No political subtext in strategic initiatives' agency creation – Putin

Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (RIA Novosti / Aleksey Druzhinin)
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has stated that the creation of the Agency for Strategic Initiatives (ASI) has no hidden political motives and the body is no rival to the Skolkovo innovations center.

On Wednesday, Putin held a presentation for business people and officials in Moscow to announce the creation of the ASI.

The agency has been created with the intention of helping talented people, especially the youth, to promote new and innovative ideas as well as help businesses overcome bureaucratic barriers.

“The agency’s key task is to back those who have already achieved some results, specifically in reference to mid-sized business,” Putin said.

“We want the agency to be maximally open to society and to become an efficient instrument for supporting projects aimed at the steady…development of our country,” he noted.

Putin first voiced the idea of establishing a body to support innovative initiatives during the conference of Russia’s majority political party United Russia – which he chairs – in Volgograd, on May 6.

Speaking at the presentation on Wednesday, Putin said that the Agency’s work will include three main areas – “New Business”, “Young Professionals”, and “Social Projects”.

The first one will support – including financially – young and talented entrepreneurs hoping to bring life to unique, prospective projects.

The “Young Professionals” component will focus on the promotion of so-called professional mobility through the support of professional associations and updating professional qualifications standards. It is also plans to work out a set of criteria to define who exactly can be considered a professional. In addition, the agency will select the best educational programs.

The third prong of this the agencies developmental approach will deal with innovative programs in education, healthcare, culture, leisure and, also, help for the elderly and disabled.

Putin also cited the main principles that will govern the agencies activities: transparency, more involvement by independent experts, and minimizing bureaucratic procedures. He stressed that the agency will be unbiased in selecting projects to support and hiring personnel.

There are plans to develop the agency’s regional network by autumn of this year and open its offices throughout the state to help kick start innovative initiatives.

The agency will be managed by the Supervisory Board headed by Vladimir Putin. The Directorate will become the ASI’s executive body, while the Expert Council will be responsible for making decisions on projects to be supported in the future.

The future director general will have to go through a competition of sorts to get the post. All in all, 25 candidates will be selected by June 13, one of whom will be appointed director, while others will become members of the expert council. Putin noted that any young businessman or successful manager could apply for the post and added that the selection procedures will be released publicly and made accessible on the internet.

ASI won’t compete with Skolkovo

The creation of the new agency has no hidden political motives and “is not snapping at Skolkovo’s heels”, Putin stressed when commenting on a journalist’s question at the presentation on Wednesday.

Skolkovo innovations centre is outside of Moscow and “is a good modern project” aimed at gathering “interesting people” and important programs in one place, while the Agency for Strategic Initiatives will work across the entire territory of the country, Putin said. Skolkovo and ASI will ultimately compliment each other.

He underlined that there is no need to search for any political subtext behind the decision to launch the agency.

“No one is going to snap at anyone’s heels,” he was quick to reassure.

The idea to create a Russian version of Silicon Valley, the Skolkovo technological hub, was initiated by President Dmitry Medvedev.