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Bidders await results of Rusnanoís $630m nanocenter program

10 Feb '10
Oleg Kouzbit, Online News Managing Editor

Rusnano CEO Anatoly Chubais announced last year that by 2015 Russiaís nanoproduct sales would reach $32.8bn. To help encourage promising nanoprojects, Rusnano said it would open an array of nanocenters around the country and organized an open tender last October to encourage individuals and corporations to help create them. With the deadline for proposals coming up fast (Feb. 15), Marchmont asked Evgeny Evdokimov, Rusnanoís Managing Director of Infrastructure Development, and the departmentís chief expert, Ilya Pavlov, to explain more about the innovative project.

Whatís behind the idea of creating nanocenters?

The idea is to have each nanocenter working together with existing corporations and other institutionsóincluding leading universities. Combining our efforts will help eliminate the problem that exists today with either incomplete or isolated infrastructure. Neither corporations nor universities have enough competence or equipment to ensure the successful transfer of science into an innovation technology and eventually, a marketable product.

With funding from Rusnano, a local nanocenter will be able to provide highly sophisticated special equipment as well as cover the operating costs of a technology transfer center, which will act as the nanocenterís management company.

We are confident that our tender will result in applications from individuals and organizations that already have space of their own available, so this will save the time and expense of building centers ourselves.

What we plan to have installed in these spaces is quite another matter. Thatís why Rusnano expects applicants to offer future nanocenters facilities furnished to certain international standards to get their operation going.

We will be making an exception if an applicant has co-investors ready to fund some construction. However, if a bidder expects Rusnano to approve a project with new construction as a centerpiece, weíll reject this bid.

What can a tender winner expect?

Rusnano will sign a preliminary investment agreement with each winner. The document will be then elaborated and updated over the next two-to-three months to incorporate best aspects of their applications and tender documentation. Then there will be a final agreement inked, funding released, and operations launched.

How will Rusnano coordinate nanocenter operations? Or are they going to be completely self-directed?

They are, in a sense. The projectís main elements, technology transfer centers, will be registered commercial legal entities (registration as a not-for-profit organization is also possible). They will have enough authority to make lots of independent decisions.

Nonetheless, regardless of its share in project capital Rusnano will require a certain number of seats on the firmís board of directors, and the right to veto decisions on some issues, such as budgeting, capital expenses, and some others. If our policy disallows certain steps on the part of a grant recipient, we will have a mechanism in place to enforce the policy.

Time for bidding is running out. Has it been enough to let all really worthy applicants get through?

In fact, most of those willing to bid apparently began drafting their applications even prior to the date of the tender announcement. We had held a special seminar to explain the project, which was posted on our website. The issue was in the air long before it was formally aired in October; itís been known to stakeholders for some six months or so.

But if there are bidders who canít make the deadline, there is no need to worry: we will have a second round of bidding to try again.

How many nanocenters do you plan to set up?

By and large, the entire $630+m program calls for setting up 15-20 nanocenters. The first tender is not going to pick all of those at once, but rather a select few this time. We need to see how the tender went and if there were any snags. The procedure will be Ďdebuggedí upon signing the first set of investment agreements this coming summer, and by the fall a second tender will likely be held.

If the second round doesnít draw enough fundable bids, there will be a third one later on. The whole process may take up to two-three years. The February 15 deadline is not the end of the road, not by a long shot. Itís only the beginning.
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