International Science and Technology Center
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The International Science and Technology Center (ISTC) is an international organization established by an international agreement in November 1992 as a program to prevent nuclear proliferation and the proliferation of other weapons of mass destruction (WMD) by giving Russian and Newly Independent States (NIS) scientists and engineers with knowledge and skills of WMD or missile delivery systems, opportunities to redirect their talents to peaceful activities such as fundamental research, international programs and innovation and commercialization.
The ISTC supports innovative projects that are expected to create business opportunities by launching new commercial joint ventures that link the demands of international markets with the highly qualified scientific talent pool available in Russian and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) institutes.
The Funding Parties to the ISTC are Canada, the United States, the European Union, Japan, Norway and South Korea. The Recipient Parties are Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Kazahkstan, the Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan.
ISTC activities fall in two broad categories: Research Projects, which employ former weapons scientists (FWS) in the development of new science and technology (S&T), and supplemental programs, which include workshops and other events to integrate FWS in the global S&T and industrial communities, training, and commercialization support initiatives.
In all, over 58,000 weapons scientists and their team members in 765 research institutes spread across Russia/CIS have been involved in ISTC projects and activities.
The International Science and Technology Center participates in the WorldWideScience global science gateway.
Motivation for Establishment of the ISTC
According to James Baker's address of March, 1992, in the early 90's the economic and professional conditions faced by Russian nuclear scientists was deteriorating to the point where some might be tempted to sell their skills to other regimes.
According to the European Commission (EC) the ISTC mission is "to organise the redirection of WMD scientists’ activities, through supporting innovative projects in science and technology. In so doing, these programmes are expected to induce business opportunities for both NIS and EU companies through launching of new commercial joint ventures." (reference)
The funded projects encompass the following:
- Space, Aircraft and Surface Transportation
- Fission Reactors
- Biotechnology and Life Sciences
- Environmental Science
- Nuclear fusion
- Information and Communications
- Manufacturing Technology
- Materials science
- Non-Nuclear Energy
- Other Basic Sciences
According to the ISTC website, over 350 organizations have joined the Partner Program to date and provided funding for 500 projects with a total value of US$160 million.
In 2004, the proposed European Commission (EC) budgets for the ISTC and STCU were approximately €21 million and €4 million respectively.
According to the 2003 budget proposal by the EC during the period 1994 to 2003, the total budget was approximately US$441 million, which supported about 1,628 projects and 51,000 scientists. The EC contribution, through the Tacis Programme, for this period was €77 million to ISTC. In 2002, 301 new ISTC projects were funded for respectively $78.6 million. ISTC supported 26,500 participants, for a total of grant payment reaching $42.5 million. Most of these projects have been medium-sized ($350,000 each) with a duration of two to three years. The financial contribution of the EC represents in total approximately 26% of the total funding, second to the support allocated by the US (34.7%). In absolute figures in March 2003, the EU support of ISTC projects amounted to more than €90.9 million.
Evaluation by the European Union
- Some projects, particularly those led by former high-level weapons scientists, have the potential for dual use
- The majority of the work in the funded projects is carried out by former weapon scientists
- The programmes are generally "non-proliferant" in that they are succeeding in keeping the former weapon scientists occupied, particularly at institutes which were at the core of the weapons research
- The funding to pay the scientists salaries is not always compatible with the respective costs of living and should be increased to reduce the risk of them selling their know-how, knowledge and harmful materials on the black market
- Biotechnology scientists working on highly virulent strains (plague, anthrax, etc.) projects in Kazakhstan (and possibly also Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan) have particularly low salaries and these sites are hence vulnerable to proliferation of know-how, knowledge and biological materials