To set the scene, what are RUSNANO's key objectives?
The primary goal of RUSNANO is to create and develop a Russian nanotechnology industry, making the country one of the global leaders in this sphere over the next five years. To achieve this goal, RUSNANO invests in the high technology fabrication of nano-enabled products, develops nanotechnology infrastructure including centres of competence, industry parks, seed and venture funds, and also supports the training of industry professionals.

Why did RUSNANO decide to set up this investment program and what are the benefits for the scientific community?
RUSNANO is an institution for development, and investing in nanotechnology ventures is one of its main tools. RUSNANO can invest up to 50 percent minus one share in a start-up's capital. The major part of the equity must be owned by private investors, making them vitally interested in the venture's success. In addition to equity investment, we can provide long-term loans and guarantees. Our investment lowers the risks to private businesses and creates more incentives for them to develop nanotech applications. RUSNANO doesn't pursue a strategy of maximizing its profits. We exit an investment project as soon as it can stand alone. The capital obtained through the sale of RUSNANO's share is then invested into new projects.

Are there any particular skills and expertise that you are looking for?
We welcome applicants with nanotechnology expertise in several key areas - engineering, energy production, storage and conversion; composite and nanostructured materials; nanomedicine and nanobiotechnology; nanodevices, nanoelectronics and metrology.

Who can apply for funding and how much investment is available?
Our basic condition is that the production facility be placed in Russia. We welcome applications from Russian or foreign candidates (companies or research teams). The projects co-invested by RUSNANO vary in size from €1.6 million to €400 million. We expect future projects to fit into these frames.

Can RUSNANO help to match researchers with business partners?
Yes, we are often approached by researchers who want to capitalize on their expertise and intellectual property. If we see the business potential behind their ideas and technology, we match the scientists with investors and management teams who have the potential to bring the research to the market.

If scientists would like to get involved, what are the next steps?
The easiest way is to register at our web site, rusnano.com. After registering, the applicant will receive our application forms to fill in. As an initial step, the applicant may send a short and informal description of the project. To receive financing, the project has to pass a number of expert evaluations – a scientific and technology evaluation, as well as investment, patent and marketing evaluations. More information on these procedures can be found in our brochure for applicants (available for download).

It's been 12 months since you were appointed director general of RUSNANO. What do you see as the big success stories during your first year in office and what can we expect from the organization in 2010?
Most importantly, we created the working pipeline for accepting, evaluating, and co-financing project applications. This summer we achieved the design capacity to completely evaluate and begin co-financing around 15 projects quarterly. We have received more than 1200 applications in total, including more than 90 applications from 20 foreign countries.

Today we have 36 applications approved for co-financing totalling €2100 million, with €1100 million of this amount coming from RUSNANO. 25 foreign applications are passing final stages of approval.

In 2010 we plan to establish a family of venture funds, and a large fund oriented at financing foreign projects. We also participate in the organization of intergovernmental funds together with several countries.

Additionally, we attach great importance to creating an international platform for communicating results and sharing experience - the Nanotechnology International Forum, Rusnanotech. Last year, the forum and its accompanying exhibition were attended by more than 9000 participants.

Rusnanotech'09 will be held in Moscow from 6 to 8 October and we invite professionals from both research and business communities to join us.

About the author

James Tyrrell is editor of nanotechweb.org