What is “end-to-end digital technologies” and why invest budget money in them

Why is Russia investing huge budget money in the development of robotics, artificial intelligence and quantum technologies, what results will this lead to in 5 years, said Pavel Gudok, Deputy Director General of the Foundation for Assistance to Small Innovative Enterprises in Science and Technology.

It is customary to talk and write about digitalization in the media a little skeptically – as an expensive and complex initiative of the state, which has little to do with the life and well-being of ordinary people. This is partly due to the fact that technologies that relate to the so-called “end-to-end” digital are quite difficult to understand, especially compared to those issues that seem clear, relevant and require serious financial and organizational participation of the state – for example, with medicine or education.

What is “end-to-end digital technologies” and why Russian taxpayers have to pay for them

As an example, consider quantum computing, which is based on the principles of quantum mechanics. Quantum computing will be used in a variety of industries, including the development of new materials, where the speed and power of traditional computers is lacking. Quantum technologies are also needed to create new drugs for incurable diseases.

If we take distributed ledger technologies, the most famous of which is blockchain, then in the corresponding “roadmap” * we will also see examples of specific solutions and products that should appear in our country in the coming years. For example, this is a digital ID of a patient for safe work with his medical data. A digital ID will allow you to track all changes in a person’s health throughout his life, regardless of the clinic where he is observed at a particular point in time. This data will be absolutely protected from both theft and attempts to change it. The development of new robotics components and sensors will significantly speed up the rehabilitation of patients after injuries: new-generation sensors will be used to create new-generation exoskeletons and exoprostheses with a human-machine interface.

By 2021, five million-plus cities are planned to be covered with fifth-generation communication networks. This means that we will have an ultra-fast and reliable mobile Internet capable of transferring large amounts of information in real time without delays – including between devices. The introduction of new production technologies will allow moving to a new level of quality of manufactured industrial products, reducing the cost of developing new products, automating most of the prototyping and testing of finished products. These are all examples from end-to-end digital technology roadmaps. The emergence of these cases depends on the development of specific technologies – robotics, sensorics, artificial intelligence, and others.

Amounts and sources of funding

The development of end-to-end digital technologies is a rather expensive task – in the federal project “Digital Technologies” until 2024, 282 billion rubles of budgetary funds are planned for these purposes.  To achieve a significant result, several times more private funds will be required, which the business will invest in certain developments and products. The state takes the initiative, sets the vector and organizational framework, gives the image of the result – but specific technologies, products, solutions and services appear already “from below”, in accordance with the market demand. A similar approach is practiced in many countries – in the USA, China, India and others.

The development of specific technologies and the emergence of high-tech products of domestic production is possible only under the condition of the development of an ecosystem of innovations

In July 2019, the government signed agreements with state corporations to develop technology. So, Sberbank will be responsible for artificial intelligence, quantum computing – Rostom, quantum communications – Russian Railways, quantum sensors – Roster, wireless technologies – Roster and Rostelecom, etc. To develop end-to-end technologies, it is necessary not only to fund research and development, but also to build an ecosystem for existing and new Russian technology companies.

How exactly will these companies be born if the state corporations are responsible for the results indicated in the roadmaps? This is a debatable issue, since the formation of new markets requires completely separate resources, including human and intellectual ones. They cannot be “created”, they can only grow in a supportive environment, and this environment, or ecosystem, has yet to emerge.

We are dealing with several almost parallel worlds: there is science, our Russian scientists, they already have interesting results. The next step is development, and already at this stage, communication problems begin: there are no algorithms for further interaction that are clear to all participants. It is important to learn how to create understandable and workable chains that will bring the developments of scientists to specific industries and industrial implementations.

High demands on results mean learning to negotiate

Dozens of participants are involved in the development of end-to-end technologies in Russia – these are federal executive bodies, state corporations, development institutions, market leaders (for example, mobile operators of the Big Three, Yandex, Mail.ru), and a wide expert community. For example, at the international forum “Open Innovations” in Skolkovo this year, complex projects were discussed that will require non-linear options for cooperation, since they will include all stages of the life cycle of a particular technology, service or product.

The system of working with innovations that exists in the country today is not designed for large-scale projects in which there will be different participants at different stages, where different lines of support measures, public and private money, returnable and non-returnable investments at different stages of technology development will be required. It is possible that such formats of cooperation between the state, business and other structures will be developed by trial and error – but there is no doubt that they will be very useful in the future.