Government fund to allot grants totaling 3.1 bln rubles

12 / 11 / 2019

The Russian Fund for Development of Information Technologies (RFRIT), which operates under the national government, will allot grants for cross-cutting technology projects. The allocations will amount to 3.1 billion rubles in 2019. Each project grant will range from 15 million to 1 billion rubles.

Regional enterprises could receive grants for big data projects in the field of quantum technology, sensorics, robotics, neuro-technology, and artificial intelligence (AI). Companies focused on production technologies, industrial internet, blockchain systems, wireless communication technologies, AR and VR may also take part in the contest.

"Supportive measures are a key instrument of Russia's digital transformation. The transition has been quite swift in the capital and big cities, however, digitalization has a different speed and differed priorities in regions. First and foremost, the RFRIT will be evaluating the topicality of a particular project for a particular region," said Deputy Minister of Digital Development, Communications and Mass Media Yevgeny Kislyakov.

Applications for grants can be filed from November 8 through November 28, in particular via the personal account on the RFRIT website. Grants will be given to companies that order IT projects. "Importantly, projects must be ready for implementation, they cannot be startups," a spokesman for the RFRIT said.

The amount of the grant will depend on the cost of the project. It is possible to apply for a grant of up to 50% of the project cost, and the client must finance at least 50% of the project itself.

The interagency commission will name the victorious projects, which will receive grants of up to 200 million rubles, on December 18, 2019. The presidium of the governmental commission will make decisions regarding projects with the grants exceeding 200 million rubles. "KPI will be set for each project, and the Fund will be monitoring their fulfillment jointly with the experts over the year," RFRIT General Director Dmitry Kryukov said.

The sum of 3.1 billion rubles will be shared between nine technological areas. According to the RFRIT, the funding will amount to 6 billion rubles in 2020.

In the opinion of National Association of Robotics CEO Alisa Konyukhovskaya, it is important to support the industrial implementation of cross-cutting technologies. As for the level of robotization, there are five robots per 10,000 workers in Russia after 50 years of industrial robotics existence. "An average global level is about 100 robots per 10,000 workers," Konyukhovskaya said.

The requirement that the enterprise must provide 50% of the funding may constitute a problem. A project should cost about 30 million rubles. According to the expert, only 20-30% of industrial robotic projects have a higher cost. "About 50 days are left until the end of the year. Will the government have enough time to choose projects and to allot funds if the submission of applications has just begun? It is still necessary to prepare a package of application documents, and to take a pick. The tight schedule and the need to prepare documents will create problems for enterprises," Konyukhovskaya said. On the whole, she said the terms were good, and the initiative was relevant.

"The allocation of grants for ongoing projects, which practically starts the day it is announced, considering that the 29th day of the month is the deadline, is a step that fits the domestic tradition. As a rule, they expect the project to be 99% ready by the time the application is filed. It is hardly possible to spend the funds inefficiently under such circumstances. The money is spent on projects, which are practically accomplished, which means this is not an investment but a prize or reward for the ones who have been farsighted and have been moving in the right direction," FINAM Holdings analyst Leonid Delitsyn said.

Market majors will need 15-billion-ruble investment per year for one of the cross-cutting technologies, AI, he said, adding that RFRIT grants amount to a fifth of that sum and are intended for a dozen of cross-cutting technologies instead of just one.

"In other words, progressive regional companies, which have begun to implement the necessary technologies, will get about one/fifth of the total allocations. This does not look like overspending as a prize or reward for choosing the right area and making independent progress towards the objective. Still, you cannot build such a cutting-through technology as a quantum computer with this. Ergo, the grants are quite sufficient for the goals they may be used for, and time will show whether they are necessary," Delitsyn said.

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