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National project 'Science' and similarity-to-nature

What was discussed at the Global Forum on Naturally-Based and Convergent Technologies in Sochi

The first day of the 'Global Forum on Naturally-Based and Convergent Technologies for Inclusive and Sustainable Industrial Development in Sochi has come to an end. The Russian and foreign scientists, who gathered to take part in the forum, as well as business and government representatives discussed the concepts underlying convergent and nature-like technologies, their possible use and commercialisation in the context of the fourth industrial revolution, as well as how such technologies could help withstand global challenges facing humanity — the issues of food security and climate change.
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The term 'convergent technologies' arose in the early 2000s and it means not only mutual influence, but also the convergence of bio-, nano-, information- and cognitive technologies, when these fields become partially merged and produce interesting results at the intersection of the fields.

The forum is held jointly with the Russian government as part of a project developed by the National Research Centre 'Kurchatov Institute' together with the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) following the request of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The organisers are confident that the forum would give impetus to the development of trade and economic relations and future joint projects aimed at strengthening the position of advanced Russian goods and technologies in the international arena, as well create the necessary conditions for further development of business contacts and cross-border cooperation.

A two-day forum opened with a plenary session named 'Nature-like technologies as a response to global challenges,' chaired by presidential aide Andrei Fursenko, who said that nature-like technologies could help provide answers to many global challenges, especially those related to the environment and the quality of life. Hiroshi Kuniyoshi, UNIDO (The United Nations Industrial Development Organisation) Deputy to the Director General, who gave talk at the forum, said that technology should not only be friendly to nature, but also become a part of it. He expressed an opinion that not just corporations should be engaged in development of such technologies, but also government organisations.

Similarity-to-nature and its examples

Alexander Sergeev, the President of the Russian Academy of Sciences, noted in his talk at the forum that throughout history nature-like technologies ensured the development of mankind. Moreover, with the advancements of science, humanity gained the ability not only to develop solutions similar to those created by nature, but also to make them more potent.

However, Sergeyev stressed that it is essential to assess environmental impact of any technology under development:

«If we are developing something quickly these days, even if it is a nature-like technology, we must evaluate the effect it will have on nature, this is a very important aspect. Of course, we do need an understanding of how to integrate it into nature in the right way,» Sergeyev said.

Vladislav Panchenko, the Chairman of the Board of the Russian Foundation for Basic Research (RFBR), expressed confidence that human organs, including liver and kidneys, will be created using additive technologies. In essence, he said, this is constructing an object, even if it is a biological one, by building it up layer upon layer. Panchenko also added that he sees great potential in scientific and technological fields related to laser and accelerator technologies.

Mikhail Kovalchuk, the President of the National Research Centre (NRC) 'Kurchatov Institute', reminded the audience about the problems of generating energy using nature-like technologies and the transition to new types of energy consumption. He said that the development of and transition to a digital economy will require creation of new energy sources based on nature-like technologies that do not harm the environment. Kovalchuk said that he is confident that development and use of such technologies will also allow for a more economical use of energy. The head of the NRC quoted thermonuclear fusion as an example of nature-like technology, because 'the Sun is a natural fusion reactor'.

Kovalchuk went on to say that Russia had begun to create a national network of installations of mega-science class, which would become the most powerful research infrastructure in the world.

«We have invested about two billion euros in international projects. This is the Russian contribution, we are an integral part of the European mega structure. And now, on the instructions of the president, we returned to our country to create a national network of unique installations. These include the PIK reactor, and the NICA accelerator complex in Dubna, and synchrotrons. And if all this is realised we will have the best and most powerful research infrastructure in the world,» Kovalchuk said.

National project 'Science'

However, the talk on the first day of the forum was not only of technological trends and global tendencies in the development of science and technology. The central place on the agenda was perhaps taken by the national project 'Science' ['Nauka' in Russian. — Chrdk.], which should be designed and developed in accordance with the May presidential decree. The instructions of Vladimir Putin were that in 2024 Russia should enter the top five world leading countries among those engaged in R&D in areas defined by the priorities of scientific and technological development.

The head of the RAS Sergeyev said that he expects that the national project would be brought up for public discussion in October, and hopes that scientists will be able to voice their opinion. In the meantime, the project 'Science' has been submitted for discussion to the public councils of federal executive bodies. In turn, Mikhail Kotyukov, the Minister of Science and Higher Education of Russia, stressed that the public discussion of the document has already been held at several public venues, and the Russian Academy of Sciences was involved in discussing it from the very beginning.

The minister said that expected amount of government funding for the national project will exceed 300 billion rubles. Kotyukov went on to say that 200 billion out of the funding will be spent on the development of scientific infrastructure, i.e. on mega-science class installations and upgrading and updating of equipment at institutes and organisations, which will allow to conduct research and to attract Russian and foreign specialists. The minister noted in this context that «without restructuring the basic mechanisms, basic processes, and amounts of funding, we would not achieve serious results.»

Kotyukov also added that there will be an integrated state program of scientific and technological development and development of higher education in Russia.

«The program should ensure scientific and technological development and become the main tool for achieving the goals that are set in the 'Scientific and Technological Development Strategy'. Science and vocational education should work very closely with each other so that this cooperation would provide both universities and research studies with the right direction for development. And the most important thing is that these ideas would turn into practical results,» the minister said.

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