Cabinet Sets up State Venture Company to Invest in High-Tech
Published: August 15, 2006 (Issue # 1195)
The Cabinet on Thursday approved the creation of a state venture company that is to invest 15 billion rubles ($560 million) in the country’s high-tech sector.
Also known as the “fund of funds,” the Russian Venture Company is set to boost technology investments and diversify the economy away from commodities. The company will create eight to 15 venture funds to be managed by private companies, Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref told the Cabinet meeting, Interfax reported.
“We aim to attract more than 30 billion rubles ($1.12 billion) to the Russian high-tech sector by the end of 2007,” Gref said.
Russian Venture will be fully established by the end of this year and fund-management companies will be chosen by tenders in early 2007, Gref said.
Lax protection of intellectual property rights, the high risks associated with technology start-ups, and attractive returns from investing in large private companies and the stock market have all served as disincentives to investment in small, fledgling technology firms.
Education and Science Minister Andrei Fursenko told the meeting that the capitalization of venture funds at was pegged 4 billion conditional units in Russia. Conditional units can be interpreted to mean dollars or euros, or the average of the two.
“But only 5 percent of these resources is allocated toward high-tech. This is very small, [and] without government participation this percentage is not going to grow significantly,” Fursenko said, Interfax reported.
Russian Venture — expected to be set up by the end of this year — is an important first step in building a competitive high-tech sector. But Russian Venture will not do the job alone, experts said.
“There’s clearly a need for investment in this sector. It’s a question of doing a lot of things simultaneously,” said Ulf Persson, co-founder and Managing Partner of Mint Capital.
By definition, start-ups constitute risky investment because, unlike larger private companies, they have not proven their profitability. Gref said world-famous brands, including Microsoft and Cisco, emerged as a result of venture capital funding. Only a few technology start-ups are destined to become global powerhouses, however.
“Without government support, venture capital investment [in technology start-ups] will emerge in 10 years at best,” said Mikhail Gamzin, managing partner of Russian Technologies, an investment fund backed by Alfa Group.
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