The Russian government sees AI as a key emerging technology, which along with other digital solutions (like Big Data and Quantum Computing) may increase efficiency and drive the structural transformations of the Russian economy. International cooperation is still not articulated in federal policies due to the current geopolitical situation and some techno-nationalist approaches. But the position and statements of Dmitry Peskov (the President`s Special Representative for the Digital Development), Sberbank, Moscow Government and other key business and governmental entities clearly indicates that international AI cooperation is, or will be, welcomed. A set of drivers may be identified: competence-building; cost-sharing; possible synergies (also through access to the world`s best solutions). AI may also be seen as a "testbed" for other digital and broader high-tech cooperation in the era of geopolitical controversies.
However, considering "5S", it must be clear that in the short-term any cooperation will be project-based, and, most likely, linked to a basic, pre-commercial applied research (not mentioning pure commercial activities). There are also some operational challenges on the Russian side: direct foreign participation in the "Digital Economy" National Project is unlikely, and the general political framework and instruments for a deeper AI cooperation are unclear. Still, these problems are not unsolvable.
We may identify several areas of possible cooperation.
For science, the classic options are at hand: granting programs in support of curiosity-driven AI research for joint EU-Russia teams or (better still) collaborations between Russian and EU universities/academic institutions. Here we shall mention that the EU member states and Russia, as well as companies from the respective countries, still have some cooperation in the AI S&T. Yandex and HSE are partners in the Large Hadron Collider`s LHCb collaboration with a strong AI part. Siemens supported AI Lab in St. Petersburg Polytechnic University, while SAP Labs CIS opened 2 D-shops in Russia. In 2017, ERA.Net RUS Plus and the Russian Foundation for Basic Research announced AI-related grants. Finally, in the fall of 2018, the First Deputy Minister for Science and Higher Education, Grigoriy Trubnikov, noted that Russia is negotiating some AI-related research with the EU.
Another promising area is what could be called "AI for research", which is developing AI-enhanced IT solutions for R&D. Among the options are:
1. Megascience. EU, EU member states and Russia have very successful collaborations in this area – from particle physics facilities (like LHC, Exfel, FAIR or NICA) up to the International Space Station and space science. No less important is the megascience pioneered use of AI in its research. Here we envision synergies with Russia's ambitious plans to develop mega-science facilities.
2. Pharma and other healthcare R&D, including bioinformatics – the accent on human health makes this area relatively safe for cooperation. This may be paralleled with Russia's increasing efforts in support of the national pharmaceutical industry and the industry`s own digital efforts. For example, a "National Database for Medical Knowledge" association (developers and users of AI systems and data in healthcare) was formed in 2018 with the support of the Russian Venture Company.
As a next step, more institutionalized collaborations/partnerships may take place in areas that are related to Smart Cities and other Smart infrastructures, with accompanying dialogue on AI regulations.