YEREVAN (Arka)—Russia-based businessman and philanthropist, co-founder of Initiatives for the Development of Armenia (IDeA Foundation) Ruben Vardanyan said in an interview that the IDeA Foundation, along with its partners, is finalizing requirements for the launch of IDeA’s new project, the Foundation for Armenian Science and Technology (FAST), aimed at developing the means for technological innovation in Armenia and the mobilization of scientific, technological and financial resources of the Armenian and international communities.
According to Vardanyan, FAST will become a platform for bringing about the technological breakthrough in Armenia in the areas of IT and computer science, artificial intelligence, high-tech materials, robotics, biotechnology, advanced engineering and manufacturing technologies.
“We are looking at the possibility of at first providing $10 million towards developing the fund and then launching the fund globally with the goal of raising $200 million within three years. Within the model that we are discussing, FAST can become a mixed financial vehicle, which provides both research grants and venture financing. The Advisory Board will undertake the fund’s management. Within this board, besides the founders, there will be prominent Armenians from Armenia and abroad with a successful track record in science, technology, venture capital and industry. The fund will be subject to high standards of effectiveness, transparency and independence,” he said.
In an interview with Mediamax, Vardanayan was asked how this fund will work with Armenia’s government. “The work of the fund will only be effective in a public-private partnership and at the moment we are intensely discussing these questions with Armenia’s leadership. In our view, this partnership means engaging with the government on multiple levels, from the selection of promising scientific programs to the formation of government orders for important work. There are on-going talks on the creation of a systematic support for science and technology on every level within every day activity of the government,” he responded.
“At the same time, in supporting FAST or any other technology initiative, the state must adhere to the principle of the rule of law, an open economy and free competition. This will create a favorable ecosystem that will attract the best minds, who in turn will create and implement unique projects in Armenia.”
Vardanyan was also asked what the key solutions are in light of April’s events in Nagorno-Karabakh. “We must strengthen Armenia, and no one will do it apart from us. Only a strong Armenia can avoid another war and be able to defend our interests through peaceful means, finding acceptable compromises for the sake of the country and the nation,” he responded.
“This is the only way we can ensure that the opposing side will uphold its obligations instead of waiting for the right moment to undertake yet another military escapade, and international mediators will respect the positions of Armenia and Artsakh.”
“I think that Armenia’s priorities, as a nation must be the rebirth of Armenian science and the creation of a technology industry. It is vital that we become objective and truthful in the shadow of April’s events. Tangible results could be on the horizon in 5-10 years, but it must be started today. We must give the opportunity to Armenian scientists, especially young ones, to undertake basic and applied research, development and discovery, use their scientific and research potential to address critical national issues. We can see around the world that the consistent implementation of scientific development creates a synergistic effect, developing all areas of the economy,” Vardanyan continued.
The entrepreneur believes that the Armenia must rediscover itself as a nation of innovators and entrepreneurs, fulfilling creative potential in the country and not only outside of its borders.
“The main purpose for introducing FAST – is to unite the government and the private sector, the Church, the general public and the elite, the citizens of Armenian, the Diaspora and our partners in other countries, donors and international organizations, so that through our joint efforts we can create the conditions and mechanisms for turning Armenia into a regional technology and innovation center,” he said.
“The focus should be on a kind of ‘broad coalition,’ which will unite educational institutions, leading IT-companies, professional associations of Armenia and network operators.”
“Only by acting together we can create a future where we reclaim our leading position and break the mold in science and technology,” Vardanyan concluded.