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October 14, 2022

Technological sovereignty: cooperation between science, business and government

Key conclusions

Securing technological sovereignty in the fuel and energy sector depends directly on effective cooperation between government, the business sector and the scientific community in developing and rolling out new technology solutions and training specialists. These issues were discussed by experts at Russian Energy Week, currently taking place in Moscow.

“The fuel and energy sector has always been one of the Russian economy’s knowledge-intensive sectors. Today, as a result of internal and external changes, issues of technological and scientific cooperation are becoming more pressing than ever. New challenges require new solutions. We can only respond to them through cooperation between the sector, science and government,” noted Alexey Kulapin, General Director, Russian Energy Agency (REA) of the Ministry of Energy of Russia.

To consolidate interdisciplinary knowledge, experience and physical infrastructure with a view to furthering the development of the fuel and energy sector, in 2022 the Ministry of Energy’s REA created the Energy of the Future scientific and educational consortium with support from leading Russian universities.

Plans for the consortium include the creation of a comprehensive system for the dissemination of scientific and technical information and the rollout of innovations, the training of staff and highly-qualified specialists and their recruitment by fuel and energy companies. The consortium may take on the role of training regional managers for the energy sector.

The training of specialists requires not only the development of regional training programmes at universities and colleges. The profiling of potential energy workers should begin at school, with more attention devoted at universities to relevant practical experience rather than theoretical knowledge. In addition, favourable and comfortable living and working conditions need to be created for fuel and energy personnel in various regions and remote areas of Russia.

Key problems and solutions

•Recruiting specialized professionals educated in large Russian cities to fill vacancies in the regions is difficult

“We expect technical universities to be given additional government support to retain specialists in key areas: it’s extremely difficult to recruit a specialist from Moscow or St. Petersburg to work in Tayshet, Bratsk or Ust-Ilimsk. We need to build social infrastructure. We could discuss with the Ministry of Energy the creation of ‘energy cities’ and various programmes to promote the development of social infrastructure: the quality of life in towns and cities in remote areas has to meet energy workers’ demands,” said Viktor Konopatskiy, Director for Federal and Regional Government Relations, En+ Holding.

Together with the Irkutsk National Research Technical University, the company is opening Energy Laboratories – accelerators to develop student potential, formulate ideas and put them into practice.

RusHydro is proposing the creation of a targeted recruitment institute with a special focus on non-financial incentives. It is also working on a programme of long-term, in-depth internships, in which students will immerse themselves in the working lives of the company’s employees.

“This fosters the culture of the sector and instils a love for the profession. We’re ready to take 10–15 people a year (from different fields and areas) and send them, on a centralized basis, to see how our staff ordinarily live – for example, in the Far East,” said Sergey Machekhin, Deputy General Director for Project Engineering, Sustainable Development and International Cooperation, RusHydro.

•Training and profiling programmes for the energy industry aren’t always focussed on current practices and industry demands

Representatives from specialized universities and companies shared their experiences of addressing this challenge.

“The Russian University of Economics is setting up a board of industrial partners and a board of graduates at every higher school – institute and faculty. That means that we’re able to continually update our training programmes and scientific and academic research,” said Ivan Lobanov, Rector, the Plekhanov Russian University of Economics.

Viktor Martynov, Rector, National University of Oil and Gas "Gubkin University" (Gubkin University), stressed the need to create a chain of contacts between students and potential employers, from practical training to fully-fledged internships and employment.

Operating within the International Institute of Energy Policy and Diplomacy (MIEP) at the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO) is Rosneft’s Corporate Training and Development Centre, which holds various forums, conferences and meetings between students and senior managers from the fuel and energy companies that form part of the corporation’s holding.

Valery Salygin, Director of MGIMO’s MIEP, also noted the master’s programmes created for students with sponsorship from Rosneft, and the MBA programmes set up to train managers of different levels at the company.

•The exchange of up-to-date scientific and technical information is too slow

Staff at the REA are already working on adapting scientific and technical information databases to meet the sector’s current needs. The results of their work should be presented within a year, according to REA General Director Alexey Kulapin.

Working together, the members of the Energy of the Future Consortium can also increase the level of dissemination of sector-specific information: all the advanced technologies and solutions should be included in search systems so that potential users (academics, industry experts or fledgling specialists) can quickly find them, proposed Ivan Lobanov, Rector, Plekhanov Russian University of Economics.

Home-grown Russian technology can also be adopted in the energy sector through cooperation – testing innovations in companies’ operations: as an example, renewable energy could be developed using Russian-made equipment at RusHydro’s facilities, proposed George Kekelidze, Chairman of the Board, EUROSOLAR Russia Association for Renewable Energy.