Searching for Breakthrough Technologies: Photonics Case

DOI: 10.20542/0131-2227-2017-61-6-14-22

I. Dezhina (,
Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology, 3, Nobelya Str., Territory of innovation center Skolkovo, Moscow, 143026, Russian Federation;
Gaidar Institute for Economic Policy, 5, Gazetnyi Per., Moscow, 125993, Russian Federation;
A. Frolov (,
Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology, 3, Nobelya Str., Territory of innovation center Skolkovo, Moscow, 143026, Russian Federation 

Acknowledgement. The article is based on the project “Development of public analytical report on scientific and technological direction critical for the development of sectors of the Russian economy – Photonics” financed by the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation (unique identifier RFMEFI60315X0011).

Abstract. This article treats the problem of identifying and supporting breakthrough technologies concerning the case of photonics. Breakthrough, disruptive or key enabling technologies (the most appropriate term depends on focus of analysis) attract special attention because they may increase competitiveness in several economic sectors simultaneously for existing and new markets. The authors focus attention to the photonics technologies which breakthrough potential has not been established yet. The goal is to define the role of scientific communities, private businesses and governments in the developed countries and in Russia in the promotion of these technologies. Foreign experience in supporting photonics at the state level is considered. The available bibliometric and patent data is analyzed to evaluate Russia’s potential for developing photonics, as well as for defining possible mechanisms that can enable the nation’s scientific and technological development in this area. The point is made that in the USA and Japan photonics is currently perceived as a breakthrough technology mostly by business and research communities. At the government level it mostly has a status of “enabling” technology that facilitates the development of other technologies and projects of national importance. Only the European Union regards some areas of photonics (e.g., quantum computing) as breakthrough technology. In Russia, photonics was initially promoted by business associations but later became the focus of the government interest. The bibliometric and patent analysis shows that Russia holds scientific potential in several areas of photonics; however activities directed toward their commercialization remain insignificant. The authors point at the need to define a restricted number of photonics’ areas (not necessarily of a breakthrough nature) that would have the largest impact on economic competitiveness. Then, the government should elaborate and use special instruments (e.g., consortia) for supporting them. For maximum efficiency the respective scientific activities should be conducted within the framework of international cooperation. Also, the development of photonics’ technologies needs to be addressed in the context of the Russian National Technology Initiative. 

Keywords: breakthrough technology, enabling technology, government policy, photonics, Russia, bibliometric analysis, patents, policy instruments 


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For citation:
Dezhina I., Frolov A. Searching for Breakthrough Technologies: Photonics Case. World Eonomy and International Relations, 2017, vol. 61, No 6, pp. 14-22.

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