Russia – Italy : High-Tech Cooperation

The research that we are carrying out is the future of nuclear energy,” said Giovanni Iannuzzi, deputy head of the mission at the Italian Embassy. Iannuzzi is talking about a nuclear fusion experiment called “Ignitor,” one of the most high-tech cooperations that the Italians are involved in with Russians.

Last year, President Dmitry Medvedev noted the role Italian companies play in modernizing Russia, speaking at a joint news conference with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. “It is particularly important for us that Italian companies take part in high-tech spheres of the Russian economy.”

Ignitor is a good example of that cooperation. It is a Russian-Italian collaboration to build a tokamak fusion reactor.

A tokamak is a doughnut-shaped magnetic confinement device used for producing thermonuclear fusion power.

The aim of Ignitor is to demonstrate the feasibility of plasma ignition, “a state in which there is enough fusion power to maintain the reaction without the need for external heat,” as Nature journal explained the process to non-nuclear physicists. The collaboration was announced last April after talks between Berlusconi and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

“Ignitor is a project in the sphere of plasma fusion, and it is rooted in the long-standing experience that Russia has developed in the field and also in studies that were done in Italy in the 1980s,” Iannuzzi said.

The project involves, among others, Italian plasma physicist Bruno Coppi, the Italian National Agency for New Technologies, the Russian Academy of Science and the Kurchatov Institute.

Another scientific project is Borexino, a particle physics experiment to study low energy solar neutrinos in the Gran Sasso National Laboratory, which is located under the Gran Sasso mountains. Dozens of Russian scientists work with their Italian colleagues on this and other projects in those laboratories.

Another example of technology help is the SuperJet, a passenger plane in the 100-seat market, which brings together Sukhoi, the aviation company best known for its production of military fighters, and Alenia Aeronautica, a member of the Finmeccanica Group.

Those behind the venture say it unites “two of the best aeronautic heritages in the world.”

“I don’t know of any other project between Russia and any other European country to build an aircraft,” said First Counsellor,  Head of Economic and Trade Section of the Italian Embassy, Leonardo Bencini. “It is a very important example of cooperation in the high tech sector.”

The first SuperJet 100s were delivered to Armenia in April and were set to go Aeroflot, Sukhoi said, at the end of May. Production is set to quadruple to 30 units this year, said United Aircraft Corporation, Sukhoi’s parent company.

Finmeccanica is also working on a different aircraft — helicopters — as it has joined up with Russian Technologies to open up a helicopter plant in the Moscow region. Construction on the plant began in February. Finmeccanica is also helping to automate Russian Post.

Another area where Italian technology is being welcomed in Russia is in the energy field. Italy and Russia signed a memorandum on working together on energy efficiency and renewable resources in 2009.

“We are very important partners in the modernizaton process from smart grids to superjets to innovation in the postal sector,”  said Bencini.

The Moscow Times

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