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Ceremony awarding the President’s Prize in Science and Innovation for Young Scientists for 2011

February 8, 2012, The Kremlin, Moscow

Dmitry Medvedev awarded the President’s Prize in Science and Innovation for Young Scientists for 2011 to Alexander Blagov, Pavel Kovalev, Viktor Orlov, Vladimir Komlev, and Andrei Raigorodsky.

The ceremony, which coincides with Russian Science Day, took place at the Grand Kremlin Palace’s Catherine Hall. 

* * *

President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Friends,

Today, on Russian Science Day, we are presenting the President’s Prize for Young Scientists for the fourth time here at the Kremlin. This is a new tradition and it has only one aim of course, namely, to give state recognition to the work and role of scientists and science in general, and to the work of our young scientists in particular. Our aim is to support the young generation of researchers and show how their work is already bringing our country considerable benefits.

I take this opportunity to congratulate all scientists on their professional holiday. What can I say, really? Scientists try to think in original and creative fashion, break the stereotypes and carry out the boldest experiments, and their work is exceptionally useful for our country. The state authorities therefore must do everything possible to give scientists the most comfortable environment and all the conditions they need to ensure demand for their work. This is all the more important as it is their innovative efforts that play a big part in shaping our competitiveness as a country and act as catalyst for developing the smart economy, the new economy, which in turn opens up new opportunities for addressing our social problems, developing new projects, and raising the quality of life for everyone in Russia. 

Sadly, human life takes place within a rather short timeframe, but if measured in terms of achievements, we see that time is becoming ever more compressed. It was only recently that we marked the 50th anniversary of the start of space exploration. That was only 50 years ago. The first real personal computer appeared only 30 years ago. But much has been accomplished in this short space of time and humanity has taken many strides ahead, some of them indeed gigantic strides.

The volume of information is growing and we can clearly expect to see more big discoveries that will change our lives, and more competition for young minds too. You can rest assured that we all realise how important it is to support those just starting out in their careers and taking their first steps in science. I cannot say that we have done everything possible here, but I think we have made progress and have set a systemic development process in motion to encourage and support talented young scientists.

I want to give a few figures. I like them, and I hope that you might find them useful if you have not heard them yet. Over these last years, almost 1,350 small innovative businesses have been set up at universities. I am sure that more will come. We need more such businesses.

Last year alone, young people took part in around 6,000 projects carried out under the federal targeted programme Research and Teaching Staff for an Innovative Russia. We also improved grant support for young PhD and Doctor of Science degree holders, with the former now getting 400 grants a year, and the latter 60 grants each year. The grants are paid for a two-year period and come to 1 million rubles a year for Doctor of Science degree holders, and 600,000 rubles a year for PhD holders. 

Starting this year, undergraduate and postgraduate students at universities training people in the five priority economic and national modernisation areas will also receive presidential and government scholarships. A total of 3,000 presidential and 5,000 government scholarships will be awarded. Of course, the grant system still needs to be further improved. I will very soon sign an executive order establishing 1,000 monthly presidential scholarships of 20,000 rubles each. This money will be paid to young scientists and postgraduates working in the main economic modernisation areas.

I hope that many young scientists will also make use of the new innovation centres in their work, including the Skolkovo centre. I know that many young scientists are taking part in the Skolkovo projects, and some of them are even here today.

It is important that Skolkovo has as its partners not just global companies and prominent scientists – we have already achieved this objective overall – but also the strong scientific schools that exist not only in our biggest cities but also in the regions. I think this is a key aspect in developing our science today.

Now, as is custom, I address this year’s winning scientists. They have already established themselves in their fields, and though they have already been introduced, it is with pleasure that I say a few more words about them.

As was noted, Alexander Blagov developed the scientific basis for developing a new class of x-ray optics instruments that can be used in modern nano-diagnostics and studying the structure of different matter. He also teaches at universities that are training our future scientists, which I think is very laudable indeed.

Viktor Orlov and Pavel Kovalev are the creators of unique technology for producing high strength cold-resistant steels that can be used for laying pipelines and building drilling platforms, including offshore Arctic platforms. This is work that will give our country a genuinely strategic advantage. The economic benefits of using these new products are immense – they will save us billions.

Health is always the greatest asset no matter what, and the new biocompatible materials created by Vladimir Komlev will therefore find wide application in our various medical fields, including in dentistry, orthopaedics, bone tissue regeneration, and treating malignant tumours. These materials are absolutely unique in our country and their production cost is considerably lower than that of foreign-made materials. 

Mathematics is the language of all the exact sciences and modern technology, including information technology. Andrei Raigorodsky has full command of this language and is developing it further. As was noted, it is good to see that his theoretical research is finding eminently practical use and is helping to develop information resources, including Russia’s Yandex search engine. It is hugely important that such a successful scientist gives so much time to Russia’s students, cultivating the thirst for knowledge in our boys’ and girls’ heads. This sets an excellent example.

Friends, the prize winners and their work are all very serious and of great importance for our science. They represent the natural sciences, which is understandable. But the humanities are also important for our country’s development, for the development of our public life, and quite simply for shaping people’s ideas about where they live and how they live, shaping their values and their attitudes towards their country. This is all the more pertinent as this year we are marking the History Year in Russia, and so I hope that we will also see much interesting research in this area too, research worthy of the corresponding state prizes.

Once more, I congratulate the winners, and also their mentors and families. I wish you health and success, and I wish success and happiness to everyone working in science.

Let us begin presenting the awards.


Prize winners, colleagues,

The award ceremony has just taken place. As is customary, the winners thank their teachers and universities, and thank their wives – and today even their children – for their patience. Our prize winners are all very young, but evidently children are already having their effect on the creative process.

I cannot say that everything is ideal in science today. There is never an ideal situation, and the president of even the most economically flourishing country could not claim to have everything ideal, but I also cannot say that we have done nothing to change and improve the situation.

It is important now to keep moving in the direction that all of the prize winners spoke of: first, work on synthesis in research; and second, (or first, depending on how you place the priorities) develop fundamental science and – especially important for our country, perhaps – ensure that top-notch research centres emerge not only in the biggest cities but also in other scientific centres around the country, of which there are many. Some of them are indeed not in the best state today, while others have received a new boost over these last years. This is all the more important as the globalisation process underway in all of life, including in science, creates good new opportunities here.

I think that the main thing now is simply to work methodically. It makes no sense to compare one era to another. We are all aware that we are living in today’s world, and of course past eras had their achievements and their outstanding scientific schools, many of which continue today and are the pride of our country’s science. But at the same time, we live now in the twenty-first century and there is no road back, only the road forward. We need to make this road as smooth as possible for everyone working in science.

When talking with young scientists, especially those who have gone abroad to work, I often ask them what exactly they lack in Russia. Ten years ago, you’d hear very frank answers on the lines of, “What do we lack? Money. You don’t pay enough, and so we left to earn money abroad. This is only normal. We are people too, after all.” The answers have changed now. What I most commonly hear these days is that in general, they are happy enough with the situation, with the money paid, and then there are the new opportunities for obtaining housing for people working in the Academy of Sciences and leading universities and research centres.

But the scientific infrastructure is weak, and this is what we should be paying priority attention to today. What do I mean by this? I mean that we have a weak research infrastructure. I recall, for example, a conversation I had in Silicon Valley: “In the USA, getting the reactive agent I need takes five days and is guaranteed. Everything is ok in Russia, similar money, generally decent conditions, and it’s nicer to work in your own country, but getting that same reactive agent takes six months, and that’s what makes it impossible to work.”

I therefore address those responsible for organising our science sector, the Government, and the authorities in general: I think that we must pay particular attention to our research infrastructure, because only then will we see more outstanding achievements of the kind being recognised here in this grand hall today. 

Prize winners, I congratulate you! I congratulate you, your universities, and your families, and I congratulate everyone working in science.

February 8, 2012, The Kremlin, Moscow