Rusnano, the state-owned nanotechnology investment fund, has been spending oil wealth like a sailor on shore leave. Now its time to show a return on the investment.
Russian credibility in electronics has long been low. Too many government plans have been announced and not fulfilled. When Russia received a windfall through the export of oil, gas and other energy resources, it gained some serious money for technology investment.
Russia seemed prepared to invest its new-found wealth in a couple of Soviet-era chip companies: Mikron JSC and Angstrem JSC, supporting plans to bring in older manufacturing processes from the likes of STMicroelectronics and Advanced Micro Devices. But then in 2009, Sitronics, the owner of Mikron, shelved plans to build a 300-mm wafer fab equipped with 65- and 45-nm manufacturing processes. The project was supposedly intended to launch in 2010 but was delayed by the global recession.
With the creation of Russia Corporation of Nanotechnologies (Rusnano), investment policy appeared to shift. The plan seemed to be using energy export funds to attract capital-starved western companies to put down manufacturing roots in Russia, thereby importing current technology while creating jobs and infrastructure.
The list of announced deals is growing long and expensive:
2008: Russia's Onexim forms LED lighting joint venture (Optogan)
2010: Rusnano invests in Plastic Logic for Russia (thought to be worth $300 million in the short term, $700 million in the long-term)
2011: Russia backs MRAM startup Crocus ($250 million)
2011: Rusnano draws MEMS firm SiTime to Russia ($15 million)
2012: Rusnano helps close $79 million Quantenna deal
2012: NeoPhotonics deals with Rusnano, plans facilities in Russia ($40 million)
2012: Aquantia closes $35 million Series F funding round
2012: Russia backs Mapper e-beam lithography firm (about $50 million)