5 billion from the Russian government and is seeking investment opportunities with other nanotechnology firms around the world.

Russia’s leaders are now hoping to replicate the Rusnano model on a much larger scale with the creation of the country’s Silicon Valley. On December 31, president Dmitry Medvedev signed a decree to form a working committee to oversee the creation of a new technology hub to be built in Skolkovo, near a private-sector business school in the Moscow region.

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