Era Technopolis is the Russian Army’s most ambitious R&D project coming up in a small resort town near the Black Sea
Moscow: On 25 June 2018, President Vladimir Putin signed Decree No 364 outlining the goals set before the Era Military Innovation Technopolis, an R&D centre being built near the Black Sea resort town of Anapa. The centre will be run by the ministry of defence (MoD) but utilise the principle of military-civilian partnership. Construction at the 17-hectare (42 acre) site, formerly a MoD resort, began last spring. The draft of the presidential decree ordering Era’s establishment was released for public consultation in January (Nikolski A., Bocharova S. Shoygu to replace Rogozin at the Advanced Research Foundation // Vedomosti, 26.02.2018).
The Era Technopolis concept was approved by defence minister Sergey Shoygu on 18 December 2017 (Era Technopolis // Arsenal Otechestva, 2018, No 3). The launch of the facility is scheduled for September 2018, and the completion of all construction work for 2020. Era will consist of three clusters:
- Research Cluster for R&D, laboratory experiments and simulation modelling;
- Education Cluster for military personnel, cadets and students studying military specializations at civilian universities; and
- Production Cluster for building prototypes of military and special hardware (Era Technopolis // Arsenal Otechestva, 2018, No 3).
- Era’s R&D chief is Mikhail Kovalchuk, President of the Kurchatov Institute, who is known to have been close to President Putin since the Nineties. Another interesting fact is that the Lider company, which was officially affiliated with Kovalchuk’s brother Yuri until 2016, may be chosen by the MoD as a partner for a programme of refurbishing central heating systems at military compounds across Russia. A concession agreement on which the programme will be based is currently being drafted, and pilot projects may commence any day now.
Another partner in the Era venture is the Advanced Research Foundation (ARF). Established in 2013 as a would-be Russian equivalent of America’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the ARF has an annual budget of 3-4 billion roubles (USD70m). The money is spent primarily on co-funding university R&D projects that involve dual-use technologies. Era facilities will be used for some of the ARF-sponsored projects in which the foundation will be involved both financially and organisationally.
The man chosen to lead Era is Col Fedor Dedus, former deputy head of the Federal Service for Defense Procurement (abolished in 2014) and deputy chairman of the Armed Forces Research and Development Committee. Speaking during the Era project’s presentation on June 8, the colonel described its main goal as facilitating rapid (no more than three years) development of new military and dual-use hardware. At present, the R&D cycle for such technology takes an average of five to 10 years – long enough for the systems being developed to be made obsolete by the latest advances in IT. Initially, Era will not be expected to commercialise its projects, but eventually, that will become one of its goals.
Era’s R&D personnel will consist of two main categories: civilians and military servicemen, supported by conscript soldiers drafted to specialist ‘R&D companies’.
As part of the civilian recruitment drive, on 18 July 2018 the MoD announced vacancies for senior researchers (who must have five years of experience, academic degrees and published papers on their resumes), researchers (up to three years of experience), and junior researchers (fresh university graduates) specialising in technology, physics, mathematics, or military sciences (http://mil.ru/files/perechen_vakant(1).pdf).
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