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New Russian Science City Modeled On Silicon Valley 213

Posted by kdawson
from the innograd-has-a-certain-ring-to-it dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Russia's rich scientific traditions and poor record of converting ideas into marketable products are both undisputed, cited as causes for the Soviet collapse and crippling dependence on mining and petroleum. Now the NY Times reports that the Russian government, hoping to diversify its economy away from oil, is building the first new scientific city since the collapse of the Soviet Union modeled, improbably, on Silicon Valley and jokingly referred to as Cupertino-2. 'The whole country needs some sort of breakthrough,' says Viktor F. Vekselberg, the Russian business oligarch appointed co-director of the project. 'The founding of the innovation city, in form and substance, could be a launching pad for the country as a whole.' The new town is intended to advance five scientific priorities — communications, biomedicine, space, nuclear power, and energy conservation — and to encourage cross-fertilization among disciplines. Property will not be owned, but rented, and the government will offer grants for scientists who struggle to find private financing. Once developed, the city is intended to incubate scientific ideas using generous tax holidays and government grants until the start-ups can become profitable companies. Its backers in government and the private sector describe it as an effort to blend the Soviet tradition of forming scientific towns with Western models of encouraging technology ventures around universities. 'In California, the climate is beautiful and they don't have the ridiculous problems of Russia,' says Andrey Shtorkh, publicist for the new venture, adding that to compete, Russia will form a place apart for scientists. 'They should be isolated from our reality.'"
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New Russian Science City Modeled On Silicon Valley

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  • Five Year Plan (Score:3, Insightful)

    by PeterBrett (780946) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @01:49AM (#31842194) Homepage

    Well, I hope that this centrally-dictated economic activity works better than the 20th century ones did.

    • Re:Five Year Plan (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Cryacin (657549) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @01:57AM (#31842236)
      Science is one thing that if done right under socialism works best. I definitely do not promote a Socialist or Communist political environment as being overall good/bad/otherwise, merely that science does not have definite returns, and if it does, the timeframe is very rarely visible/correct on prediction.

      This means that generally there is too much risk for a commercial enterprise to indefinitely fund research into something that may or may not provide payoffs, and if it does, perhaps not into their current vehicles. I.e. fusion power may be discovered by a deep sea mining company, meaning that they would need to form a completely new company and structure.

      If science is a socialist thing, then it is about the research and the ability to do something, rather than the added complexity of having what you find to be applicable to your sponsor. This will definitely be an interesting space.
      • Re:Five Year Plan (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot AT hackish DOT org> on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @02:08AM (#31842276)

        Yeah, it's interesting how much that's true even in the mainly capitalist US. The most significant private-sector research was at quasi-governmental regulated monopolies, like the heydey of Bell Labs. Most research these days ends up being funded by the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, or similar government body. Certainly most fundamental research is: I don't know of any significant physics research that's come out of the private sector since the Bell Labs days.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by fpitech (1559147)
          I think it's more about the death of basic research than private versus public funding. Companies nowadays don't want to invest in basic research because they are risky and long term investments. In my opinion, companies in general are rather investing in marketing and short-term projects that only rarely result in radical innovations, but are marketed as "innovative" despite not offering significant benefits compared to old products.
          • The problem, however with government-funded basic research is the lack of useful applications. A centrally-funded scientist has no reason -at all- to convert his discovery into an actual invention, so this will generally not happen.

            Perhaps an example : in the 20th century cars were invented. The basic principle of the explosive engine, however, had long been demonstrated by "patronized" scientists (scientists working for royalty), and was generally well-known. Actual test explosion-based engines had rotated

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by mjwx (966435)

          Yeah, it's interesting how much that's true even in the mainly capitalist US. The most significant private-sector research was at quasi-governmental regulated monopolies, like the heydey of Bell Labs. Most research these days ends up being funded by the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, or similar government body. Certainly most fundamental research is: I don't know of any significant physics research that's come out of the private sector since the Bell Labs days.

          I think the oper

        • IBM had a similar attitude to Bell labs. I don't know if they still do however.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        Science is one thing that if done right under socialism works best.

        Cable is another..

      • Achilles heel (Score:2, Insightful)

        by copponex (13876)

        A major defect of capitalism is that it will tend to cater to the lowest common denominator. If everyone invests in the idea that science (evolutionary bioengineering, alternative energy development, vaccines, space exploration) is bad, then the whole economy and culture is going to go south pretty quickly. When China owns the factories and the intellectual property, things won't be looking so good.

        And if Palin and Huckabee end up bickering over which day should be Jesus Day, all I can say is, good game Ame

      • by xmark (177899) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @02:28AM (#31842350)

        Specifically, I'm referring to your argument that "Science is one thing that if done right under socialism works best."

        Under capitalism, science is often bent to the needs of the patron/employer/investor.

        Under socialism, science is often bent to the political needs of the "people" as interpreted and enforced by the government.

        Neither case must necessarily lead to a poor outcome. However, it's naive to think science can be completely unfettered from the society that supports it. All forms of government and economy concentrate power into the hands of a few at the expense of the many. Those few then use that power to shape the actions of others to suit their own needs and beliefs.

        Gloss: Lysenko was the director of the Lenin All-Union Institute of Agricultural Sciences, who decreed as a matter of state ideology (among other bizarre rubbish) that desirable traits in plants were not heritable, but instead could only spread through grafts and nongenetic methods. In short, he was a Lamarckian who could ruin a scientist's career, or worse, for daring question the validity of official state science.

        Under Lysenko, agricultural science in the USSR was, from the late 1920s until 1964, based on ideology rather than the scientific method, and this led to uncounted misery for Soviet citizens due to massively underperforming or failed crops.

        Wikipedia has a decent article about it. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lysenkoism [wikipedia.org]

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          You are conflating the flaws of the early USSR (Stalin mania) with socialism. Socialism is not what that time in the USSR was, and even the Communist Party of the SU acknowledged that the time of Stalin left a lot to be desired.

          "Anti-Communism" and McCarthy's idea of being a patriotic citizen of the USA is the other example of ideological hysteria dressed up as keeping society afloat.

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            No true scotsmialism.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Trepidity (597)

          Has anyone written about why agriculture was so different from other areas? It seems like an interesting thing to investigate. Was it just because Lysenko was personally powerful? Or because it didn't lend itself to solid, hard-to-fudge experimentation as easily? Or did similar things happen in other areas? My impression is that in physics, math, astronomy, and chemistry, Soviet research was considered top-notch, even by the west.

          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Agriculture held a special place in USSR governance and economic decision making (grain yields and so on). Gorbachev was helped by his experience in agriculture, among other things, on his way to 1986.

            I forgot what I read on it, but it had to do with the USSR not producing enough grain and having to continually import it (with exceptions of course). They tried all sorts of solutions, including non-biological ones such as the farm legal structure and legality of growing crops for private sale. This proble

            • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

              by blanck (1458239)

              USSR not producing enough grain and having to continually import it (with exceptions of course).

              While there were certainly droughts and other organic factors that affected output, the main reason for lack of grain in the 1930s was Stalin's forceful drive to convert the USSR from a primarily agricultural economy to an industrial one. Through collectivization, grain was gathered from the peasantry and traded abroad for heavy industry. This led to an industrial boom in the cities, at the immense cost of mass starvation in the countryside. Ukraine was a notable victim of this process.

          • by Anenome (1250374) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @03:33AM (#31842584)

            Yes, there is an answer for why communism in the farm fails.

            Read the eminent economist and commentator Thomas Sowell's book, "Knowledge and Decisions" for an explanation of why socialism/communism failed in the farms, and why the same reasons it failed there cause it to fail or be continually less efficient than capitalism in every other enterprise.

            If you think a publicly-owned anything can do better than a private organization, you have to explain how it will use coercion to do that, because public org's ability to coerce is the only difference between them. Both public and private companies are simply groups of people. People denigrate private orgs for having personal stakes in the outcome, but what turns out to be worse is the indifference of those with no stake in an enterprises outcome such as we find in communal/public organizations.

            Ultimately, what Sowell's thesis comes down to is that communal organizations face a distortion of incentive structures. If something breaks on a farm that's owned by the farmer he fixes it. If a machine breaks on a communist farm he expects someone else to fix it--he doesn't own it. He neither profits by fixing it nor loses by not fixing. Thus, the owner has incentive to do what maximizes efficiency. The communal farmer does not, and could actually be punished for trying.

            But farming doesn't have a lot of room for error. And if you're drastically inefficient enough people start starving. See China and Mao's "Great Leap Forward" (into starvation apparently) which resulted in the deaths of some 20+ million Chinese.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              Agricultural research != farming. GPP was talking about the former, and you jumped in with a rant about the latter ... or rather, used the latter as an excuse for an ideological threadjack. Nice move. It's too bad in a way that the Soviet Union isn't around any more, because people like you were highly employable there.

              • by Trepidity (597)

                Yeah, I don't really disagree (it's hard to, really) with "Soviet forced collectivization was a mess". But it doesn't answer: why was their agricultural/bio research full of nutty stuff like Lysenkoism, while their physics/math/etc. research is pretty universally considered top-notch? It can't be something simple like "Communism is good for science" or "Communism is bad for science". It could, of course, just be luck of the draw; maybe agricultural research got unlucky with their early prominent scientists

                • Russia, and Eastern Europe more generally, still produce many top-notch mathematicians (two thirds of the theorems I study are named after Russians) and programmers (just look at the Google code contest finalist lists). I wonder if there's simply a cultural component, and that they simply hold those who do abstract thinking in higher esteem.

            • Agriculture? What is it? How did it arise? The basis of civilization or so many often say. Forethought, planning, experimentation, settlement versus nomadic hunter gatherers, and on and on. If you subscribe to the idea that agriculture arose in the Mediterranean about 12K yrs ago then it's likely it arose because our dumb ass ancestors stumbled across Polyploidy crops [wikipedia.org]. The Mediterranean then was somewhat different. It may have been a transitory ecotone [wikipedia.org]. There's a theory that the Sahara Desert acted as a gia

            • by rhakka (224319) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @07:07AM (#31843362)

              ability to coerce is *not* the only difference between a private and a public organization.

              First, you disregard any ability by the people to decide anything through socialism, that is.. democracy. so while you may consider the participation of the minority "coercion", such as your paying taxes for a road system, it's not coercion without any feedback loop. so in fact to call it coercion is a bit disingenuous. You could just as easily call it "group decisionmaking". especially under a more ideal democratic system, since we're dreaming up a theoretical situation here.

              Secondly, efficiency is not the key element that is important in research. research is, almost by definition, inefficient. it requires an organization to blindly spend money to achieve an unnamed benefit. that will never happen for long under a private enterprise specifically because it is inefficient, and there will always be more efficient and sure ways to generate a return on investment than a capital-holding entity can capitalize on. examples abound in this very discussion.

              note that's research, not development. but even development is constrained by apparent market value instead of public good. So, for example, drugs to treat elective illnesses experienced by the rich receive preferential attention from for-profit drug manufacturers (Viagra, hair loss) instead of actual cures for illnesses that may be much more severe but either less widespread or primarily among poor populations. "Inefficient" development could and does still yield better outcomes for public good.

              The free market caters to money, not people. "Efficiency" is simply code for "best financial return". But those two concepts are not truly synonymous, and in research, it's not a core value. It's not even a particularly important one. If you want to figure out how to make the Widget X that everyone needs, the free market is good for that IF there is a return on investment in financial terms.

              what's good for capital is not always what is best for people. especially when fewer and fewer people hold more and more of the capital, as has been the progression here in america, at least, for the last 50 years.

              • by khallow (566160)

                Secondly, efficiency is not the key element that is important in research. research is, almost by definition, inefficient. it requires an organization to blindly spend money to achieve an unnamed benefit. that will never happen for long under a private enterprise specifically because it is inefficient, and there will always be more efficient and sure ways to generate a return on investment than a capital-holding entity can capitalize on. examples abound in this very discussion.

                This summarizes what I see as the flaws in your argument. The key element of research, like many nearly pure economic activities, is return on investment. It is not a "blind" gamble. It does not yield an "unnamed" benefit (at the least, the output is named "research", "science", "knowledge", "progress", etc). There are plenty of private organizations that do some pretty abstract research, for example, SETI Institute or the Santa Fe Institute. Most colleges are private and lists of the top R&D schools te

              • by khallow (566160)

                First, you disregard any ability by the people to decide anything through socialism, that is.. democracy. so while you may consider the participation of the minority "coercion", such as your paying taxes for a road system, it's not coercion without any feedback loop. so in fact to call it coercion is a bit disingenuous. You could just as easily call it "group decisionmaking". especially under a more ideal democratic system, since we're dreaming up a theoretical situation here.

                Come to think of it, a private organization can do democracy too. That's usually how professional societies are run, for example. Government is not unique (and many governments are not democracies!) in this respect. And yes, government force is coercion. I consider it rather disingenuous to claim otherwise just because there is a small degree of control through elections.

      • Russia isn't really socialist anymore.
        The SU collapsed and the new Russia is ad capitalistic as it's euro neighbors.

      • by Kirijini (214824)

        If science is a socialist thing, then it is about the research and the ability to do something, rather than the added complexity of having what you find to be applicable to your sponsor.

        I think most innovation occurs without a "sponsor" of the sort you're talking about. That is to say, I think most innovation happens when the source material (the ideas, research, infrastructure, etc.) is cheap or free, as would occur inside an existing organization, but importantly, there also needs to be no imposed mission other than to make money. An enterprise (almost) always wants innovative ideas/applications to fit their current business model, and this means the vast majority of workable innovativ

      • Science is one thing that if done right under socialism works best.

        Umm, do you have any real world examples to back that up? Yes, a lot of funding for science comes from the government, even in capitalist system, but there is also funding from private universities the best of which tend to be in capitalist countries, not least because they tend to be quite wealthy. Also, while private sector might not have strong incentives to invest in basic research, there is a lot of research that falls under science t
      • Re:Five Year Plan (Score:4, Informative)

        by LWATCDR (28044) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @10:29AM (#31844696) Homepage Journal

        I think you are mistaking socialism with a mature and financially stable company.
        Bell back in the regulated monopoly days was with out a doubt mature and financially stable. They could do research that might not pay off for 30 years because they knew they would be around in 30 years to benefit from it. They also built infrastructure that would last for decades even if it cost more for that same reason.
        IBM still produces a lot of basic science for that same reason. They believe that they will be around for another 100 years. GE, DuPont, and Dow chemical used to and probably still do a lot of basic research for that same reason. They are mature and frankly a lot of their profitability is based on science so they benefit from research.
        Even folks like Chrysler back in the 50s got into some pretty wild stuff. Did you know the rocket that launched the first US satellite and the first Mercury sub orbital flight was made by Chrysler?
        Intel is probably reaching the level of maturity and long term profitably that they will start doing a lot of long term research.
        The problem is that the best research will come from companies that do some kind of manufacturing which the US is doing less and less of.
        Take Apple for example. They are not a manufacturing company they are closer to a fashion design house combined with a software developer. Nothing wrong with it but they just don't make stuff. They make pretty packages that they pay other people to fill with stuff Intel and others make. I honestly don't expect anything really ground breaking from them.

      • by Shotgun (30919)

        Science is one thing that if done right under socialism works best.

        Except that science can't be "done right under socialism".

        The problem is that under socialism, you get scientist like Dr. Floyd Ferris from "Atlas Shrugged". It's not a black and white switch, and there are lots of gray areas, but under a capitalist system there is a constant drive to turn a discovery into a usable, marketable invention. IOW, you have to actually solve a problem that people are having. A socialist system removes that drive.

        A socialist system replaces the drive to convince other sentient

    • "Well, I hope that this centrally-dictated economic activity works better than the 20th century ones did."

      If you had read more than the word "soviet" you would have noticed it is actually five centrally-located scientific activities.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Well, I hope that this centrally-dictated economic activity works better than the 20th century ones did.

      It doesn't work when corruption is rampant all the way up to the top, and there is no institutionalized mechanism of repression as there was in USSR (where large scale economic crimes could carry death penalty). Which is the case in today's Russia.

      It's not the first time they tout something as a "Russian Silicon Valley", either. There was a project in Siberia, and then there was Dubna. They've actually built some infrastructure in both cases, and both ended up as failures.

      The reason is very simple. If you d

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by icebike (68054)

      The whole country needs some sort of breakthrough,' says Viktor F. Vekselberg, the Russian business oligarch appointed co-director of the project.

      The new boss, same as the old boss.

      Silicon valley was not a government project. And starting a state run program to create what happened spontaneously elsewhere in an environment where competition and markets prevailed is doomed to failure.

      Great way to build a moon rocket or a hydroelectric Dam, and to copy other technology, but hardly the way to spark creativity and new inventions.

    • by couchslug (175151)

      It's nothing more that "cargo cult" development.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cargo_cult [wikipedia.org]

  • by Jeian (409916) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @01:55AM (#31842224)

    ... unless they pack it into one giant building and call it an arcology.

  • by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @01:57AM (#31842232) Homepage
    Though I couldn't link to it now, several weeks ago I read an analysis of this plan that was rather pessimistic. Earlier Russian scientific communities were, for all the lip service paid to science, really dedicated to furthering atomic weaponry. There was never a great diversity of scientific exploration going on within them, and Russia thus has no experience with establishing communities that can actually create profitable technologies that will boost the country's economy.
    • Russia has no experience establishing communities that don't have endemic corruption and government mismanagement. If anything that is what is going to sink this project.
      • by MRe_nl (306212)

        Humanity has no experience establishing communities that don't have endemic corruption and government mismanagement. If anything that is what is going to sink this project.

    • by Yvanhoe (564877) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @03:40AM (#31842612) Journal

      Earlier Russian scientific communities were, for all the lip service paid to science, really dedicated to furthering atomic weaponry. There was never a great diversity of scientific exploration going on within them, and Russia thus has no experience with establishing communities that can actually create profitable technologies that will boost the country's economy.

      Another way of saying is just that they missed the IT train. But to dismiss their level in aeronautics, space, physics (tokamaks anyone ?) is a bit exaggerated. I think that through this plan they will try to come back on the IT scene and that they have good opportunities for that. We all know about the Russian hackers, it means that they have a wealth of capable and educated people there.

    • No problem, they've got a lot of people that have come back from Silicon Valley so they don't have to invent it from scratch.
      Russia, China and others are putting a lot of money into trying to create the Silicon Valley situation where people with good ideas come from all over the world and can get funding for their ideas. It will probably work somewhere because the USA has destroyed the advantage they had by making it difficult for people to get in and by not having much investment money available anymore.
    • by SolitaryMan (538416) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @08:03AM (#31843548) Homepage Journal

      As a programmer living in Russia I can tell you that nobody here believes in this plan. Forget the plan, nobody believes that intentions of this project are other than getting budget funds and sharing them among fellow "companies".

      Besides, this is not the first time (4rth, IIRC) the "Silicon Valley" is being built here, so nobody seems to give a crap anymore.

  • If you build it, venture capitalists will come?
    • I don't think the venture capitalists will bite.

      I'm all for laissez-faire, but rather than building a city based on taking that philosophy to the extreme (in mother Russia, the government PAYS tax to the business), they could pass laws to make the whole country more business friendly. Small business hate red tape because it stifles their growth, large business secretly love red tape because startups cannot navigate around it.

      Everybody knows those business friendly cities are merely bait and switch anyways.

      • I'm all for laissez-faire, but rather than building a city based on taking that philosophy to the extreme (in mother Russia, the government PAYS tax to the business), they could pass laws to make the whole country more business friendly. Small business hate red tape because it stifles their growth, large business secretly love red tape because startups cannot navigate around it.

        You know who loves red tape even more than big businesses? Government bureaucrats, who can use it to extort bribes (so that wheels finally start to get turning).

        And here's the fun fact: in Russia, today, there are more (depending on who you ask, by anywhere from 1.5x to 3.x) government bureaucrats than there was in the USSR - with a population less than half of the latter.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Hognoxious (631665)

        If the next Google is founded there and their yearly income is measured in billions, do you think Russian regulators will still extol the virtues of tax holidays?

        They'd most likely change the tax laws retroactively, send you a huge bill (plus penalties, plus interest, plus interest on the penalties) totalling ten times the entire world's GNP[1], seize the company and then sell it in an open auction with only one bidder who happens to be one of Putin's puppets.

        If you're lucky.

        [1] GGP?

      • The thing that most people overlook is that innovation happens best when a place has two key features: laws that apply the same to everyone and change slowly, and strong property rights (it is clear who owns the land and voluntary transferral of ownership is easy). The U.S. used to have both of these. The first has been gradually eroded since WWII (probably going back to just before WWI, but I would have to do a little more research to be sure of that). The second ended decisively with the Kelo vs the City
  • biggest challenge (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ridgecritter (934252) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @02:02AM (#31842254)
    They have intelligence and creativity. Their biggest challenge will be isolation from the corruption that seems endemic to Russia in this time. Corruption is pure poison to economic systems intended to be based on merit in markets. Like adding >300% to your company's overhead...how do you compete, even with fantastic ideas/tech?
  • Research Triangle, Austin, Irvine . . . I don't think you can copy this culture. Bangalore comes the closest but actually got started in the 1970s, before Silicon Valley was the model. Everybody here is from somewhere else, including Russia. Where inside Russia could you draw that kind of international crowd?
  • Silicon Valley (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rapsey (241302) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @02:06AM (#31842270)

    Was never built. It grew.

    • The initial conditions for Silicon Valley's growth arose through dumb luck. There's no reason why you couldn't replicate those conditions with a planned approach. So it could work - but I don't think it will, since this is Russia we're talking about.

  • by EEPROMS (889169) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @02:11AM (#31842298)
    putting a group if geeks in one spot and throwing money at it wont work, the Japanese did the same and it failed miserable. You have to have not only bright scientists but people who know how to manage and sell the ideas that are created by these people. Im an ideas man in my company but I will be the first to admit without good assistance from those around me I would have given up on many of my concepts within the first hour.
    • by mjwx (966435)

      putting a group if geeks in one spot and throwing money at it wont work, the Japanese did the same and it failed miserable. You have to have not only bright scientists but people who know how to manage and sell the ideas that are created by these people.

      No, not marketers. They will ruin a good idea faster then just throwing money at scientists.

      What you need is direction and goals. A person who is capable of evaluating results and pouring the resources into that project or if need by stopping a project

  • by rsborg (111459) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @02:27AM (#31842348) Homepage
    This article [paulgraham.com] says:

    I think you only need two kinds of people to create a technology hub: rich people and nerds. They're the limiting reagents in the reaction that produces startups, because they're the only ones present when startups get started. Everyone else will move.

    Personally, I think there need to realistically be three things, in proper order

    1. A place people like to live
    2. Universities
    3. Military and research installations

    These three conspire to attract rich people and nerds as the article states. That SUN (Stanford University Network), HP and Google are directly from Stanford, and that Oracle got it's start as a government project are quite good examples.

    • Paul Graham also writes [paulgraham.com] that it might actually be possible to buy a Silicon Valley, or something very close to it, by investing a billion dollars or so in a city with the right environment that will be conducive to the growth of startups. Perhaps someone in Russia read Graham's article and decided that they had the kind of political will (which Graham says is so unlikely) to pull it off.

  • it actually grew in a much more organic fashion and a big part of it was how the culture attracted the people, not how the people attracted the culture. Having a government "plan" a silicon valley is like trying to cook by throwing all the ingredients in a pot, turning on the heat and hoping for the best.
    • by qc_dk (734452)

      Having a government "plan" a silicon valley is like trying to cook by throwing all the ingredients in a pot, turning on the heat and hoping for the best.

      Which after all is a proposition with better chances of succeeding than just standing in the kitchen staring at the ingredients.
      (also it worked for the Manhattan project, CERN etc.)

  • by deathtopaulw (1032050) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @02:41AM (#31842396) Homepage
    Is a man not entitled to the sweat of his brow?
    "NO" Says the man in Washington, "It belongs to the poor."
    "NO" Says the man in the Vatican, "It belongs to God."
    "NO" Says the man in Moscow, "It belongs to everyone."

    I rejected those answers. Instead, I chose something different. I chose the impossible. I chose...

    Rapture!
    • by elrous0 (869638) *

      Ask the libertarian if he will house a prisoner, and he will say "NO!"
      Ask the libertarian if he will repair his road, and he will say "NO!"
      Ask the libertarian if he will give up his medicare, and he will say "NO!"
      Ask the libertarian if he would abolish government, and he will say "YES!"

  • by AHuxley (892839) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @02:41AM (#31842398) Homepage Journal
    The Charm School was a 1988 thriller novel by Nelson DeMille.
    A training facility was set up in Russian so spies could be trained to infiltrate American society by living in a fake US town.
    Could copying/dreaming about/improving US communications, US biomedicine, Russian space hardware, Russian nuclear power, and EU/Asian energy conservation really geek up young Russians?
    Surly a picture of Putin with Alexander Lebed above the communal lab and the hint that Moscow U/city papers could be
    canceled if grades drop would be enough to motivate any young Russian.
    If your really really good, no Obama style City Year near Mayak for you :)
    Geeks and nerds like the free range freedoms of the USA not gilded gulags.
    Learn from China and send them to the USA and get them educated for free, then as they get homesick debrief them.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by qc_dk (734452)

      Geeks and nerds like the free range freedoms of the USA not gilded gulags.

      I think you've been misled/brainwashed by US propaganda. Geeks and nerds love the gilded gulag of their mom's basement.

    • Geeks and nerds like the free range freedoms of the USA not gilded gulags.

      Then why do they go to grad school? Hell, it would seem that this is precisely running away from capitalism. Why do they accept small government-funded stipends instead of better salaries in industry?

  • I wonder what serious western businesses will want to invest in such a corrupt country. Most major international businesses work in Russia, but only because the market there is so large and untapped. These large international businesses are just there though with sales departments.
    >br> A translator who works with westerners in Moscow once told me the way to tell if a foreign company in Russia is paying bride to distributors ect., is to look if they are making a profit. If they are, then they are payi
    • by elrous0 (869638) *
      Trying to get anything built in New York or Boston involves bribes and corruption too (probably quite a few other cities too), but companies still build there.
  • Science incubators and technology districts are usually the buzzwords evocated by politicians and real-estate investors. Hewlett and Packard years ago demonstrated that, to start a succesful company, everything you need are a bright idea [hp.com] and a garage [hp.com]. I still have to meet a politicians with 1/1000 of the genius of these guys.

  • Dear former Soviet Socialists,

    It doesn't work like that. You don't plan things like Silicon Valley, they are just things that happen. Silicon Valley itself is something that nobody should deliberately emulate. The fact that it is the home of many successful tech companies is simply a bizarre freak of nature. Otherwise, it's just a strange congested-but-also-not-dense piece of land. There's nothing inherently technological or successful about it. It's just a patch of land that's not really in the mountains a

  • by Animats (122034) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @03:16AM (#31842516) Homepage

    It's not a silly idea. Russia is positioning itself as an "energy power", and energy projects need heavy industrial infrastructure. The USSR was good at that.

    Fusion would be a good goal. Or thorium reactors. That's a problem that may yield to organized, determined effort and money. The USSR still has a big nuclear program, and resources to draw upon.

  • by S3D (745318) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @03:21AM (#31842542)
    or place to sit. It's hindered by widespread corruption and still quite criminalized economy. Tax breaks will be used for tax evasion by unrelated businesses and grants will be stolen by corrupted officials. Right now high-tech, which is by its nature quite transparent and vulnerable for extortion can not compete with different shady and semi-shady businesses. The way to grow hi-tech in Russia is not to pour money into it, but clean corruption from the government, especially local authorities. Do it and high-tech will flourish without any outside interventions.
  • by roman_mir (125474) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @04:06AM (#31842686) Homepage Journal

    This will be another manner, in which government money will be pumped into the pockets of the government officials.

    It has been proposed by the government there that in order to 'promote' innovation, the firms, who will be allowed to enter the zone will be selected by government officials. In the zone they will not have to pay taxes I think but the most important aspect of this is that whoever is in the zone will be getting government contracts WITHOUT any competition. So that tells you everything you need to know about what will happen. The firms selected will be the ones close to the government officials selecting them and they will get the contracts for any 'innovations', which in reality will not promote any innovation, except one type of innovation: an easier way to siphon money for the politicians and their friends/relatives/people with the right attitude towards doing business, if you know what I mean.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @05:27AM (#31842972)

    I have an IT background and a decade of experience working with/for Russian government IT-related agencies.

    There're several cities in Russia with strong academic traditions which were the analogue of Silicon Valley during Soviet times (Novosibirsk is the best known of all).
    There're cities near Moscow which even have high-tech-production infrastructure (Zelenograd, a "microchip city" of Soviet times) - they are not being used.

    What government does is building "Silicon Valley" in a empty field near Moscow - easier to launder money this way.

    I'm willing to bet a thousand bucks that there are only three possible outcomes:

    1) 90% of funding laundered to offshore banks, 10% is spent on administrative expenses (shiny sport cars for management), project is silently closed and written off;

    2) 90% of funding laundered to offshore banks, 10% is spent on administrative expenses (shiny sport cars for management), scape goat it found and publicly spanked (but not too hard), project is closed and written off;

    3) 90% of funding laundered to offshore banks, 5% is spent on administrative expenses (shiny sport cars for management), 5% is spent to build a couple of buildings and hire 10 scientific-looking guys. They are made into media stars to show how great new "Silicon Valley" is. Project is declared a huge success. After a year the funding is cut, project is silently closed and written off.

    There's no other possible outcome given the amount of corruption in Russia and this government track record.

    • by Alex Belits (437) *

      I can assure you, actual Silicon Valley for most of 90's was exactly what you are describing.

      Except with Federal Reserve pumping debt into stock market and real estate "prices" compensated for this, so no one bothered with offshoring. Actual progress happened despite all this money-shuffling game.

  • It's not about VC and it's not about suburbia.

    Russia, unfortunately, doesn't have strong enforcement of the rule of law, and it doesn't acknowledge intellectual property rights.

    As much as I think long term software patents are B.S., a much shorter term protection for software and an period of protection aligned with that of other W.T.O. members would go a long way towards opening up Russia to business, and a long way to stopping the "brain drain" their politicians are complaining about. The normalization a

  • Uh, are they really still trying to be build communist utopias in capitalist Russia? Perhaps I'm missing something but this sounds like a planned city with a state run economy. It's almost the opposite of Silicon Valley. In large part Silicon Valley developed because of the conditions around it that fostered entrepreneurship (e.g. proximity of smart, relatively wealthy kids with lots of spare time at nearby colleges, good research facilities, etc). If Russia finds a location to replicate the conditions

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Relax, they do not hope to create a new Silicon Valley. They are not that dumb. Putin, for one, is pretty smart guy and he knows it's not going to work. It's not the first time, you know. There were a host of other so called 'national projects' before this. (Nanotechnology, anyone?) What this really is a way to siphon government money into private pockets of government officials, create some impression of work they do, and boost morale and pride of the general populace as a bonus side effect. It's much easi

  • Ooooh! (Score:3, Funny)

    by hey! (33014) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @07:25AM (#31843410) Homepage Journal

    A city with the sprawling suburban charm of San Jose with ... Russian weather?

    Where do I sign up?

    • by Eric Smith (4379)
      That's "sprawling urban charm". There isn't any suburban charm to be found anywhere near here.
  • Russian Tradition? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Poodleboy (226682) on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @08:58AM (#31843864)

    The "Russian tradition of building secret towns?" Towns like Oak Ridge, TN, or Los Alamos, NM, or Hanford, WA, maybe? Explain again how this project is doomed to fail as a government effort to make a technological leap. On the contrary, our own experience is great success doing this sort of thing. Nor is this an American peculiarity--the Germans very successfully built an entire town at Peenemunde to develop and construct V-2 rockets. In fact, here in America we capitalized on this success by moving its authors, notably Werner von Braun, to Huntsville, AL where we created yet another failed government experiment to land men on the moon...

    I'm thinking that people should read a bit less Ayn Rand science fiction and a bit more actual history.

  • They should have modeled it after Eureka [wikipedia.org], a town made-up almost entirely of geniuses.

  • by grasshoppa (657393) <skennedy AT tpno-co DOT org> on Wednesday April 14, 2010 @09:36AM (#31844140) Homepage

    'In California, the climate is beautiful and they don't have the ridiculous problems of Russia,' says Andrey Shtorkh, publicist for the new venture, adding that to compete, Russia will form a place apart for scientists. 'They should be isolated from our reality.'"

    While I certainly won't disagree that California seems to be isolated from everyone else's reality, I think he has it backwards in that scientists should be isolated. The hell they should! Scientists need to be in society to see what problems it faces and be inspired to find solutions for them. By isolating them, you are effectively removing some of the best stimulus available for them.

    Not only that, but the economy is the best way to determine the feasibility of a product. So what they've done here is to guarantee every crack pot scheme ( and face it, fellow scientists, we have a lot of them. Even if they seem AWESOME to us at the time, we do come up with some doosies ) gets an equal shake with a genuine idea.

    I don't see this ending well for them, but I hope I'm wrong.

  • And none of them has come close to the dynamism seen in Silicon Valley. They often lack one of the key components: a university, insatiable entreprenuerism, intelligent capital, etc. The main advantage Russia might have is previous experience with top-rated Science Cities like Novasibirsk.
  • Yes, clearly the human species needs more distance from reality. It's not like ignoring reality created all of our problems so far.

  • If the whole country needs a breakthrough, I propose it be that russians stop being so scummy and criminalistic.

    The power vacuum left the whole country like the wild west.

The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness. -- John Muir

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