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Nobel Prize Winner Dismisses Skolkovo Offer

Nobel-Prize-winning physicist Andre Geim

Nobel-Prize-winning physicist Andre Geim

When it comes to working at Russia’s planned version of Silicon Valley, newly crowned Nobel-Prize-winning physicist Andre Geim is, well, not exactly game.

According to “The Moscow Times,” on October 5, the day Geim was told the Nobel Prize committee had chosen him, Skolkovo’s Alexei Sitnikov said he hoped to lure Geim and his partner, Konstantin Novoselov, to the tech hub being developed outside of Moscow.

Today, Agence France Presse reported that the invitation had been made.

But in an interview with “Ekho Moskvy,” the Sochi-born Geim -- who holds a Dutch passport and works at a British university -- said he had no intention of becoming Skolkovo’s poster boy.

“It’s stupid to import big names,” he said. “You need to grow your own.”

Offers of money, he added, would not convince him to return.

Geim said short-term focus on the sciences in Russia would not produce real results. Long-term structural changes are needed, he said: "If two to three percent of the budget goes to the sciences, they will reach adequate levels in 50 years’ time."

Skeptics of Russia’s latest innovation push say that political and economic liberalization are the real keys to spurring scientific breakthroughs.

Earlier this week, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev lamented that the winning physicists had pursued their research abroad instead of in their homeland.
Medvedev himself went abroad this summer, as he traveled to California’s Silicon Valley and rubbed elbows with the likes of Apple CEO Steve Jobs in a quest to drum up investment in Skolkovo.

On October 10, Medvedev’s host in California, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, is set to lead a delegation of venture capitalists on a Skolkovo visit -- the future home of high-tech firms, but not, it seems, of Andre Geim.

-- Richard Solash

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