Source AP ©

Putin to double science spending

President Vladimir Putin promised that science spending would be doubled in two years, adding that it was crucial to ensuring the country's development.

Putin promised to boost government spending on science to more than 400 billion rubles (about US$16.5 billion) by 2010, which is twice this year's spending.

The pledge, made at a meeting with some of Russia's leading scientists and academics, was the latest in a string of apparent campaign promises made before Sunday's parliamentary elections.

Putin has encouraged voters to hand his party, United Russia, an overwhelming victory, suggesting it would give him a mandate to retain influence over the government when his second term expires in May.

The president also criticized the Russian Academy of Sciences for engaging in commercial activities, saying that as many as 200 of its 600 scientific institutions were not used for scientific research.

"The Academy of Sciences is not a business corporation, it's not a commercial organization," he said.

When state funding dried up after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, many institutes have leased their premises to businesses or moonlighted for private companies.

Putin said he also expected private companies to contribute to the regeneration of Russian science by investing 200 billion rubles by 2010. "We need to create stimuli to involve the business community," he said.

The president stressed the need to develop new scientific fields such as nanotechnology, nuclear physics, bioengineering and others to provide for the country's defense needs and social development.

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