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Meeting with mega-grant recipients and leading scientists

June 13, 2024, Dubna, the Moscow Region

During his visit to the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research, Vladimir Putin met with leading Russian and foreign scientists and recipients of research mega-grants.

President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Friends, colleagues, good afternoon.

I was very glad to see what has been done here.

In 2011, we decided to launch this project, and overall, it is developing successfully, including thanks to cooperation between fellow scientists from almost all over the world.

Unfortunately, failures occurred due to the well-known circumstances. However, we are managing, though the project has been a bit postponed. But I have just been told that all the critical issues are being addressed. Unfortunately, our partners are suffering from rescheduling even more. Why is this unfortunate? Because this means that, if we joined forces, we could overall act more effectively.

But I believe that we will overcome all political difficulties sooner or later. Science will not stop still under any circumstances, and progress will be ensured.

It is good to see that, as your colleague has told me, when they set tasks to our enterprises and scientific centres to design something that we used to purchase from our foreign partners, our manufacturers succeed in all this work almost without a single failure. But let me repeat this once again: I believe that cooperation will be restored, and we will work together.

I know there are people present here who are taking part in the mega-grant programme. We have met with many of you numerous times, in different situations, but with constant focus on one and the same matter: the development of Russian science and the development of Russian science as part of the global science.

I am pleased to note that this work is proceeding as planned. We adjust this work according to your recommendations, which we always heed and will continue to do so.

I would like to thank you for this joint work and express a hope that you are also satisfied with it, because the process which benefits the development of the global science and knowledge is a top priority for creative people.

The NICA project that we are speaking about and which we are implementing has to do exactly with that, with exploring how the universe came to be, how it evolved. At first glance, it has no practical value at present, it does not seem to be an applied research area. Nonetheless, within the scope of what is going on, we are working here both in microelectronics, in biology and in a number of other domains. Already today it is beginning to bring specific results for the Russian economy and for Russian science, applied science, for the spheres of activity that are so necessary for human beings, first of all, of course, for humanitarian purposes, including medicine.

I am sure it will also benefit our partners who work here and come from other countries, since in one way or another, these results also benefit the countries they came from. Because we do not lock anything up, we do not hide anything. We are open for cooperation, for using the achievements that come out of your work. We are open for the results of your work to be used not only in Russia but also in other countries.

I don’t want to take your time now. I would like to listen to your recommendations as to what and how we should do, first, to continue our work and, second, how to make it more efficient.

Let’s begin. Go ahead, please.

Director of the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research Grigory Trubnikov: Thank you.

Mr President.

Good afternoon, friends.

I think we need no other introduction; the President has said everything. Let us start with the winners of the mega-grants laboratory contest.

This is a unique programme, it has been in effect for over 10 years. Over this time, 345 laboratories have been established in 150 organisations. This programme involves 135 countries and 186 scientists representing foreign laboratories who have organised successful research here in the Russian Federation. There are more than 10,000 publications. Another figure makes a huge impression on me: almost 1,500 doctoral theses have been defended thanks to this programme.

If you please, let us begin. Alexey Kavokin, now representing the laboratory at St Petersburg State University, is the creator of a new type of laser – a bosonic cascade laser for telecommunications in medicine. He used to work in Great Britain for a long time.

Mr Kavokin, go ahead, please.

Alexei Kavokin: Thank you very much.

Good afternoon, Mr President.

I am a second-wave mega-grant recipient. Indeed, I came to St Petersburg State University from Great Britain in 2011. There, my colleagues and I built the Spin Optics Laboratory, where we study polaritonics.

Vladimir Putin: What was that?

Alexei Kavokin: Polaritonics.

Vladimir Putin: This does not sound simple for my untrained ear.

Alexei Kavokin: Liquid light is a more graphic term. It is light that spreads everywhere. It begins to behave like a liquid in crystalline structures, in a certain geometry: it forms drops and whirlpools. We learn how to manage it. Based on this liquid light, we have made an entirely new generation of lasers: polariton lasers. Now we have joined the roadmap for quantum computing and are making neural networks and quantum transistors (qubits) for future quantum computers.

Looking over this whole story (after all, 13 years have passed), I would like to say that I think the mega-grant programme remains the most effective instrument for financing science that I know. Why?

Look, back in 2011, a mega-grant worth 150 billion rubles was invested in our lab. It gave us the push to create the lab where over 40 employees are working now, with some of them already receiving a national award. Moreover, this lab has also cleared a path for many others, like an icebreaker.

In 2014, a polaritonics group was created at the Russian Quantum Centre. In 2016, my colleague from England, Pavlos Lagoudakis, came to Skoltech and built an excellent laboratory there. In 2018, we were invited to China by our Chinese colleagues who liked it all, and we built an international polaritonics centre in Hangzhou. In fact, there is now a cluster of scientific groups and laboratories, and, most importantly, a scientific school, which now has a leading position in the world, if I dare say.

We have young people from all over the world, including unfriendly countries, come to us, and every one of them is welcome. I think it has covered the initial investment many times over. Considering this, if I were to wish one thing to our megagrant programme, I would wish is to expand.

In the early years, 30 to 40 labs were created each year. This year, as far as I know, eight labs were created, but each one received larger amounts of funding. Mr Fursenko keeps telling us that funds are limited, but I think there is a solution.

Right before this meeting, I met with some of our colleagues, and we agreed that, first, this is the most effective mechanism, at least I think so. Why not take a portion of the funding that is set aside for research out of the state assignment and is not always spent efficiently, and use it for the megagrant programme? This is one way to do it.

In addition to it, I am absolutely positive that many of our businesspeople would be happy to tie their name in with such a prestigious programme that is useful for the country. Why not open it up to private sponsors? Perhaps, they would fill its budget, and we would be capable of creating 40 to 50 labs a year rather than eight and, in addition, supporting the existing research schools that have grown out of the megagrant labs.

Thank you for your time.

Vladimir Putin: You know, when people mention the St Petersburg State University, I am always pleased to note that I am also an alumnus of this university and I also worked at that university as an assistant to the rector. I know how it works.

Where exactly is your lab located?

Alexei Kavokin: In Peterhof, the Physics Department.

Vladimir Putin: Peterhof. I see. It’s a good place.

With regard to the megagrants, someone mentioned it earlier that after we got this work underway… Mr Fursenko, what year was that? 2010? We started this work in 2010, and it brought excellent results.

Frankly, whenever something good happens, my colleagues, modest persons, always say that I launched this particular project, and I did it. In fact, they were the ones to come up with the idea, and I just did not prevent them from acting on it. This programme is the brainchild of Andrei Fursenko. Indeed, this programme is a success with 345 labs, I think, in 37 or 39 constituent entities of the Russian Federation.

To be continued.

June 13, 2024, Dubna, the Moscow Region