Russia’s Arctic innovations
Science and innovation have always stimulated progress and have always been essential for the development of the economy and human potential. Today, when the Arctic is increasingly becoming a geopolitical objective for various countries a policy for stimulating innovation turns out to be one of the most important factors in Russia’s effort to keep and strengthen its leading positions in this region.
At present, after the slump of the 1990s, developing innovation is becoming a priority of the country’s Arctic policy. To this end, the North Arctic Federal University (NAFU) was established in 2010. The university is expected to become one of the country’s key research and innovation centers to study Russia’s Arctic territories. The university encompasses several higher education establishments and enterprises in the Archangelsk region. The Arctic Space Monitoring Center was founded under the university’s auspices in 2011, which was an important step for NAFU. For example, the Center is capable of providing exact data on the status of ice cover and potential detours for sea vessels. In addition to overseeing ice cover status the Center will monitor flood situations, weather conditions, Arctic Ocean temperatures, agricultural lands and natural hazards.
In the future, the Center is expected to join the multi-purpose space Arctic observation system which is now being built and should be completed in the nearest future. It will be used to resolve various tasks including exploration and detailed appraisal of mineral deposits, cartography, infrastructure, ice cover and navigation monitoring, agricultural lands status assessment, etc.
According to plans an international research and innovation complex will be established in the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous District in the nearest future. It will open new opportunities for conducting scientific research, studying international experience and developing international cooperation in the innovation and investment spheres. The project has already been approved by the Russian government, and an official government resolution on its implementation is expected to be issued by the end of this year.
Generally speaking, the Arctic region requires innovations in many spheres. Thus, it is necessary to introduce technologies which will enable quick and cost-effective construction of all types of buildings in the Arctic conditions: civil, industrial, transport and energy related, agricultural, etc. Those types of construction sites should be supplied with specialized materials and construction technologies suitable for the Extreme North.
In order to bring innovation to the Arctic it is important to develop those technologies which help to improve the quality of forecasts relating to climate changes and environmental consequences of energy resources development. The same is true for projects pertaining to environmental safety in the conditions of warmer climate and smaller permafrost zone and as well as for space environmental monitoring projects.
Energy sector is still a significant objective for innovation in the Arctic region. Particularly important are energy-saving technologies, renewable power sources, full utilization of associated gas. The same is true for construction of small and middle-sized stand-alone electric power plants, development o small deposits, low-pressure and marginal wells, development of gas chemistry.
In view of the plans for developing the colossal Arctic oil and gas resources it is vitally important to advance mineral production, processing and transportation technologies. Development of economically viable and environmentally safe technologies of hydrocarbon production and transportation on the Arctic shelf plays a special role. Russia was one of the countries that pioneered the advancement of new technical and technological products intended for the development of offshore deposits but noticeably fell behind the other countries during and after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Therefore at present Russia intends to further its close cooperation with foreign oil and gas companies. Thus, an Arctic Research and Design Center for Offshore Developments is being created under the agreement between Rosneft and ExxonMobil. It is the first organization of such type in Russia. It will perform a full scope of research and design work for offshore development projects and accumulate the resulting expertise and technologies.
Importantly, Russia has its own resources for implementing its own cutting-edge hydrocarbon production and processing technologies. Development of Arctic deposits presents a good opportunity for their implementation. For example, there is an innovative technology for processing gas to produce a wide spectrum of chemical compounds. The technology is based on next generation catalysts which have no analogues elsewhere. There is also a concept for transforming chemical energy produced by fossil fuels into electric energy directly at the production site. Such technology has a number of advantages compared to the conventional practice.
The idea of migrating from resource economy to resource and innovation economy has been discussed in Russia for a long time. Opportunities for such migration in the Arctic region, with its unique natural resources and production potential, are more than ample. The country has good research, human and technical resources for using modern technologies to create a friendly artificial environment which is suited for harsh weather conditions and build effective social and industrial infrastructures.