Alexander Ausan: “We have an excess of high-quality human capital”

State-of-the-art technologies that become more complex with immense speed entail complication of laws and regulations governing them. Therefore, one should not be surprised at the emergence of Federation of Creative Industries, that aims to study the norms relating to the most bureaucracy-sensitive sphere — production of content capable of becoming an object of intellectual property. To find out, why the federation appeared and how it solves its tasks, “Invest-Foresight” interviewed the chairman of the board of the federation, Doctor of Economy, professor, dean of the Faculty of Economics of Moscow State University, head of the department of applied institutional economics of Moscow State University Alexander Ausan.

Pandemic turned out to be a tough teacher

— First of all, it would be interesting to know: what became the main motivation for the emergence of the Federation of Creative Industries?

— The Federation of Creative Industries (FCI) was the result of the agreements of business organizations, very unlike each other, about certain collective actions. Pandemic has become the trigger that led to some important regulatory steps.

You must remember that after the first quarantine last year, our state decided to create a very special environment for the IT industry. It is one of the creative spheres that received in these emergency conditions an environment (or at least a promise of an environment from state) for its accelerated development.

Now let’s talk a little bit about how this is related to the pandemic, and not only to it. Another process, no less resonant literally for all industries, accompanies the pandemic. I mean a qualitative leap in digitalization — what is already commonly called the fourth industrial revolution. The pandemic turned out to be a tough teacher. Remember: in conditions of even a short lockdown, when it was necessary to order products, electronic passes, etc. in a completely new way, it made a huge number of people master digital literacy. Moreover, those who used to have before minimal skills concerning the computer and the Internet. If a coronavirus had not happened, in a calmer rhythm of life this skill development would take 5, if not 10 years.

— That is, quarantine had positive aspects?

— Quarantine had partly positive impact as humanity faced a unique case in world history, when three billion people suddenly fell under actual “house arrest” and spent there at least a month and a half. This circumstance gave impetus to human communication – already through the most innovative means of communications. As structural changes in the economy caused problems with employment and income, people began to actively look for unexpected ways to make money for themselves.

So here two factors made themselves felt: people began to think very seriously about the crisis in the economy and opportunities for themselves to get out of it; secondly, numerous digital tools, structures, platforms appeared — and quickly enough. It became clear how easy you can translate your hobby into a successful sale in the global market.

Place at the World Feast

— We are used to the term “real sector,” but, it seems, now we face the birth of a new concept — that is the creative sector. Would it make sense to apply to him a special favoring regime, at least initially?

— Of course, it would be justified. There are already convincing examples of its application to the same IT industry. Moreover, at the end of 2020 under the patronage of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation, The Concept of the Development of Creative Industries in Russia was compiled (I headed the working group that was directly involved).

In parallel, the RSPP bureau (Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs) and its committee on intellectual property organization took part. Later our developments converged in a single document. Therefore, this is not at all some speculative question, but a quite practical one. Yes, it is not easy to agree on a concept; it is clear that as soon as it comes before finance, the great Ministry of Finance instantly indicates its position. But in many countries, creative industries are seen as a very promising way to develop national economies; it would be unreasonable if Russia remained “offside” at this world feast. Our country has a notorious creative potential, known for all kinds of creative prizes, victories at competitions, Olympiads, and festivals.

— Did you encounter objections of colleagues from the scientific community?

— The working group of the Ministry of Culture mainly consisted of researchers. They had methodological discussions with colleagues from RSPPs. In any case, I could not meet any open ones opponents of the project who would say that it is nonsense, you do not need to do it, or everything you do is wrong.

Of course, there are real problems. In world practice, there are three ways to define creative industry, they are very contradictory; each has its own advantages and disadvantages. You can take as a basis the formation of a list of specific creative industries. You can take as a basis the creative professions themselves and track how they work in industries in general and in specific enterprises.

And you can take as a basis intellectual property — the economic essence of the creative industry is that the creative idea is transformed into an object of protection as intellectual property; thus creativity becomes an economy, being introduced into the market.

We are now fighting on how to combine these approaches. We do this primarily because we consider it possible. The main thing is to outline the boundaries of the creative industry and develop the right methods to stimulate it.

— What exactly convinced you of the usefulness of the organizational formation of the Federation of Creative Industries?

— FCI is the brainchild of business associations, business organizations; it is born through the consciousness that there is a certain community of interests and there are desirable institutional tools “to develop together and in cooperation.” Not casually, a sharp breakthrough in the IT industry became a trigger here. It is logical why the Government has adopted such a special favoring regime; after all, the crisis, which we often call coronacrisis, is special. In an “ordinary” crisis, everything falls, except for the overnight quotes. But this crisis is originated by external shock. Nothing like this happened during almost 100 years, since the October Revolution and the Spanish flu epidemic. As the crisis is from the outside shock, some industries and sectors are relentlessly throwing down, but others, such as today IT, obtain acceleration. And we face the rise of digital and logistics companies. Realizing that such a locomotive is formed in a falling economy, the government is naturally trying to give it additional energy so that already these industries begin to pull behind the entire national economy.

— At the faculty, which you have been leading for more than a year, probably you tried to “measure” the weight of the project…

— You are partly right, but with one fundamental clarification — before this project began its research history, it first went through the intuition of its authors. She, actually, allowed detecting with almost error-free accuracy which particular direction is noteworthy for subsequent scientific justification and development. Now my colleagues from the Faculty of Economics of Moscow State University and from the Institute of National Projects are indeed conducting similar studies.

Yes, this “lab phase” is now visible; but — at first, there was still not an experiment. The life itself, as they say, suggested: the Federation of Creative Industries is needed. And — how it should be build and developped.

Russia has a tendency to non-standard activities

— Which segments of the economy as a matter of priority need to strengthen their creative component?

— If answered in terms of the correct methodology, I would characterize this priority through each of three methods: through industries, creative professions and intellectual property. As for industries, here we can see just unexpected things. It is clear that today there are initially successful ones among them: the same programming, for example. Nevertheless, I would note in this row — pay attention — animation.

We have in Russia an illustrative example of success in the creative industries (even when this term did not yet exist): there were cartoons familiar to all of us since childhood. And today “Masha and bear”, “Fixiki”, “Smeshariki”, having appeared in open access in the form of exclusively creative content, turned into a system of competently protected rights of intellectual property. As a result, this showed a very

Currently, a similar search for creative forms is underway in the banking sector. How, for example, in Sber, which is very interested in developing this issue, but, according to my observations, increasingly does not want to be a bank… We notice very active efforts to lay paths in a completely different direction; how these innovations will end, it is still difficult to assess.

Literally, before the interview with your magazine, we discussed in detail with colleagues from the Institute of National Projects more than a dozen areas that — on consensus expert opinion — are recognized as significant for the near future of creative industries (then disputes begin, although, as you understand, this is completely normal).

We are talking about the mentioned animation, art crafts, fine art, design, cinema, radio and TV, music, literary and publishing, architecture and construction engineering, performing arts, software, and video games. A number of researchers include fashion, new media, advertising, photography, games and toys (not only computer ones), design, and jewelry.

Another area that has recently been developing very intensively is gastronomy. Obviously, the creative results of Russian restaurateurs and cooks face noticeable demand from the mass consumer, in comparison, for example, with museums or theaters. Especially today restaurant standards are not so much inscribed in the requirements of the domestic as well as global market.

— Robotization, raising of the retirement age, economic degradation in a number of small towns, hidden unemployment and related turmoil in labor relations raise to a new peak actuality of the human capital issues. How, in these often-dysfunctional conditions, could the creative sector not only save itself, but also provide a healthy impact on the economy and social sphere?

— I dare to claim that creative industries just contain the keys for addressing some of the extremely difficult, even dramatic, issues of a new historical period we have already entered. Moreover, it is not covid, although it played a role here, but — a digital revolution.

Now let us look at the prospect of artificial intelligence. States of the world, competing in its development, will receive not only a certain set of benefits and amenities, but also create (are already creating) a lot of new “headaches.” Why? AI will begin to supplant a number of professions, and those not related to heavy physical labor, as it was in the first industrial revolution, but characteristic of the middle class.

AI feeds on analytical professions — meaning financial, legal analysis, etc. In other words, AI unmanned will perform everything that is so far analyzed by a person according to the data given. Better than with people participation.

As a result, a global difficult social problem arises when the middle class is washed out: it will fall outside the usual economic employment; in this case, we are talking about educated people who have achieved certain life standards. The question arises: what to do with them? What is the strategy of behavior for a large number of people who can easily be “offside” in the context of the new reality?

— And what are the answers to these questions?

—Two answers are possible. The first one (and this option is now being discussed by various expert communities, primarily in European countries) provides for a “junior pension plan” — guaranteed minimum income. The first counter-argument to this idea, expressing its unrealisability — at least for most countries of the world – is that Russia has already tested launch of the pension reform you, which showed: we and short in money even for pensioners solely… There will be 40 countries on the planet that are able to implement in relatively important amounts the idea of ​ ​ a guaranteed minimum income.

But there is another option. This is a creative economy. When we tell people that you will become volunteers or you can do all kinds of other useful things, it should mean the following: you have something to do, do it, but you need to understand: one thing is volunteering, and the other is economic activity. Creative activity in creative economy becomes intellectual property and then it is capitalized.

And it seems to me that this answer option is most suitable for most countries, including the Russian Federation, since, I emphasize, according to intercountry dimensions of socio-cultural characteristics Russia has always shown a tendency to non-standard types of activities — to individualized, piece-by-piece ones.

Over the twentieth century, our country has managed to make a set of bombs, launch a satellite into Earth orbit, and launch an atomic and hydro turbine. However, Russia did not succeed in making competitive TV, refrigerator, car, personal computer — due to the fact that in Russia it is much easier to implement non-standard types of activities, but not the mass production ones. Therefore, it is not surprising that the TV was invented in Russia, but other countries obtained the results of this invention. Zhores Alferov made heteroschemes, which have become the basis of modern telecommunications technologies, but it cannot be said in any way, that the center of telecommunications business is located in Russia.

In conclusion, I cannot but note that if we are talking about competition in innovation, the competition that we are still losing, it would be instructive to follow which way we went on in innovative development, starting from 2005–2007. We just copied the institutions of Silicon Valley’s innovative economy, roughly speaking. We transferred almost all of them to our legislation, we have formed appropriate structures.

— But the result was not encouraging…

— Because in Silicon Valley, besides these institutions, there is a huge excess of private capital, ready to take risks, invest in various areas. We have a different picture — the efforts to replace it in innovations in small volumes with state capital, and it proved to be ineffective. We have an excess of other capital that we have never learned to dispose of: human and high-quality capital — it just spills out without finding use cases. Therefore, in Russia, new innovative schemes should not be based on huge private money, but on for creative human capital, which — so far — exists. That is what we need to ensure by minimal financial and, more importantly, institutional and infrastructural support. In order to transform it from “pure and selfless” creativity into a subject of normal economic turnover.

Interviewed by Alexey Golyakov

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