Open Data for a Better Ukrainian Future

Posted by: U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt

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1991 Open Data Incubator “Demo Day”, April 2016
1991 Open Data Incubator “Demo Day”, April 2016

Last Friday, I got to attend the 1991 Open Data Incubator “Demo Day” at the Eurasia Business Center.  This is one of my favorite events all year, and was definitely a highlight of my week.  The Open Data Incubator, founded by the amazing Denis Gursky, brings together teams from all around Ukraine for a super-intense six-week program of developing open data solutions in different fields.  This year, 14 teams from Dnipropetrovsk, Kharkiv, Kyiv, Lviv and Odesa put together open data plans for agriculture, energy efficiency, public safety, anticorruption, and transportation.  Of course, the best part of the program is the Demo Day at the end, because that’s when you get to see what the teams have come up with.  As always, seeing what Ukraine’s dynamic and talented technology experts can do was incredibly inspirational.  I’m very grateful to Denis and to the United States-supported Western NIS Enterprise Fund (and also Microsoft Ukraine, who hosted Demo Day) for making this open data event possible.

1991 Open Data Incubator “Demo Day”, April 2016
1991 Open Data Incubator “Demo Day”, April 2016

The 1991 Open Data Incubator is a powerful example of how the innovation economy can drive progress not only in business, but in all of society.  I’m from California, so I’m a technology optimist.  I’ve seen the extraordinarily important, transformative impact that technology has had during my professional lifetime of about thirty years.  Every couple of years, I try to get to Silicon Valley for a day or two, because you talk to people there and it’s a reminder of how fast the world is changing.  You meet people who have boundless imagination and who are absolutely committed to the idea of leveraging technology to improve the world in which we live.  Today, Ukraine is tapping into those same dynamics and I’m very excited to see where that leads.

1991 Open Data Incubator “Demo Day”, April 2016
1991 Open Data Incubator “Demo Day”, April 2016

Open data is a prime example of a multi-purpose approach that has benefits in many areas – fighting corruption, leveraging innovation, driving economic growth – something that was obvious from talking to the Incubator project representatives last Friday.  I loved hearing about AgroMonitor and AgriEye, innovators who are using information to modernize and raise the technological sophistication of agriculture, such an important part of Ukraine’s economy and with such huge potential.  As somebody who travels a lot in Ukraine and has spent a lot of time on Ukrainian roads, it was great to learn about Navizor, an open data navigation solution.  These are all examples of how technology can transform traditional business processes in a way that creates new services, facilitates economic growth, and improves quality of life.

Ukraine has all the ingredients to go through a fundamental transformation in economic possibility driven by open data and grassroots innovation, the same transformation we’ve seen in other countries.  You have talented and well-qualified engineers and technologists.  You have an extraordinary DNA for creativity and innovation.  And you have the national commitment to democracy and strong civil society that is an indispensable ingredient of a flourishing innovation economy.

As Ukraine’s incredibly talented technologists continue to develop that innovation economy, the United States will remain your strong partner.  Keep it up – you’re building the future.

 

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The Science and Technology Center in Ukraine: Supporting a Safer World for 20 Years

Posted by: Simon G. Limage, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Nonproliferation Programs, U.S. Department of State

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Let Us Beat Swords Into Plowshares statue at the United Nations Headquarters, New York City
Let Us Beat Swords Into Plowshares statue at the United Nations Headquarters, New York City

Outside the United Nations building in New York stands a bronze sculpture of a man beating a sword into a ploughshare. This depiction of man’s desire to end war and transform its terrible implements into tools for peaceful uses was sculpted by Yevgeny Vuchetich, a Soviet artist born in Ukraine. After the breakup of the Soviet Union in the 1990s, Ukraine emerged as a global leader in WMD nonproliferation efforts with great contributions to global peace and security. One prominent example was the evolution and opening of the Science and Technology Center in Ukraine, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary. The STCU stands today as a real-life example of the symbolism of Vuchetich’s sculpture.

Over the course of the last 20 years, Ukraine was joined by Moldova, Azerbaijan, Georgia, the United States, Sweden, Canada and EURATOM to create an innovative center that would redirect the skills and knowledge of weapons scientists to peaceful applications. To date, the STCU has worked with nearly 21,000 scientists, of which about 12,000 were former weapon scientists from the Soviet era.

For more than 20 years, the STCU’s primary mission has been to promote a safer world by supporting civilian science and technology partnerships that address global security threats and advance nonproliferation. In short, the STCU supports responsible research by scientists and academics from broad backgrounds and multiple disciplines.

Consider some of the STCU’s many achievements:

  • The STCU’s nearly 20-year partnership with the U.S. National Cancer Institute has allowed researchers to develop methodology from studies of post-Chernobyl radiation fallout. The results were used to protect children from the nuclear power plant disaster in Fukushima, Japan. Results from both studies have been published in highly regarded scientific journals.
  • The STCU has supported International Space Station cooperation between Ukraine and the United States in research of outer space for peaceful purposes. Such research includes life and microgravity sciences. Many of these projects were conducted on the International Space Station.
  • STCU scientists continue to engage in environmental assessments, remediation and long-term monitoring of areas impacted by the Fukushima disaster. Researchers have developed methods to reduce the volume of radioactive waste and continue to monitor any radioactive pollution of the forest ecosystems.

556702_511509175540700_802101174_nFuture research will focus on chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosion mitigation to combat terrorists who seek to use weapons of mass destruction for nefarious purposes. The STCU will support projects that improve the security of pathogens that pose proliferation risks; advance safe and responsible conduct in the biological sciences; and develop countermeasures for emerging diseases. The STCU also plans to support improved monitoring of commercial use of radiological material in oil well geological logging operations, as well as and transportation security for nuclear material.

Since 1995, U.S. funding to the STCU has been more than $166 million. For 20 years it has stood as a bulwark in the fight against those trying to develop WMD by harnessing the region’s best scientific minds. Its achievements may not grab major headlines, but its successes cannot be overstated. You can read more about the STCU at www.stcu.int

Kharkiv: Defying Stereotypes and Leading the Way to Ukraine’s Future

Posted by: U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt

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Neutron Source Facility, Kharkiv, March 2016
Neutron Source Facility, Kharkiv, March 2016

This week, I had the honor to travel to Kharkiv with President Poroshenko as we launched the commissioning phase of our joint $73 million state-of-the-art Neutron Source Facility, which has the potential to vastly expand the research capabilities of the renowned Kharkiv Institute of Physics and Technology.  My visit, and especially our meeting with the bright young police volunteers training to serve in Slovyansk, Kramatorsk and Severodonetsk, reminded me again how fast Ukraine is changing, and just how outdated the simplistic Russian narrative of Ukrainian geographic division has become.  Seeing such dynamic energy in Kharkiv and all the exciting projects in progress there underlines the hope I have for Ukraine’s future.

My first stop with the President was the Kharkiv Institute for Physics and Technology’s Neutron Source Facility (NSF).  It was well over a year ago that I first visited the site with Assistant Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller in December of 2014.  At that time, the project still had some way to go before the NSF could start work.  This time around, though, it’s in the very final stretch, with physical construction now complete.  The $73 million the United States has invested in this state-of-the-art facility will give Ukraine new research capabilities, as well as the ability to produce isotopes for industrial and medical use right here in Ukraine.  My congratulations go most of all to the brilliant scientists of the Institute who were our key partners in making this exciting project a reality, which marks yet another milestone in the twenty-year story (and counting) of our science and technology cooperation with Ukraine.  Ukrainian scientists continue working in close partnership with U.S. National Laboratories, including Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Idaho National Laboratory, on moving the facility from equipment installation, through commissioning, and into full operation.  The NSF will provide a platform for training a new generation of nuclear experts in Ukraine, and continue the proud tradition of excellence in applied and theoretical physics that has distinguished  the Kharkiv Institute of Physics and Technology since its founding in 1928.

In my conversation with President Poroshenko during the visit, I urged him to support all the steps necessary to commission the facility in 2016, so that Ukrainians can benefit from the full potential of the research center. The upcoming 2016 Nuclear Security Summit, scheduled for March 31 and April 1 in Washington, D.C., will offer President Poroshenko to reaffirm, and the world to recognize, Ukraine’s continuing international leadership on issues of nuclear non-proliferation and safety.

From the NSF, we were off to meet the new Patrol Police cadets training in Kharkiv and observe their rigorous (and action-packed!) basic training course.  The group we saw will fill new Patrol Police positions in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, including Kramatorsk, Slovyansk and Severodonetsk.  I was incredibly inspired by these patriotic young men and women – who represent the next generation of Ukrainians taking their country’s future into their own hands.  Like the cadets in other cities, they are taking the initiative to win the trust of their fellow citizens and keep their communities safe.  I have been very proud of the United States’ support throughout Ukraine for the new Patrol Police, who play an essential role in helping rebuild the faith that the Ukrainian people have in their government institutions – one of their most valuable contributions to Ukrainian society.  And nowhere is that more valuable than in these communities in eastern Ukraine, where Russia’s unprovoked aggression has wrought such devastation and threatened – unsuccessfully, I might add – to destroy people’s trust in their government.  But contrary to Russia’s intentions, Ukraine is stronger and more united than ever, and these cadets are living proof of it.

IMG_3170
Kharkiv Patrol Police Training Center, March 2016

Kharkiv is among the many Ukrainian cities making reforms to attract investment and jobs to their region, and this was evident at our visit to Turboatom, a turbine manufacturer and longtime Kharkiv institution that provides thousands of jobs at its mammoth facility near the center of the city.  Turboatom may have a long history, but it’s also reinventing itself: it’s reached deals with U.S. businesses including Westinghouse and Holtec to modernize Ukraine’s energy infrastructure and move Ukraine toward sustainable energy independence.  Westinghouse is helping Turboatom modernize Ukraine’s nuclear reactors, providing more clean energy to the national electrical grid and developing expertise relevant to other countries with Russian designed reactors, including in Europe; Holtec, meanwhile, is jointly developing spent nuclear fuel storage systems with Turboatom for both domestic and international markets.  It was striking to see at Turboatom so many Ukrainian flags, as well as a touching tribute to employees who were ATO veterans, another rebuke to Russia’s false narrative of division. I’m glad to see Ukrainian and U.S. businesses working together, as with Turboatom, to help Ukraine tap into its enormous potential in domestic energy production and to reduce its reliance on equipment imports from Russia, and hope we’ll see even more cooperation like this in the future.

Ukraine’s future is bright, as it continues to defy Russia’s stereotypes about east and west and present a united Ukraine.  My trip to Kharkiv served as a reminder of just how much more united Ukraine has become over the past two years, through their clear choice for a European identity and in response to Russia’s aggression.  Ukraine has made remarkable progress, something that is all too easy to forget in the day-to-day drama of domestic politics.  And nowhere is that more true than Kharkiv.  At the airport, just before flying back to Kyiv, I had the chance to meet with Governor Rainin.  As I noted in my last blog on Kharkiv (from September), I’m thrilled to have such a strong partner there, one who is committed to pursuing reform and anti-corruption.  As we parted ways, Governor Rainin told me with obvious pride that “Kharkiv is moving ahead.”  My visit made very clear how true that is.

Ambassador Tefft Visits Ivano-Frankivsk

Marc Gartner, Economic Officer

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Amb. Tefft and Mykhaylo Vyshyvanyuk, Head of the Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast Administration at the oblast border

In mid-November, I had the chance of a lifetime: to travel in Ivano-Frankivsk with our Ambassador and see first-hand the positive impact U.S.-Ukraine cooperation has made for residents of the region.  Ivano-Frankivsk is one of the more beautiful oblasts in the country, with gorgeous rustic villages nestled in verdant mountain valleys, a regional capital (Ivano-Frankivsk) with splendid churches and centuries-old streets, and some of the most hospitable and welcoming people in Ukraine.  Over the course of two days, I witnessed a culture that looks with pride at its traditions and at the same time is intent on its future.

The Ambassador went to Ivano-Frankivsk to participate in a symposium on shale gas to which the Embassy had brought a number of U.S. experts. While in town, he had meetings with the governor and mayor, alumni of U.S.-government-sponsored exchange programs, and Peace Corps volunteers.  For me, one of our most interesting meetings was at the Vasyl Stefanyk Precarpathian National University of Ivano-Frankivsk.  This excellent higher-educational establishment has been collaborating with the

Nano-Materials Center at the Vasyl Stefanyk Precarpathian National University of Ivano-Frankivsk

United States to build a novel research lab – the Nano-Materials Center, one of only two in the entire country.  Both the United States and Ukraine have contributed approximately $300,000 each since 2009 to develop the research center under a CRDF grant.  In a meeting hall of about 35 people, including professors, graduate and undergraduate students, and local officials, we saw a fascinating presentation by the center’s lead scientist on the history of the laboratory and its areas of focus.  The lab was performing cutting-edge research and development in engineering as diverse as nanotech manufacturing and lithium batteries, applications which could be commercialized and advance high-tech industry in Ukraine.  The presentation segued into a tour of the entire facility, which included some of the most advanced lab machines in the country.  I noticed the Ambassador was extremely impressed to hear that the fruit of U.S.-Ukrainian cooperation could advance technology in a host of areas and that the lab was networking with other labs in the European Union.

Later that day, I had a few free minutes to meet up with Yuriy, a tour guide, to learn more about the history of Ivano-Frankivsk city.  Yuriy led me to the two main historical squares of the city, explaining how the city had changed over time, from a walled stronghold to a market center of the region.  We walked through the old city wall, which is now filled with attractive art galleries, and entered the Cathedral of the Holy Resurrection, a beautiful 300-year old Greek Orthodox church that would not be out of place in the heart of Paris.  As people came and went in the church, I realized that Ivano-Frankivsk represented both the past and the future of Ukraine, respect for tradition and spiritual enlightenment and expectation for a bright future of new ideas and international collaboration.

50 States in 50 Days: New Mexico – Land of Enchantment

Posted by: Eric Salzman, Economic Officer

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The state bearing the motto “Land of Enchantment” presents a fascinating mixture of the ancient and the futuristic within its borders.

Taos Pueblo residential complex, probably built between 1000 and 1450 A.D. (Photo by Luca Galuzzi)

Out of the Past

Native cultures flourished in New Mexico beginning around 1,200 BC, giving rise to the Anasazi civilization, which built fortified cities and cliff dwellings for defense and roads for commerce. “Anasazi” is a Navajo term to refer to the “Ancient Ones” who once lived in what later became the Navajo territory (encompassing large parts of what is now New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and Colorado). The Anasazi were forced to abandon their stone cities, perhaps due to a 300-year drought, but the ruins have become National Monuments and Cultural Parks at Bandelier and Chaco Canyon, and their descendants may still live on in the Pueblo, Hopi, Zuni and other tribes that call New Mexico home. Every August, New Mexico hosts the Gathering of Nations Powwow, which features exhibitions and competitions in dance, music, and traditional crafts of native peoples from throughout North and South America.

White Sands National Monument

Into the Future

In 1942, the Los Alamos National Laboratory was founded in New Mexico as part of the Manhattan Project, with the goal of developing the atomic bomb. Today, twenty years after the end of the Cold War, the Laboratory continues to conduct cutting edge research in all branches of science. Continue reading “50 States in 50 Days: New Mexico – Land of Enchantment”

Science 4 Business Kick-Off at Kyiv Polytechnic Institute

Posted by: Gaia Self, Economic Analyst for Environment, Science, Technology and Health

U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine John Tefft spoke on February 10 at a kick-off event for the new Science 4 Business Initiative (S4B) at Kyiv Polytechnic Institute (KPI), which gave me the opportunity to participate. The event was organized by the Science and Technology Center in Ukraine (STCU), which is also the implementer of the project. The initiative, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy under the Global Initiative for Proliferation Prevention, helps Ukrainian institutes promote their science and technology internationally, becoming more self-reliant and aggressive in approaching international markets. S4B represents yet another success of the U.S.-Ukraine partnership in advancing science and technology and the commitment by the U.S. Government to actively support innovation in Ukraine.

Speakers for the event included Ambassador Tefft; incoming STCU Director, Ambassador Michael Einik; First Deputy Head of the State Agency for Science, Innovations and Informatization, Borys Grynyov; Director of the National Academy of Science’s Center of Intellectual Property and Technology Transfer, Yuri Kapytsia; and KPI Rector Mykhailo Zgurovskiy. The speakers noted the challenges that Ukraine faces in the field of technology commercialization and welcomed S4B as a critical response to the needs of Ukraine’s scientific community.

Ambassador Tefft discussed the importance of technology commercialization as a stimulator of economic growth, underscoring the key role that technology transfer holds in the U.S. economy – for both universities and tech companies. S4B is modeled after the organization of U.S. technical universities, where almost every institute has an office dedicated to technology commercialization. Inspired by this structure, which has proven successful in the U.S. and abroad over the years, S4B allows U.S. and Ukrainian partners to co-fund a Chief of Technology Commercialization Officer for one year (renewable for one additional year) in nine institutes. In the words of Ambassador Tefft, this “commitment to entrepreneurship and innovation will bring successes that will make them a true model for other institutions across Ukraine.”

It is common knowledge nowadays that Ukraine has a unique tradition of great scientists and great science; unfortunately, it is also widely recognized that Ukrainian research institutes face unique challenges in capitalizing on their own innovation potential. As several of the speakers put it, the lack of widespread knowledge, practices, and resources related to technology commercialization prevents Ukrainian science from being recognized internationally. Statistics put the current number of scientists in Ukraine at 140,000, but reveal that altogether they are responsible for only 0.31% of the country’s GDP. The already low levels of state financing, in addition, are dispersed across 38 different agencies, perpetuating a system where state support for R&D remains inefficient.

The U.S. and Ukrainian governments are working together to give Ukrainian science the opportunity to succeed internationally, and STCU has been a key enabler of this effort for several years. In this context, it is worth recalling the example brought up by Ambassador Tefft during his speech of a famous innovator, a former student at KPI, who succeeded in making his research not only known in the United States, but used around the world. Igor Sikorsky was an engineer born in Kyiv who immigrated in the United States and there commercialized his research to develop the first viable American helicopter in 1939. Not coincidentally, the Kyiv City Council renamed the street where the new U.S. Embassy compound is located after him – a great reminder of the opportunities that can emerge from the right synergies between our two countries in the scientific arena.

 

Webinar Builds on U.S.-Ukraine Strategic Partnership

Posted by: Gaia Self, Economic Analyst for Environment, Science, Technology and Health

On November 22, U.S. Embassy Kyiv hosted a web seminar to survey commercial scientific databases and explain the standards and requirements for publication in international scientific journals. The webinar completed another action item for the Science and Technology Working Group (STWG), under the U.S.-Ukraine Strategic Partnership Commission. Officials from the State Agency for Science, Innovation and Information (SASII) and over 15 key members of Ukraine’s scientific community gathered to attend.

The webinar was a key result of the STWG to address Ukraine’s desire for better access to international scientific databases. SASII, the V.I. Vernadsky National Library, Ukraine Institute for Scientific, Technical and Economic Information, Kyiv Polytechnic Institute, and the Institute of Veterinary Medicine were among the institutions gathered at the Embassy’s DVC facility. Speakers from the international scholarly society IEEE, the publishing company Thomson Reuters, and the U.S. Civilian Research and Development Foundation (CRDF) made presentations in response to the Ukrainian request for information about international scientific databases and the requirements for the publication of Ukrainian research projects.

The event was organized to support the push of Ukrainian institutes for competitiveness on the international academic market. Access to scientific databases can determine an institute’s success and increase the chances of published research to be considered for international patents. Today, universities worldwide are increasingly ranked according to the publication/citation rates of their professors and researchers, and Ukrainian scientists naturally want to compete with their peers. Ukrainian institutions are in the game on a global scale to attract the best students, to earn a good reputation and maintain their prestige, and publication rate is a ranking criteria. In addition, the market for locally-driven innovation is primarily outside of the country’s boundaries, which makes the competition to earn international patents more critical.

In addition to being a concrete result of last year’s STWG, the web seminar successfully demonstrated the commitment of both countries to work together toward advancing science in Ukraine. We all look forward to the next steps!