The directors of the RUSNANOPRIZE Award have announced that the nomination procedure has begun. But why should international scientists with successful nanotech business stories be interested in applying?
What is the RUSNANOPRIZE Award?
The RUSNANOPRIZE Award was established by the RUSNANO Corporation in 2009 to promote the integration of the interests of the scientific community with commercial requirements, and to create wide social recognition of just how important practical applications of nanotechnology are.
The award aims to contribute to the development of experimental and applied nanotechnology research, and the introduction of nanotechnology into manufacturing processes. International cooperation from the nanotech industry, and social recognition of the role played by individual scientists and research was also considered an important aim.
The award focuses on a different area of nanotechnology each year. For 2013, the RUSNANO board has decided that the Award will be given for achievements in the field of "Nanomaterials and Surface Modification".
This is the second time this sphere of science has been chosen during the Award's rather short history, but it is not a surprising choice - the development of nanomaterials has traditionally been a strong field in Russia, and industries utilizing nanomaterials are currently key players in the Russian economy. This years prize will pit previous and ongoing Russian achievements against the best examples of scientific commercialization worldwide.
The winning scientist will receive a cash prize (over $90,000), and the best company will get this glass trophy, representing the honor of winning the award.
What do the winners receive?
Winners of the award will receive financial rewards (3 million rubles or over $90,000), trophies, and a RUSNANOPRIZE certificate. Candidates can be nominated by Russian and foreign organizations, or individuals, excluding the members of the Award Committee - self-nomination is also permitted.
According to the RUSNANOPRIZE rules, eligible candidates include teams of up to three researchers, scientists or developers who have made a scientific discovery in the field of nanotechnology, and also the first company to achieve business success through large-scale application of the discovery. Research applicants should have a record of the implemented discovery, and the company should have an annual turnover of at least $10 million.
Russian market entrance prospects
At first glance, the Russian market can seem huge. According to a report on the most successful nanotech companies by the Nanotechnological Society of Russia (NSR) the top 20 companies have a total yearly turnover about 1 billion dollars. And this is only the tip of the iceberg.
On the other hand, the Russian market is known to be extremely difficult to enter and operate in. It has a relatively small proprotion of SME's, and the large companies are traditionally oriented more towards internal cooperation. In general, it could be said that they are rich in innovations, they don’t have enough qualified English-speaking staff, and they tend to be centrally controlled in their administration style, all of which makes international collaborations unattractive or problematic.
In these conditions, RUSNANO Corp. can seem to be a very interesting partner for foreign nanotech companies. The RUSNANO Fund for Infrastructure and Educational Programs has put in a lot of effort to change the Russian legislation base, and to encourage large-scale players in the Russian economy to implement nanotechnologies into their business.
So beyond direct investments into nanotech companies (who also make up a very interesting pool of potential partners), RUSNANO collaborates with almost all types of institutions for the development of scientific, innovative, and technological businesses.
This doesn’t mean, of course, that RUSNANO officers will automatically become the agents for whichever company wins the RUSNANOPRIZE Award. However, they are well placed to be valuable advisers, and nomination to the Award is an excellent way to establish collaboration.
Moreover, the Open Innovations Forum where the RUSNANOPRIZE ceremony will be held in November 2013 is expected to be the most prominent event of the year for all Russian hi-tech industries, so the Award Laureates will definitely have a lot of networking possibilities there.
Adopting international best practices
The judging process for the Award is evolving, to learn from the best practices of some of the most well-known international awards. More than 40% of the expert group must be foreign residents. Of the 14 members of the Award Committee, only two will be from Russia – deputy head of Moscow State University Prof. Alexey Khokhlov and RUSNANO CEO Anatoly Chubays.
In 2012, the RUSNANOPRIZE was awarded for achievements in medicine, pharmacology, and biotechnologies - the winner was Sergey Lukyanov with his excellent work titled “Fluorescent proteins: discovery, investigation and use in biotechnology”. Professor Lukyanov also had a successful business in the field of molecular genetics, and a score of 40 in the Hirsch Index at the same time.
Anatoly Chubays, the RUSNANO CEO, presents the RUSNANOPRIZE Award to Prof. Sergey Lukyanov at the 2012 ceremony.
Without a doubt, Lukyanov was one of the best scientists working in that area within Russia. Whether he was the best in the world remains open to discussion - but the proportion of foreign applicants for the Award in 2012 was rather low.
The goal of the RUSNANOPRIZE Award Directorate in 2013 is to drastically raise the level of the competition by attracting more international applicants. This task should not be too difficult - there are plenty of good scientists with commercial success stories in the field of nanomaterials all over the world. Readers of this article are kindly invited to disseminate this information to anyone you know of who might be interested in the 2013 competition.
How can I apply?
The application form can be downloaded from the official RUSNANOPRIZE web site. Completed application forms should be sent to the Award Directorate via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org before the closing date on August 15th 2013. Comments, questions and possible candidates for direct invitation by organizers would also be greatly appreciated.