Since 1992, the International Science and Technology Centre (ISTC) has funded projects which actively promote non-proliferation, encouraging scientists of former Soviet Union countries to turn away from weapons research towards more market-driven, peaceful fields of science and technology.
ISTC is a partnership between the EU, the USA, Japan and the Russian Federation. Its programmes offer NIS scientists a chance to work with like-minded professionals from the international community in areas such as environmental protection, energy production, and nuclear safety. The spin-off benefit is that these scientists learn a great deal about how the international research community operates which, in turn, adds value to their own countries' R&D sectors in terms of learning new skills and developing contacts.
Over the past eight years, the ISTC has supported the work of more than 35 000 scientists in more than 400 former military institutes. It has financed 1 450 projects to the tune of €460 million covering a large number of technical disciplines including chemistry, high-energy physics, biotechnology, space and aeronautics, and engineering.
About 20% of ISTC funding comes from government institutions and industry, which shows how valuable its projects are to both the private and public science and technology sectors.
According to INCO's Didier Gambier, the next step for ISTC may be to move away from only financing projects.
He said: "If the ISTC is to consolidate its success it must now face the difficulty of engaging scientists who work on weapons of mass destruction in a complete and irreversible conversion of their activities, re-directing their energies to civil needs though a policy of innovation, supported by legal reforms in Russia and other CIS countries."