Tag Archives: Anatoly Chubais

Russians and Chinese get cozy and talk nano

The Moscow Times has a couple of interesting stories about China and Russia. The first one to catch my eye was this one about Rusnano (Russian Nanotechnologies Corporation) and its invitation to create a joint China-Russian nanotechnology investment fund. From a Sept. 9, 2014 Moscow Times news item,

Rusnano has invited Chinese partners to create a joint fund for investment in nanotechnology, Anatoly Chubais, head of the state technology enterprise, was quoted as saying Tuesday [Sept. 9, 2014] by Prime news agency.

Russia is interested in working with China on nanotechnology as Beijing already invests “gigantic” sums in that sphere, Chubais said.

Perhaps the most interesting piece of news was in the last paragraph of that news item,

Moscow is pivoting toward the east to soften the impact of Western sanctions imposed on Russia over its role in Ukraine. …

Another Sept. 9, 2014 Moscow Times news item expands on the theme of Moscow pivoting east,

Russia and China pledged on Tuesday [Sept. 9, 2014] to settle more bilateral trade in ruble and yuan and to enhance cooperation between banks, First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov said, as Moscow seeks to cushion the effects of Western economic sanctions [as a consequence of the situation in the Ukraine].

Russia and China pledged on Tuesday to settle more bilateral trade in ruble and yuan and to enhance cooperation between banks, First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov said, as Moscow seeks to cushion the effects of Western economic sanctions.

For China, curtailing [the] dollar’s influence fits well with its ambitions to increase the clout of the yuan and turn it into a global reserve currency one day. With 32 percent of its $4 trillion foreign exchange reserves invested in U.S. government debt, Beijing wants to curb investment risks in dollars.

….

China and Russia signed a $400 billion gas supply deal in May [2014], securing the world’s top energy user a major source of cleaner fuel and opening a new market for Moscow as it risks losing European clients over the Ukraine crisis.

This is an interesting turn of events given that China and Russia (specifically the entity known as Soviet Union) have not always had the friendliest of relations almost going to war in 1969 over territorial disputes (Wikipedia entries: Sino-Soviet border conflict and China-Russian Border).

In any event, China may have its own reasons for turning to Russia at this time. According to Jack Chang of Associated Press (Sept. 11, 2014 article on the American Broadcasting News website), there is a major military buildup taking place in Asia as the biggest defence budget in Japan’s history has been requested, Vietnam doubles military spending, and the Philippines assembles a larger naval presence. In addition, India and South Korea are also investing in their military forces. (I was at a breakfast meeting [scroll down for the speaker’s video] in Jan. 2014 about Canada’s trade relations with Asia when a table companion [who’d worked for the Canadian International Development Agency, knew the Asian region very well, and had visited recently] commented that many countries such as Laos and Cambodia were very tense about China’s resurgence and its plans for the region.)

One final tidbit, this comes at an interesting juncture in the US science enterprise. After many years of seeing funding rise, the US National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) saw its 2015 budget request shrink by $200M US from its 2014 budget allotment (first mentioned here in a March 31, 2014 posting).

Sometimes an invitation to create a joint investment fund isn’t just an invitation.

Snail mail and nanotechnology in Russia

RUSNANO (Russian Nanotechnologies Corporation) has inked a deal with Russia’s postal services according to a May 27, 2014 news item on Nanowerk,

Russian Post (Pochta Rossii) and RUSNANO signed an agreement at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum on cooperation to apply nanotechnology solutions in postal services. The agreement was signed by the CEO of Russian Post, Dmitry Strashnov, and the Executive Chairman of RUSNANO, Anatoly Chubais. Russian Post and RUSNANO create a system for monitoring of postal deliveries.

A May 23, 2014 RUSNANO news release, which originated the news item, provides more detail,

The project involves implementation by Russian Post of a global monitoring system designed on a turnkey basis by RST-Invent LLC, a portfolio company of RUSNANO. The system will provides automatic registration of recorded-delivery mail and international mail passing through the postal network by means of radio frequency identification tags (RFID-tags). As well as supporting the timely delivery of mail, the new system will automate document handling, create mechanisms for mail flow management and improve postal logistics. Most importantly, the introduction of RFID-tags will ensure that post reaches its destination safely and quickly.

The project is scheduled for launch this summer and will be in operation by the end of 2014 at international postal exchange points (airport hubs in Moscow and St. Petersburg), and also at a number of major national and regional sorting offices, transit hubs and mail transportation offices at airports (Vnukovo Logistics Center, Ekaterinburg, Novosibirsk, Nizhny Novgorod, Rostov-on-Don). It is expected that RST-Invent will equip a total of 25 postal exchange points in the course of the project as well as the National Monitoring Centre (NCM), which is being set up as part of the system .

This agreement is an integral part of the strategy for the modernization of Russian Post. The nanotechnology solutions offered by RUSNANO’s portfolio company will be an important tool for improving the business processes of Russian Post.

“RUSNANO technologies will enable us to improve our logistics and control over the quality of mail delivery,” said Dmitry Strashnov. “This agreement means that we can improve the quality of our services and raise levels of customer satisfaction.”

I have two observations about this news. First, if I remember rightly one of the issues with implementing a ‘universal’ RFID tagging system is the cost of the tag. Presumably, the Russians have solved this problem and, further, are prepared to deal with the data these tags will generate.

My second observation is this, the paranoids amongst us are likely to feel vindicated by this news as many suspect wide scale implementation of this technology. For example,I have a paranoid neighbour who is convinced that someone has been using RFID technology in some plot against her (the neighbour).

Foam glass manufacturing facility commissioned in Russia’s Kaluga region

A Dec. 27, 2013 news item on Azlonano features RUSNANO and a foam glass facility in Russia,

On December 20 [2013], Russia’s first and Europe’s major technological complex for the production of foam glass ICM Glass Kaluga, of the project company Rusnano, was commissioned in the industrial park Borovskoye. The ceremony was attended by the Kaluga Region’s Governor Anatoly Artamonov and chairman of Rusnano’s board Anatoly Chubais.

The facility is aimed at hi-tech production of construction materials from foam glass. Broken glass is used as the raw material, which enables effective recycling of solid household rubbish. The complex’s planned capacity is 300,000 cubic metres a year to be achieved by the facility’s 50 employees. The agreed total budget exceeds 1.8 billion roubles ($54 million).

I found more information about the new facility in a Dec.20, 2013 press release (machine translation of Russian into English) here: http://www.newportal.admoblkaluga.ru/main/news/events/detail.php?ID=153747, (I think this is a portal for the Kaluga region)

December 20 [2013] in the industrial park “Vorsino” Borovsky District hosted a ceremony industrial launch of the first in Russia and the largest in Europe and technological complex for the production of crushed stone penostekolnogo LLC “AySiEm Glass Kaluga” – the project company “RUSNANO”. It was attended by Governor Anatoly Artamonov and delegation “RUSNANO” headed by the chairman of the state corporation Anatoly Chubais.

Taken at the enterprise high-tech production of construction material of foamed glass. Feedstock is usual broken glass that facilitates efficient processing of municipal solid waste. The design capacity of the complex is 300 thousand cubic meters per year, the staff – 50 people. The total budget of the project is determined in the amount of more than 1.8 billion rubles.

Talking about the significance of the event, Anatoly Artamonov emphasized perspective of further business cooperation with the State Corporation “Rusnano”. “Our cooperation – an important milestone in the economic development of the Kaluga region, because we have chosen an innovative way and are committed to increase the share of high-tech products”, – assured the governor.

Chairman of the Board of the Civil Code “RUSNANO” Anatoly Chubais also expressed readiness to support the business activities of the Kaluga region. “Today, in the region we run two joint projects. The plans of two more – in the production of innovative pharmaceuticals – with a complete cycle from design to sales. They invested 8 billion rubles, plan – and another 10 billion, “- he said.

On the same day in the office «Freight Village Kaluga» held a meeting at which the parties discussed the details of future cooperation. In order to continue business contacts “RUSNANO” Fund for Infrastructure and Educational Programs with Government organizations and the Kaluga region Anatoly Chubais Anatoly Artamonov and signed the final protocol. The main outcome of the meeting was a joint decision on the establishment of nanotechnology center in Obninsk, which will bring together teams of scientists and professionals working in the field of nanotechnology. Thus, according to Anatoly Chubais, “Kaluga region will be the region, opening a” second wave “nanocenters.”

Reference: In the current year, the regional government in conjunction with the Fund for Infrastructure and Educational Programs of the state corporation “RUSNANO” program was launched to stimulate demand for nanotech products. It provides for the inclusion of 10 per cent of innovation, including nanotechnology products in state and municipal orders. In 2014, with the support of the corporation “RUSNANO” in the region plans to build the center positron emission tomography, “PET-Center”, which will bring a new level not only a primary diagnosis of cancer, but also to monitor the dynamics of the disease, to evaluate the effectiveness of the treatment.

For the curious, here’s more information about foam glass on the ENCO Engineering website,

Foamed glass grain as described in the following is an excellent bulk material for civil construction and insulation purposes. It is a lightweight, extremely fine-pored expanded glass with millions of hermetically sealed pores. Since no diffusion can take place, the material is watertight and achieves an efficient barrier against soil humidity.

Besides the outstanding mechanical and thermal properties of the product, foamed glass manufacture is an exemplary process for waste recycling on an industrial basis. Foam glass can be manufactured fully out of waste glass, with only a minimum of virgin additives.

Foamed glass grain is the product of choice wherever a finely grained, free-flowing bulk material is required. It is especially suitable for thin-walled thermal insulations, such as for window frames, cement bricks and insulating plasters.

ENCO Engineering is a Swiss chemical engineering and consultancy according to the information on the company website’s homepage.

RUSNANO (not dead yet) signs MOU with Alcoa

Despite what appear to be some travails noted in my May 17, 2013 posting, RUSNANO (Russian Corporation of Nanotechnologies) is still making deals as reported in a June 21, 2013 news item on Nanowerk,

Alcoa and RUSNANO will produce technologically advanced oil and gas aluminum drill pipe finished with a life-extending antiwear coating under a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by the companies today. With the help of the Alcoa Technical Center, the parties intend to pursue the potential application of a nanotechnology-based coating for the aluminum drill pipe to enhance its wear resistance in harsh corrosive drilling environments.

Alcoa Chairman and CEO Klaus Kleinfeld and OJSC RUSNANO Chief Executive Officer Anatoly Chubais signed the MOU at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.

The June 21, 2013 Alcoa news release, which originated the news item, provides more details,

“Complex oil and gas development projects require drilling equipment with enhanced capabilities,” Chubais said. “Aluminum drill pipe with antiwear nano-coating would enable directional and deep drilling in aggressive, corrosive environments. We expect our joint efforts with Alcoa will create a differentiated product for customers in the oil and gas industry.”

Mr. Kleinfeld added, “Alcoa’s deep technological capabilities, combined with the expertise of our partner RUSNANO, will open new opportunities for developing the aluminum industry in Russia. Alcoa is setting a high standard for innovation and extending our product range in the oil and gas segment.”

With facilities in Samara and Belaya Kalitva, Alcoa is Russia’s largest producer of fabricated aluminum, manufacturing a wide range of flat rolled products, forgings and extrusions for a variety of end markets including aerospace and automotive. [emphasis mine] Under terms of the MOU, Alcoa will leverage its Samara facility to produce aluminum drill pipe with hot fit tool joints for the country’s oil and gas market. RUSNANO Capital, a subsidiary of OJSC RUSNANO, will contribute capital.

The antiwear nano-coating is expected to extend the life of the aluminum pipe by approximately 30% to 40% in aggressive and corrosive drilling environments compared to uncoated aluminum pipe.

Here’s a little more about the two principles, Alcoa and about RUSNANO, from the news release,

About Alcoa

Alcoa is the world’s leading producer of primary and fabricated aluminum, as well as the world’s largest miner of bauxite and refiner of alumina. In addition to inventing the modern-day aluminum industry, Alcoa innovation has been behind major milestones in the aerospace, automotive, packaging, building and construction, commercial transportation, consumer electronics and industrial markets over the past 125 years. Among the solutions Alcoa markets are flat-rolled products, hard alloy extrusions, and forgings, as well as Alcoa® wheels, fastening systems, precision and investment castings, and building systems in addition to its expertise in other light metals such as titanium and nickel-based super alloys. Sustainability is an integral part of Alcoa’s operating practices and the product design and engineering it provides to customers. Alcoa has been a member of the Dow Jones Sustainability Index for 11 consecutive years and approximately 75 percent of all of the aluminum ever produced since 1888 is still in active use today. Alcoa employs approximately 61,000 people in 30 countries across the world. …

In 2005, the Company acquired two of Russia’s largest fabricating facilities: Samara Metallurgical Plant (now ZAO Alcoa SMZ) and Belaya Kalitva Metallurgical Production Association (now ZAO AMR). [emphasis mine]

About RUSNANO

RUSNANO was founded in March 2011 as an open joint stock company through reorganization of state corporation Russian Corporation of Nanotechnologies. RUSNANO’s mission is to develop the Russian nanotechnology industry through co-investment in nanotechnology projects with substantial economic potential or social benefit. The Government of the Russian Federation owns 100 percent of the shares in RUSNANO. Anatoly Chubais is CEO and chairman of the Executive Board of RUSNANO.

Work to establish nanotechnology infrastructure and training for nanotechnology specialists, formerly conducted by the Russian Corporation of Nanotechnologies, has been entrusted to the Fund for Infrastructure and Educational Programs, a non-commercial fund also established through reorganization of the Russian Corporation of Nanotechnologies.

As for the 2011 founding date for RUSNANO, that appears to be the date it became an open stock company. Here’s more according to the RUSNANO Wikipedia essay (Note: Links and footnotes have been removed),

A law (On the Russian Nanotechnology Corporation) which resulted in the creation of “Russian Corporation of Nanotechnologies” was proposed by several members of the United Russia party on June 2007. The proposal passed its first reading in the State Duma on June 14 and final reading on July 4. The upper house, the Federation Council, approved it on July 6. Initially organised as a state corporation, the company was re-registered on March 11, 2011 as open joint-stock company RUSNANO.

In any event, I’m keeping an eye on RUSNANO as it continues to evolve in the midst of what appears to be a more than usually volatile period for Russia’s state business enterprises.

Russia’s nanotechnology efforts falter?

The title for Leonid Bershidksy’s May 16, 2013 Bloomberg.com article, Power Grab Trumps Nanotechnology in Putin’s Russia, casts an ominous shadow over Rusnano’s situation (Note: Links have been removed),

The projects, known as Rusnano and Skolkovo, were meant to propel Russia’s raw-material economy into the technology age. They involved multibillion-dollar government investments, the first in nanotechnology and the second in a new city that would become Russia’s answer to Silicon Valley. They were supposed to provide the infrastructure and stability required to attract large amounts of foreign investment.

Now, both have become targets in Putin’s campaign to demonstrate that he’s being tough on corruption and mismanagement of government funds. As a result, their chances of succeeding are looking increasingly remote.

Trouble came in April [2013], when the Accounting Chamber, a body charged with auditing government spending, accused Rusnano of inefficient management in a report that received ample coverage on state-owned TV. It said that Rusnano had transferred about $40 million to shell companies and pointed out that a silicon factory in which Rusnano invested about $450 million was not functioning and was about to be declared insolvent. The report also highlighted the state company’s 2012 losses of 2.5 billion rubles ($80 million) and the 24.4-billion-ruble (about $800 million) in reserves Rusnano had formed against potential losses from risky ventures.

Anatoly Medetsky’s Apr. 29, 2013 article for The Moscow Times provides more insight into the situation,

The government’s Audit Chamber on Friday [April 26, 2013] accused state-owned Rusnano of multiple infractions in a blow to the high-tech corporation’s chief, Anatoly Chubais.

The chamber’s critical conclusions followed President Vladimir Putin’s reproof of the company during a live call-in show the previous day.

Auditors made their statement after examining Rusnano’s records in response to a request by Chubais’ political nemesis, the Communist Party.

“The audit’s materials attest that Rusnano’s performance was inappropriate to attain the goals that it was entrusted with, which are the development of the national nano industry,” the Audit Chamber said in a statement.

Auditor Sergei Agaptsov said separately that Rusnano is unlikely to achieve the goal of 300 billion rubles in annual sales of nano-tech products by the companies it co-owns in 2015 — the target that the government set for the company, Interfax reported.

I’m sorry to read about Rusnano’s difficulties especially in light my first piece about it where I compared the Canadian effort unfavourably to, what was then, a relatively new and promising organization in my Apr. 14, 2009 posting. About seventeen months later, officials with Rusnano signed a memorandum of understanding with John Varghese, CEO and Managing Partner of Toronto based venture capital firm, VentureLink Funds as noted in my Sept. 14, 2010 posting. Nothing further seemed to come of that agreement.

I have one last thought about Rusnano’s current travails, will they have an impact on US commercialization efforts? In my Oct. 28, 2011 posting where I was contrasting nanotechnology commercialization efforts by the US, Spain, and Rusnano, I mentioned this deal Rusnano had made with two US nanomedicine companies,

Then RUSNANO announced its investments in Selecta Biosciences and BIND Biosiences, from the Oct. 27, 2011 news item on Nanowerk,

BIND Biosciences and Selecta Biosciences, two leading nanomedicine companies, announced today that they have entered into investment agreements with RUSNANO, a $10-billion Russian Federation fund that supports high-tech and nanotechnology advances. [emphasis mine]

RUSNANO is co-investing $25 million in BIND and $25 million in Selecta, for a total RUSNANO investment of $50 million within the total financing rounds of $94.5 million in the two companies combined. …

The proprietary technology platforms of BIND and Selecta originated in laboratories at Harvard Medical School directed by Professor Omid Farokhzad, MD, and in laboratories at MIT directed by Professor Robert Langer, ScD, a renowned scientist who is a recipient of the US National Medal of Science, the highest US honor for scientists, and is an inventor of approximately 850 patents issued or pending worldwide. Drs. Langer and Farokhzad are founders of both companies.

Ripple effects, eh? Rusnano was very active internationally.

ETA June 14, 2013:  Nanowerk has a June 13, 2013 news item, which updates the situation with the news that Rusnano has opted out of presenting an ‘initial public offering’, aka, listing itself on a stock exchange in 2015 and will instead attract private investment.

Richard Branson, take your hands off my nano

RUSNANO (Russian Corporation of Nanotechnologies) fascinates me such that I’ve posted about the organization and its ‘wheeling and dealing’ several times with my RUSNANO and 12BF’s clean energy investment fund [July 24, 2012] and Russian government sells 10% holding in RUSNANO [June 25, 2012] postings being the latest until now.  Virgin Group and RUSNANO have announced a new, joint emerging market fund. From the Nov. 14, 2012 news item on Nanowerk,

Virgin Group, Virgin Green Fund and RUSNANO Capital announced the formation of VGF Emerging Market Growth I. L. P. = with commitments of over $200 million.

The Fund will invest in buyout and growth equity opportunities in mid-cap companies. It will target the resource efficiency, consumer sustainability and renewable energy sectors in Russia, Turkey and CEE [Central Europe and Russia Fund Inc.]. The Fund will benefit from the Virgin and RUSNANO brands, deal flow and local investing experience.

The Oct. 31, 2012 RUSNANO news release (which originated the news item) provides this detail,

The Emerging Market Fund is set up by Shai Weiss, Evan Lovell, Brooks Preston and Tamas Szalai. Weiss and Lovell are theco-foundingpartners of the Virgin Green Fund. Preston formerly of Wolfensohn & Company and Szalai of Bancroft Private Equity will lead the investment team.  Andrew Reicher, the former head of CEE Private Equity for Credit Suisse and Chief Investment Officer at Actis, is the non-executive chairman of the investment committee. Collectively, the team brings the experience of investing USD $2 billion in emerging markets through more than 50 transactions. [emphasis mine]

Anatoly Chubais, RUSNANO CEO and Chairman of the Executive Board: “Renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies will provide answers to the key global challenges of natural resources depletion and environment pollution. Developing solutions will be impossible without the use of nanotechnology. I believe the fund will find great opportunities to invest in growth companies in Russia and take them into global markets.”

‘More than 50 transactions’ doesn’t sound that impressive to me but perhaps that reflects my ignorance. I’m also surprised they don’t mention any specific successes from this previous experience of investing USD $2B.

Sir Richard Branson (founder and chairman of the Virgin Group) or someone who purports to be Branson posted about the announcement when it was made on Oct. 31, 2012 in Moscow on Richard’s blog (Note: I have removed links),

Seven years ago at the Clinton Global Initiative I pledged to invest the dividends from our transport business into renewable fuels and resource efficiency.

Since then we have invested in fuel companies, set up our Green Fund, founded the Carbon War Room and established The Earth Challenge – as well as making a number of investments in emerging fuel businesses.

Today, I’m back in Moscow – at the country’s largest technology forum – Open Innovations. We are launching our second Virgin Green Fund with our Russian partners Rusnano. This one is targeting the Emerging Markets and the exciting venture will invest in growth companies to improve energy efficiency and find the technologies and fuels of the future.

At the Forum I was quizzed by 100 of Russia’s brightest young entrepreneurs and encouraged them to build their businesses with a smile and look to throw some of the conformity that marks so much of Russian business. There is so much enthusiasm and opportunity in the country.

I hope successful ventures arise from this new fund. ETA Nov. 21, 2012: As for this posting’s headline, it’s a reference to the pervasiveness of the Virgin brand.

Russian government sells 10% holding in RUSNANO

This is a very brief news bit from a June 22, 2012 article by Scott Rose for Bloomberg Business Week,

Russia’s government plans to sell stakes in its rail monopoly, grain trader, biggest shipper, nanotechnology holding and largest banks within 18 months as it loosens its grip on an economy dominated by commodity exports.

The state must also sell half of Rosagroleasing, 25.5 percent of OAO Bank VTB, 10 percent of nanotechnology holding OAO Rusnano and 7.6 percent of OAO Sberbank in the same period. [emphasis mine]

After selling 10% of RUSNANO, the government will still own 90% if the information in the Wikipedia essay is correct,

Rusnano (Russian: Роснано) (formerly Russian Corporation of Nanotechnologies) is a joint-stock company created and owned by the government of Russia and aimed at commercializing developments in nanotechnology. Rusnano’s task is to create by 2015 a nano-industry in the country that will make marketable products worth 900 billion rubles ($29 billion). In April 2012 they invested US $79m in Quantenna Communications, a manufacturer of semiconductors for wireless networks and devices. According to a press release issued by Rusnano, this investment will leverage synergies between Quantenna’s portfolio and a number of nanotechnology initiatives that are under way at RUSNANO.

One hundred percent of the shares in RUSNANO have become the property of the government. At this moment, the Board of Directors and the Auditing Commission have been formed; the chairman of the Executive Board has been appointed—Anatoly Chubais. During its first meeting, planned for late March 2011, the Board of Directors of RUSNANO will form the Executive Board of the company.

This 10% sale seems more symbolic than serious  when compared to the requirement that the government sell 100% of its shares in various business enterprises such as the OAO RusHydro, Russian Agricultural Bank, Sheremetyevo Airport, amongst others.