The second Forum of Regions of Belarus and Russia took place this September, in Sochi, featuring representatives of 60 federal subjects of Russia and of all 6 Belarusian regions and Minsk (a greater number than last year). The surge of interest in our integration processes was reflected in the main theme for discussion: the prospects and conditions of forming a single industrial policy for Belarus and Russia, including taking into account the recent entrance of our two countries into the Eurasian Economic Union.
The importance of this topic was fully confirmed at an exhibition held within the forum, displaying advanced scientific, industrial and technical achievements. Many of the items on show were the fruit of various Union State scientific and technical programmes; more than 40 have been already realised.
Before the forum began, participants visited the exhibition, viewing Minsk MTW tractors and Nizhnekamsk KAMAZ trucks, Belarusian BELAZ mine machinery, Minsk diesel engines and Gomel Polesie combine harvesters. Greatest interest was provoked by hi-tech developments, which had their own space in a special exhibition hall.
The State Secretary of the Union State, Grigory Rapota, familiarised himself with stands demonstrating the results of Union scientific and technical programmes, including a Union thermal imager, and microelectronics devices. He lingered near the stand of St. Petersburg OJSC Avangard, which encompasses the Russian-Belarusian Centre of Microsystem Engineering. The Director General of Avangard, Valery Shubarev, tells us that they chatted about ‘key problems for Russia and Belarus, and the Union State as a whole’. He explains, “Import substitution is essential and, thanks to various Union scientific and technical programmes relating to `microsystem engineering`, we’ve managed to create technologies which are competitive not only domestically but abroad, providing a new level of safety across all spheres, from household to industrial. We’ve created prototype devices which can monitor conditions leading to technogenic, natural and man-made catastrophes, and are now mastering batch production of relevant devices.”
Gennady Kovalchuk, the Director General of Belarusian OJSC Planar (an enterprise-partner of Avangard), adds, “Our co-operation is financially favourable to both parties. We rely on technologies developed by our Russian colleagues, and are creating corresponding up-to-date equipment for them. We are making joint Belarusian-Russian products within the Union State. It’s something we should all aspire to.”
Questions of co-operation in the scientific and technical spheres were considered thoroughly under the theme ‘Realising Structural Policy via Union State Programmes: Developing inter-regional co-operation and co-operative ties between the industrial enterprises of Russia and Belarus`. It was, perhaps, the most representative section of the forum, with discussions held across three sub-sections.
The first was devoted to general issues; the second to scientific and technical co-operative interaction between regions; and the third to Union programmes as a tool of industrial policy. Outstanding scientists and experts from scientific institutions joined directors of major research-and-production enterprises, and heads of ministries and departments from Belarus and Russia.
The Deputy State Secretary of the Union State, Standing Committee member Alexey Kubrin, moderated the discussion, setting the tone. He tells us, “Questions of industrial policy are broad and we’ve achieved much inter-regional co-operation. Our process of adopting and fulfilling Union programmes has strict structure and financing, as well as a control system. It is the most effective mechanism of co-operation, providing concrete results. Union programmes aim to solve scientific, technical and industrial tasks, improving our technologies.”
Union programmes in the field of microelectronics are a good example. One finished in 2014, creating microelements for the launch systems of space rockets, as well as for application at the Sochi Olympics, and in housing and communal services. Other successful programmes are Kompomat and the Union Thermal Imager (for remote Earth sensing from space). Meanwhile, various other intriguing projects have begun.
The Chairman of the State Committee for Science and Technologies of Belarus, Alexander Shumilin, joined the Director of the Administration of Minsk High-Tech Park, Valery Tsepkalo, in speaking to those gathered, alongside the head of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus, Piotr Vityaz.
Mr. Vityaz commented, “It’s important to see the direction being taken by industry and science for next 20-30 years. The formation of a single industrial policy for the Union State relies on this awareness. The NAS of Belarus is participating in achieving this. Union programmes are focusing on space, nano- and biological technologies, as well as improving agro-industrial manufacturing. Joint research with Russian colleagues is being organised across six Union programmes, with five already finished, and several under development. A single scientific-technological space is impossible without a uniform legislative base. As a result of fulfilling the Standardisation programme, we’ve created 69 standards (applying equally to Belarus and Russia) in the field of space machinery technologies.”
Sergey Tsybukov, the Deputy Chairman of the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Director General of the Scientific Production Union for Plastics Procession, spoke to a rapt audience. He noted his desire to join forces with Baranovichi’s factory making automatic moulding machines and with industrial engineers from the Urals, who make press moulds. In this way, by combining technologies, within the Kompomat programme and others, major import-substitution manufacturing is possible, helping railway transportation and other branches of the economy.
Across the whole forum, many voiced their desire to develop a more efficient method of bringing enterprises together, so that Union programmes may be adopted and fulfilled. A fund of financial support for joint Belarusian-Russian projects was proposed, as was a Union programme to support inter-regional scientific and technical co-operation.
Alexey Kubrin commented, “We can overcome all obstacles mentioned during our session of if we maintain a realistic outlook and encourage co-operation between the federal executive powers of Russia and state bodies of Belarus. We’ve only recently begun to discuss a single industrial policy, which is a complex issue, requiring much systematisation. The most structured element will be our joint Union scientific and technical programmes.”
Many ideas and suggestions expressed by session participants regarding a single industrial policy for the Union State have now been included in the concluding document for the forum. In particular, members of parliament from our two countries believe it necessary to activate investment co-operation between our two countries, in such branches as heavy engineering industry, electronics and electronic mechanical engineering, and high technologies, focusing attention on import-substitution.
It was agreed that wider, multifaceted co-operation is needed between the regions of Belarus and Russia in the innovative sphere, including raising the share of high-tech and knowledge-intensive production in mutual goods turnover. A new programme of scientific and technical co-operation is now needed for our two countries, taking into account the development of inter-regional ties in the innovative sphere.
By Vladimir Bibikov