Leaders from business, government and education analyzed the potential impact of Western sanctions on Russia’s fledgling innovation sector.

The speakers at the round table were Michael Akim (left) and Vadim Kulikov (right).

On July 24, under the auspices of the Digital October center for new technologies and technological entrepreneurship, Russia Direct hosted a round table discussion on “Russia’s innovative development at a time of looming confrontation with the West.” The speakers at the round table were Michael Akim, chairman of the working group for modernization and innovation at the Association of European Business, and Vadim Kulikov, a startup investor. Digital October CEO Dmitry Repin moderated the discussion.

Government officials, business leaders, and experts in the field of Russian innovation attended the event. Also in attendance were leaders of innovative startup companies and representatives of international companies operating in Russia, such as ABB and Microsoft, representatives of the FPI Investment Fund and the Foundation for Internet Development Initiatives, experts from the Russian Association of Electronic Communications (RAEC), Moscow State University, and Bauman Moscow State Technical University. Government figures included representatives of the Eurasian Economic Commission and the Russian Ministry of Economic Development, while Carter Johnson, director of the Russian branch of American Councils, represented the U.S. position.

The round table was held in preparation for Russia Direct’s report, which is distributed in the U.S. inside Foreign Policy magazine to 2,500 addresses, including representatives of the American political elite, as well as to subscribers in the publication’s e-database (presently about 6,000 addresses).

Vadim Kulikov noted that at the moment it was difficult to talk about Russia’s innovative development in terms of industry: “The vector began to take shape in Russia around 2006. RUSNANO was the first to appear, followed by the appearance of Russian Venture Company and other similar regional organizations in 2008.” On the topic of international sanctions and their impact on this vector, all participants agreed that, despite the slowdown, they would not stop Russia and the West from cooperating.

Michael Akim believes that politics and economics should be kept apart, and that the long-term interests of large companies doing business in Russia should not be pegged to the short-term political agenda. In his opinion, although sanctions are having a negative impact on the Russian economy, they are unlikely to affect the long-term decisions of major companies already in Russia. “I do not know of any companies that have stopped doing business in Russia due to the sanctions,” he said. Likewise, Carter Johnson remarked that “isolation is a relic of the past, mere political rhetoric” that should not hinder business cooperation. 

About the publication 

The information and analytical publication Russia Direct is part of Russia Beyond the Headlines, an international project run by Rossiyskaya Gazeta. It produces briefs and supplements to Foreign Policy magazine and also publishes analytical articles and expert interviews online. The purpose of Russia Direct is to create a platform for Russian-U.S. dialogue and to convey Russia's position on global matters.