A Breakthrough Industry
Anatoly Chubais has formerly been Deputy Prime Minister of Russia, Minister of Finance, and CEO of Russia’s RAO UES. Today, he is one of the country’s most renowned economists and politicians, dealing with projects ranging from innovative medicine and microelectronics to metallurgy and new materials. To sum up, he is in charge of RUSNANO – a company that is paving the way for technological achievements that will change the world as we know it in the years ahead.
After taking over as Director General and then Chairman of the Board at RUSNANO, you assumed responsibility for Russia’s entire innovation economy, or at least that is how it is often portrayed. Do you have counterparts in other countries?
To be honest, that is not entirely the case. Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich is responsible for innovation economy in the government. Looking at key state development institutions, you’ll also find Skolkovo, the Russian Venture Company, and the Small Business Development Fund, which deals with science and technologies. We do not believe that one person can be in charge of everything, and I am really happy that my colleagues and I have established such a positive working relationship.
How does the rest of the world look? At least 15 leading countries – including the United States, China, South Korea, and Finland – took the initiative to develop their nano industries at the national level. Russia jumped on the bandwagon slightly later, in 2007, but we are still trying to win a place amongst the leaders of the pack. In this sense, there are other countries facing a situation similar to ours, though there are some notable differences. For instance, the American nano technology initiative revolves exclusively around science, or funding the part of the innovation cycle that would otherwise be unable to find alternate sources of funding. We, on the other hand, wanted to build a competitive industry from the very outset and our chief objective was to expand the scale of the nano industry in Russia. To achieve this goal, we will need serious resources and funding – on a far greater scale than what the American program requires.
Can we then deduce that the infrastructure for Russia’s nano industry is better prepared than that of the countries trying to assert leadership in this area?
Our innovation infrastructure is obviously less prepared – in 2008 and 2009, it was at a zero level or even ‘negative one.’ It simply didn’t exist. I would describe the situation as follows: In the orthodox model, scientific achievements find their application in production, which provides science with the funding required for further research. In our case, this process already stops functioning at the initial stage. Why is that? The reason is that apart from science and production, there is another world called ‘innovation economy.’ This world is comparable to science and production in terms of industry differentiation, constituent elements, legal frameworks, a legislative basis, and the required competency levels. We had science and we had production, but an innovation economy did not exist in our country at all. Mind you, internal differences between innovation cycles are enormous. For instance, the innovation economy transition from science to production in the pharmaceutical sector is completely different from that in microelectronics. There are dozens of subdivisions in the world of an innovation economy and each of them operates based on their own laws. Thus, we were missing the necessary baseline categories, including legislation, infrastructure, and competencies.
Chronologically, nano technologies developed as follows: sometime in the 1980s and 1990s, a number of scientific papers were published on the subject, followed by the first nano technology breakthroughs. As Richard Feynman famously said in 1961, “There’s plenty of room at the bottom.” What he was referring to was the matter below the micro level. In the 1990s, after we realized that we could manipulate matter at this level, we saw the discoveries of key elements and structures, such as fullerene, grapheme, and nanotubes. Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov received a Nobel Prize for discovering graphene much later, in 2010
Naturally, we had an implementation process for scientific achievements in our command economy. However, very few of these mechanisms were viable in a free market economy. Moreover, it just so happened that during my ‘civilian life’ prior to my political life, I spent ten years working in this area, and I understood how things worked in the Soviet Union. So the innovation economy is being built virtually from scratch.
Could we once again revisit the goals of RUSNANO? Why are its objectives important to the entire world?
Let us begin with the very word ‘nano.’ We all remember that some 30-40 years ago we first became acquainted with the prefix ‘micro’ (as in microelectronics and so forth), which was not a function of pure science but rather that of technologies.
It turned out that a targeted effect on matter could successfully be achieved in the micro range (10 to the power of -6). These technologies were first used at the laboratory level and then graduated to the industrial level, at which point microelectronics turned the world upside down.
Incidentally, even as early as the end of WWII, scientists had managed to get inside the nucleus to create nuclear technologies. Industrial application was implemented in the 1940s and 1950s, while micro technology did not truly start until the 1960s and 1970s. It would have been logical to start at the micro level and then move on to nano-size objects and then on to nuclear technologies, but it turned out otherwise. Why? Perhaps one of the reasons was the military application of nuclear energy, which turned out to be a driving force behind its development.
One way or another, the place of nano is somewhere between micro and nuclear technologies. Nano technologies mean the ability to produce a targeted effect in the range measured between 1 and 100 nanometers, and in so doing radically change the properties of the material in question.
Chronologically, nano technologies developed as follows: sometime in the 1980s and 1990s, a number of scientific papers were published on the subject, followed by the first nano technology breakthroughs. As Richard Feynman famously said in 1961, “There’s plenty of room at the bottom.” What he was referring to was the matter below the micro level. In the 1990s, after we realized that we could manipulate matter at this level, we saw the discoveries of key elements and structures, such as fullerene, grapheme, and nanotubes. Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov received a Nobel Prize for discovering graphene much later, in 2010. But during those earlier years, 1980s, baseline and technological breakthroughs were becoming ubiquitous at the nano level. We are talking about an interdisciplinary trend – dealing with construction materials, coatings, pharmaceuticals, nano electronics, optics, etc. – which is one of the basic properties of nano technologies. It turned out that the methods for manipulating material at the nano level were beginning to find industrial applications. That is why it was such a positive and important step when, in 2007, Russia started a nano initiative based on a proposal from Mikhail Kovalchuk, Director of the Kurchatov Institute.
There are nano industries that do not require trying to conquer the world – like nano electronics. As an example, a company called TSMC is essentially a giant automated assembly line, performing relatively homogenous mass production. There are some high-level technologies where it is unlikely that we will become leaders – not because we lack qualified specialists, but because of the very nature of some of these activities. If we revert back to electronics, there are breakthrough areas where we have a rather dynamic track record
How many projects are you financing? Who are your partners and co-investors and what are the results today?
We have two areas of activities: business and infrastructure. I will start by addressing the latter. It falls within the purview of the Infrastructure and Education Programs Fund (IEPF), which forms part of the RUSNANO group. The Fund deals with building nano centers (veritable start-up factories), engineering centers, standardization, certification, metrology, and education projects – in other words, creating the infrastructure that the business needs. When it comes to the commercial area, our objective is to invest in projects that will facilitate the development of the nano industry. Its scale is one of the most important performance indicators for us; by 2015, it should reach 900 billion rubles ($22.5 billion). These project companies will manufacture 300 billion rubles ($7.5 billion) worth of products. An additional 600 billion rubles ($15 billion) of products will be manufactured by companies that have no direct ties to RUSNANO, but will have received infrastructure solutions from us, which amounts to indirect support.
It should be noted that our business component is growing stronger. The return on investments requirement is an important reason driving our latest changes. This year, we created a managing company and are essentially becoming a family of private equity funds that are investing into the Russian nano industry, provided that we get returns and a profit margin on our investments. Today, we are running 94 projects ranging from metallurgy and tool manufacturing to pharmaceuticals and electronics. A total of 140 billion rubles ($3.5 billion) has already been invested. What is particularly important is that on top of this amount, we raised much more (170 billion rubles [$4.3 billion]) from private investors involved in our projects.
Do you already have examples of successful or unsuccessful IPOs?
Yes, we have had several IPOs. The scale may vary, but generally speaking, these are success stories with a good profit margin. Let us take one example: about six years ago, we found a company called IPG Photonics that had been built by a Russian professor named Valentin Gapontsev. The company’s shares were listed on NASDAQ and it became one of the world’s leading laser makers. We invested in this company under the condition that a production facility would be opened in Russia at our expense. It was set up in Moscow Oblast in the town of Fryazino. Today, the plant we built there plays an important role in the company because historically all business grew out of this town. We withdrew from the project when we reached a 20% rate of return.
Which Russian nano products are exported?
Out of the total 522 billion rubles ($13.1 billion) worth of nano products manufactured in Russia in 2013, exports accounted for 94 billion rubles ($2.4 billion). I will cite the example of a company called Novomet based in Perm. A group of engineers who built pumps for the oil industry came up with two ideas. The first idea was to use powder metallurgy – utilizing nano-dispersed powder sintering, they make ultra-strong parts for the most complex nodes on submersible pumps. The second idea was to create nano-coatings. The company’s initial revenue of just $3 million has grown to $350 million, and they are now competing with Schlumberger on the global market. Novomet exports a great deal of its products and is now moving into service functions for oil companies. It has shown consistent and dynamic development, so we were eager to invest in Novomet.
Is there any unspoken country-based specialization when it comes to nano technologies? For instance, Country A holds first place in developing biomedical nano materials, while Country B holds second place in nano electronics?
In part, specializations do exist. However, the number of countries developing a nano industry is limited and the leaders are well known: the United States, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Finland, and a number of European countries. Naturally, China is also a leader and they are moving ahead at a rapid pace. You could also say there is specialization within the BRICS group. For example, India’s strong suit is obviously aircraft building and the pharmaceutical industry – that even includes pharmaceutical innovations, although they place a greater emphasis on generics. Regarding nano electronics, the United States and Taiwan are the first countries that come to mind.
Does Russia not have a specialty?
Russia began developing its nano industry relatively recently. Not all of the companies that emerged between 2008 and 2010 managed to survive. But those that did are boasting $100-300 million in revenues today. While this is certainly a success, it is still far from global leadership, though there are some rare exceptions.
Still, if we were to appraise the scope of engineering competencies that Russia has today, what sort of specialty is Russia developing?
Our specialty is slightly off the beaten track. There are nano industries that do not require trying to conquer the world – like nano electronics. As an example, a company called TSMC is essentially a giant automated assembly line, performing relatively homogenous mass production. There are some high-level technologies where it is unlikely that we will become leaders – not because we lack qualified specialists, but because of the very nature of some of these activities. If we revert back to electronics, there are breakthrough areas where we have a rather dynamic track record. As you know, transistors operate based on electromagnetic interaction – they store information in the form of electric charges – but there is a new platform based on magnetic effects. It is called Magnetoresistive Random Access Memory (MRAM), which stores information in the form of magnetic charges.
The traditional computer Random Access Memory constantly needs electrical power to store information. If you turn off your computer, your content is erased, so you must save information in advance – on a hard drive, for example. However, with magnetoresistive memory, electrical power is only required to rewrite memory cells. You can save information and it will be stored virtually forever – this sort of memory is completely energy independent.
All electronics use a lot of power. Google selected the locations for its data centers based on the need to minimize the cost of electrical power and, to a greater extent, to minimize the cost of cooling. MRAM could become a major breakthrough as it operates at relatively high temperatures, which opens new avenues for its application. That is why we, in conjunction with French partners, used Technopolis Moscow as a platform to launch our first MRAM-based production. Our competencies helped a great deal in this respect.
There may be instances when our competencies could help in medicine. Our projects include two unique American companies: BIND Therapeutics and Selecta Biosciences. They offer brand new technological platforms for the development of new medicines and vaccines. We invested in them on the condition that they would open branches in Russia. There was a great deal of reluctance and resistance, but they still opened the branches. In time, specialists working in BIND’s and Selecta’s labs in Russia proved that they could play a fully-fledged role in the development of technological platforms.
Most people are still not entirely aware of the fact that a nano industry is taking shape. It seems that the ‘micro’ industry needed less time before it was recognized by the public, but perhaps this is what happens with every new industry. What discoveries have already taken place? What is noticeable to the naked eye?
I am not sure that the ‘micro’ industry needed less time. Computers first came about in the 1960s, but when did they enter our lives? The first time I held a laptop was in 1992. It is important to understand that there is a certain waiting time between the moment a project first appears on the industrial market and when it makes its way to the consumer market. I think it is more likely that microelectronic products reached mass consumers in the 1990s, even though they were invented some 30 years earlier. In a certain sense, the same thing is taking place in the nano industry. The absolute majority of our projects today are not B2C. However, this is a natural process and one of the reasons we get criticized – ‘Where is your nano? The money is lining someone’s pockets, that much is clear, but we do not see any nano.’ Indeed, only a very small portion of our products target consumers. There is a small start-up company producing nano cosmetics in Ufa – they make a decent cream, but we have already gotten out of it. There is another good cream called Flexiseq, which helps relieve rheumatic pains. Or take, for instance, a recent start-up producing water repellent cream for windshields that is based on a hydrophobic substance – it is both very efficient and resistant to environmental effects. This substance can be used to protect an entire vehicle or even to protect windows in a building. Development is well underway in this area, and some consumer products do appear, but there are not that many of them. This is not a six-month job, or even something that can be accomplished with just a year’s worth of work. Even with the ‘micro’ industry, it took 20 to 30 years.
What are your threshold values? At what stage does a project become interesting to you?
The RUSNANO group has a non-commercial part – the Infrastructure and Education Programs Fund. There we start with a zero threshold; we create start-ups out of nothing. I already mentioned the nano centers – these are factories of start-ups. We commissioned the first nano center only two years ago. Today, 11 such centers are operational in Russia, along with 275 start-ups that span from Tatarstan and Kazan to Mordovia and Novosibirsk.
What is the growth rate of these start-ups? What is their quality?
Of course there are strict KPIs. Each nano center has a scheduled number of start-ups that have to be created by the end of the year. Indeed, their mortality rate is rather high – around 70-80%. At the same time at RUSNANO, we look at them through our investor goggles – a young, up-and-coming company that shows dynamic growth is a potential for future investments.
Until 2016, you will be intentionally sustaining losses. Given today’s climate, do you get the feeling that this deadline should be moved ahead two to three years?
I do not think so. There is an objective side to all these figures, as much as there were some mistakes on our part. The objective side is simple – any private equity fund first looks for projects, then selects them, makes investments, and begins to build. The foundation, the walls, the equipment followed by assembly, and then … the launch! After the project has started, production needs to be fine-tuned, products need to be marketed, and only then will it become profitable. At that time, we may withdraw from the project. In ordinary circumstances, this process takes at least five years; given the environment in Russia, everything that has to do with the real economy is much more complex and takes more time and effort. In this sense, you continue to invest nonstop for five years and cannot make any profit. This is what makes our business unique, which is something we are still having a hard time communicating to the public.
To be able to give your money away so you can make more money? That takes an incredible amount of trust. People from the Forbes list would certainly ask you, “Can you make more money than me? Why aren’t you on the Forbes 100 list? Who are you anyway?” Our domestic mentality is not at a place where we comprehend that private equity is a stand-alone type of operation that shapes professional competencies. In this sector, it is not money that is sold, but the ability to invest. This takes time, authority, and reputation. All of this is only starting to take shape – not only when it comes to managers, but also to investors
But isn’t your 2016 target a bit too optimistic?
I hope not. Apart from the objective aspects of our business, there have also been mistakes. We mistakenly invested into certain projects and lost money. Nevertheless, at this stage we are not moving our target dates for reaching a self-sustained level and I would not want us to do so in the future.
How does the direct investments industry work in Russia?
This is a very interesting area. It first appeared in Russia 10-15 years ago and since then, we have seen domestic companies emerge and make a name for themselves. For instance, Baring Vostok has a reputation for being the strongest team and enjoys such a high level of trust that raising money comes very easy to them. Over those same 10-15 years, the private equity sector has not become a mass industry and very few managing companies have come of age on the market. Moreover, the industry itself is built in a completely paradoxical manner, which is difficult to wrap your mind around – professional managers raise money in the West to invest in Russia! In other words, they raise no money in Russia at all. This means that many investors are unable and unprepared to invest in private equity. Granted, it is a very special kind of business, which did not even have a legal framework in the past. We finally managed to pull it off, together with the Ministry of Economic Development, and now we have finally established a legal foundation that enables private equity funds to do business in Russia using the proper legal channels. The Russian investment partnerships have become the equivalent of private equity funds.
The Russian private equity investment sector is only beginning to take shape. Who are the classical investors in this area?
First of all, there are pension funds. By Russian law, pension funds are not allowed to invest in private equity. A similar situation used to exist in the United States – for 20 years, the American industry maintained itself at a level of $100 million per year, and in the late 1970s when US pension funds were allowed to invest in private equity, this sector started growing at an exponential rate. Today, it is much bigger than the banking sector.
Not so long ago, the Russian Prime Minister instructed the Central Bank and the Ministry of Finance to develop a proposal with us, which would open the doors for the Russian pension system to invest in private equity. Today, Russia’s Non-State Pension Funds are worth 2 trillion rubles ($50 billion) and 1% of these funds is 20 billion rubles ($500 million). This money is renewable and it is clear that it will radically change the whole situation.
Then there are the endowments, target funds for non-commercial use in education, medicine, and culture. Of course, these are few and far between in our country: Skolkovo, the Moscow State Foreign Relations Institute, and the Higher School of Economics. We should also be reminded of the family offices owned by wealthy Russians who have to invest their money somewhere. This group of limited partners is only beginning to take shape in Russia. I think that we are at the starting point and the money available to this industry will go up dramatically over the next five years.
If institutional investors in Russia experience problems, what sort of difficulties do private investors encounter?
Mindset. To be able to give your money away so you can make more money? That takes an incredible amount of trust. People from the Forbes list would certainly ask you, “Can you make more money than me? Why aren’t you on the Forbes 100 list? Who are you anyway?” Our domestic mentality is not at a place where we comprehend that private equity is a stand-alone type of operation that shapes professional competencies. In this sector, it is not money that is sold, but the ability to invest. This takes time, authority, and reputation. All of this is only starting to take shape – not only when it comes to managers, but also to investors.
At the last St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, we held our first panel discussion on this subject. We brought limited and general partners together. I have a great deal of respect for Baring Vostok and other companies who are older than us – they have 15 years of experience, after all. But now we have all agreed to work together to build a non-commercial association that will promote the private equity industry in Russia.
So far, the Russian industry has been lagging behind the other BRICS countries.
If we are talking about the whole world, it is going through a post-revolution stage. The president of The Carlyle Group spoke at the latest private equity conference, where he offered some alternatives on basic notions. Today, private equity falls under the alternative investments category, but are they really alternative? The scope of these alternative investments is 1.5 times greater than that of the so-called classic investments.
Speaking about the BRICS countries, I do not know any serious Brazilian companies. I see several Indian companies, and a huge number of Chinese companies. I think the latter are measured in hundreds. In Russia, there are very few of them. I know one or two in South Africa. In this sense, Russia is a middleweight player. It is weaker than China, but stronger than her remaining BRICS neighbors.
Which Russian regions are ready to work with foreign investors that are interested in scientific and technological businesses?
We put together a list of approximately 15 regions that have proven serious in fostering innovations in general, and in the nano industry in particular, regardless of politics. The list of leading regions includes Moscow, Tatarstan, Mordovia, Novosibirsk, Tomsk, Penza, and Ulyanovsk. Their work in this area is structured systemically. Samara has shown some positive dynamics lately as well.
How closely does Russia cooperate, if at all, with the emerging markets when it comes to science and technologies?
Overall, I would describe the level of this cooperation as insufficient, with the obvious exception of China. There, we are stepping up our cooperation, including on the part of RUSNANO. India is a very interesting country, but our relationship with them still remains weak. I see no serious interactions with Brazil at all. We have contacts with South Africa in the fast growing solar power sector, but they are also quite weak. But all of these are exceptions to the rule.
Of course China makes the most interesting case. What we see there is a veritable tempest, an onslaught of sorts. Every two to three years, everything changes. Entire industries are born where they never existed in the past. Sometimes, they are born so violently that their explosive growth destroys the global market. Take, for example, RUSNANO’s tragic story with polycrystalline silicon. When we began to build the polycrystalline silicon plant in Kursk Oblast, China’s manufacturing capacity was virtually non-existent. When we finished building the plant, China commissioned production facilities whose capacities were comparable to the global market volume. Naturally, the market collapsed and caused a disaster – dozens of bankruptcies among the largest companies. Our project went belly up too – we started with the price of $400 per kilo of polycrystalline and ended up with a price of $16 per kilo. We could not sustain a 25-fold drop, and as a result the project had to fold as well. A number of Chinese companies also went bankrupt because they did not expect any of this.
At this stage, our relationship with China is not at a point where we are both interested in the same investments and potential projects. RUSNANO plans to radically step up its efforts on the Chinese front. We hope that in the foreseeable future we will create a venture fund together with Chinese and Korean partners.
Out of all those things that have been developed inside RUSNANO, what is slated for mass production in the coming years?
Nuclear medicine. It is an area that is going through global dynamic development, but it is still in an embryonic stage in Russia. Several months ago, we opened a positron tomography center in Ufa, which proved highly efficient. The Bashkortostan government and its president, Rustem Khamitov, helped us a great deal. The center can diagnose diseases at a very early stage, at a point when no other method can. The center’s specialty is oncological and cardiovascular diseases, the two leading causes of death in Russia. With both diseases, an early diagnosis radically improves the chances of recovery. This year we are planning to launch similar centers in Bryansk, Voronezh, Lipetsk, and Oryol. These will be followed by another wave in nine other regions spanning an area all the way to the Far East. This is precisely the B2C commerce that we spoke about earlier. That is why we find our cooperation with Rosatom exceedingly promising and interesting.
Of course, China makes the most interesting case. What we see there is a veritable tempest, an onslaught of sorts. Every two to three years, everything changes. Entire industries are born where they never existed in the past. Sometimes, they are born so violently that their explosive growth destroys the global market. Take, for example, RUSNANO’s tragic story with polycrystalline silicon. When we began to build the polycrystalline silicon plant in Kursk Oblast, China’s manufacturing capacity was virtually non-existent. When we finished building the plant, China commissioned production facilities whose capacities were comparable to the global market volume
Turning to B2B (business-to-business), it is widely known that if you add nanotubes to aluminum, its strength approximates that of titanium. A combination of copper and nanotubes still has the conductivity of copper, but can withstand an electric current that is 100 times more powerful. Plastic materials become conductive and their strength increases dozens of percentage points. Nanotubes can radically change the properties of rubber, paints, ceramics, and cement, as well as those of lithium ion batteries and composites. The latter is of fundamental importance for many sectors, including the automotive industry.
This knowledge has been accumulated over the last 20 years. Over 18,000 international patents have been registered that use nanotubes to improve various materials, but two fundamental problems have remained. The first problem is the lack of mass production technologies that can yield nanotubes with stable properties. The second problem is injecting nanotubes into a specific material – if you add nanotubes to aluminum alloys, they simply pop up on the surface or dissolve. We have reason to believe that we have managed to solve the first problem once and for all – we developed a unique technology to produce single-wall carbon nanotubes, which will solve the problem of their mass production. In terms of the price-to-quality ratio, it is the best in its class. And now we are getting closer to resolving the second problem with respect to a broad range of materials.
I am referring to OCSiAl, a company based in Novosibirsk and headed up by a savvy entrepreneur Yuri Koropachinskiy and a talented scientist Mikhail Predtechenskiy. They have a very strong team that is on the verge of another breakthrough. Production is well under way at the Novosibirsk State Technical University and the development of new applications is in full swing. I think that Russia can claim global leadership in this area. It seems that our project team has reached a stage that nobody else has been able to achieve – putting this technology on an industrial scale. We expect to yield tangible results by next year.
What new discoveries are you looking forward to most? And which technologies are being tested right now that particularly interest you?
I find regenerative medicine interesting. The ability to grow human organs may bring about colossal breakthroughs – I think this will happen around 2020. I am interested in everything that is based on bioinformatics, which is when the knowledge of the human genome, for instance, makes it possible to come up with individualized pharmaceuticals that factor in specific characteristics of each patient’s body.
I am a firm believer in the future of nano materials, or to be more precise, in nanotubes. Imagine the whole world or the entire technosphere consisting of metal, plastic, and cement. These are materials produced in millions of tons – just by adding nanotubes, you can increase their mechanical strength by 20-50%. Greater strength leads to reduced mass, which translates to reduced fuel consumption during transportation. Moreover, the entire manufacturing chain produces multiplier effects that combined make the entire human technosphere radically more energy efficient and less material intensive. What makes it particularly important is its potential mass application in Russia’s traditional industries, such as metallurgy, industrial materials, electrical and technical products, and plastics.
I am happy to cite a specific example. We have joined forces with tire manufacturers from Lower Kama and are about to complete a project where nanotubes would be used to manufacture tires. When it comes to tire parameters there is a golden triangle: brake path length, fuel efficiency, and wear and tear. It really feels like there is some sort of sorcery there because if you improve one parameter, another one gets worse – they are in contradiction. The introduction of nanotubes in these new tires will bring an improvement to all three parameters of anywhere between 10% and 25%, which is a unique result. We hope that trial production will commence next year. Adding nanotubes to plastic or composite materials holds a great deal of promise as well. One of the main issues we have been having with these materials is their color. To paint ABS plastic or SMC composites – the kind that are used for manufacturing millions of car parts per year – they need to be primed first, simply because they do not conduct electricity. With nanotubes, they can be painted in a cheap and environmentally-friendly manner using electrostatic powder coating, together with metal parts based on the same technology. The application of nanotubes in composite materials used in aircraft building could solve the lightning protection problem in the near future.
Overall, the use of nanotubes in basic construction materials and at the level of mass technological processes may yield dozens, or even hundreds, of breakthroughs in the real economy. I believe that we can reach the global level in this area, if not become world leaders.